English Literature » Notes » Major themes in the poetry of Dylan Thomas

Major themes in the poetry of Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas started writing poems when he was a mere schoolboy and continued his writing till the very end of his life, A number of his poems are on his own birthday. Others deal with his artistic methods, and quite a few are elegies, the best being the one written to express the poet’s grief at the death of his father.

Dylan Thomas was concerned with the fundamental problems of life such as birth death, God and the Devil, love and decay, etc, Despite the obscurity of many of his poems, a quality rooted in human nature always structures each poem. Some of his notable poems are: The Force That Through The Green Fuse Drives the Flower, After the Funeral, Poem in October, Fern Hill, A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London, In My Craft or Sullen Art, etc.

Let us now focus on some of his major poems to see how far they reveal the range of his subject matter. In the poemThe Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower”, the poet identifies the world’s elemental forces with those which govern the human body. This force is responsible for all the creation and destruction which take place in the vegetable world and also in the animal world. The elegy “After the Funera!” is written to commemorate ‘Ann Jones’, the poet’s aunt, who died at the age of seventy. Another elegy “Do not go Gentle Into That Good Night” celebrates the death of the poet’s father who was very kind to him. Another poem which also has a cosmic significance is “A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London”. In this poem Thomas expresses the belief that the child by dying, has returned to the cosmic life. So there is no need of mourning the death of the child. In “Fern Hill” he re-creates his childhood experiences by evoking the joys, mysteries, and wonders of childhood through a series of images with a rich sensuous gravity.

In the famous lyric, Poem in October, Thomas celebrates his thirtieth birthday with a sense of grief that he has crossed another milestone on the road to death, but at the same time he feels happy when looking around in the pleasant morning he finds the whole world belonging to him. He feels happy that he is greeted by many objects and creatures of nature, such as the priested-heron, the seagull and the rooks, the boats sailing on the water, etc. He ends the poem with a prayer that in future also he may continue to recall the pleasures of his childhood. In the poem, “In My Craft or Sullen Art”, he dedicates his poetry to the lovers who, symbolize to him the immemorial tragedy of the human race but whose love is something precious in his eyes.

Dylan Thomas has a rich variety of themes in his poetry, and each of them may be interpreted differently.

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