Tuesday 25 July 2017

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: Welsh wordsmith

Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas

Ulick O'Connor

The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas always managed to stun his audience with his seraphic looks and extraordinary voice. It was almost like an orchestra, with different notes running up and down the lines and a range of tonal variations which could take an audience right out of the theatre to rangy mountain tops and the run of rivers.

No other poet of his time, not even Louis MacNeice, has ever gone near this Welsh genius of rhythmic chant. Dylan could put words together that had never been joined before in such a way and virtually brought a new language to poetry as Joyce had done to prose.

Alas, it was his magic voice that would be the death of him. He went on the ladies' lecture circuit in America and talked himself out, and drank himself stupid, till there was nothing left but a dried-out shell.

Dylan died in St Anthony's Hospital in Greenwich Village in New York after drinking enough whisky to down a Barcelona bull.

By far his finest poem, 'Fern Hill' is full of these stratagems and dare I say reminiscent of Keats 'To Autumn'. Here are two verses from it.

from FERN HILL

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs

About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,

The night above the dingle starry,

Time let me hail and climb

Golden in the heydays of his eyes,

And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns

And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves

Trail with daisies and barley

Down the rivers of the windfall light.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would

take me

Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,

In the moon that is always rising,

Nor that riding to sleep

I should hear him fly with the high fields

And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.

Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,

Time held me green and dying

Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Dylan Thomas 1914-1953

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