Poem on his Birthday

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      In the mustardseed sun,
   By full tilt river and switchback sea
      Where the cormorants scud,
   In his house on stilts high among beaks
      And palavers of birds
   This sandgrain day in the bent bay's grave
      He celebrates and spurns
   His driftwood thirty-fifth wind turned age;
      Herons spire and spear.

      Under and round him go
   Flounders, gulls, on their cold, dying trails,
      Doing what they are told,
   Curlews aloud in the congered waves
      Work at their ways to death,
   And the rhymer in the long tongued room,
      Who tolls his birthday bell,
   Toils towards the ambush of his wounds;
      Herons, steeple stemmed, bless.

      In the thistledown fall,
   He sings towards anguish; finches fly
      In the claw tracks of hawks
   On a seizing sky; small fishes glide
      Through wynds and shells of drowned
   Ship towns to pastures of otters. He
      In his slant, racking house
   And the hewn coils of his trade perceives
      Herons walk in their shroud,

      The livelong river's robe
   Of minnows wreathing around their prayer;
      And far at sea he knows,
   Who slaves to his crouched, eternal end
      Under a serpent cloud,
   Dolphins dive in their turnturtle dust,
      The rippled seals streak down
   To kill and their own tide daubing blood
      Slides good in the sleek mouth.

      In a cavernous, swung
   Wave's silence, wept white angelus knells.
      Thirty-five bells sing struck
   On skull and scar where his loves lie wrecked,
      Steered by the falling stars.
   And to-morrow weeps in a blind cage
      Terror will rage apart
   Before chains break to a hammer flame
      And love unbolts the dark

      And freely he goes lost
   In the unknown, famous light of great
      And fabulous, dear God.
   Dark is a way and light is a place,
      Heaven that never was
   Nor will be ever is alwas true,
      And, in that brambled void,
   Plenty as blackberries in the woods
      The dead grow for His joy.

      There he might wander bare
   With the spirits of the horseshoe bay
      Or the stars' seashore dead,
   Marrow of eagles, the roots of whales
      And wishbones of wild geese,
   With blessed, unborn God and His Ghost,
      And every soul His priest,
   Gulled and chanter in young Heaven's fold
      Be at cloud quaking peace,

      But dark is a long way.
   He, on the earth of the night, alone
      With all the living, prays,
   Who knows the rocketing wind will blow
      The bones out of the hills,
   And the scythed boulders bleed, and the last
      Rage shattered waters kick
   Masts and fishes to the still quick stars,
      Faithlessly unto Him

      Who is the light of old
   And air shaped Heaven where souls grow wild
      As horses in the foam:
   Oh, let me midlife mourn by the shrined
      And druid herons' vows
   The voyage to ruin I must run,
      Dawn ships clouted aground,
   Yet, though I cry with tumbledown tongue,
      Count my blessings aloud:

      Four elements and five
   Senses, and man a spirit in love
      Tangling through this spun slime
   To his nimbus bell cool kingdom come
      And the lost, moonshine domes,
   And the sea that hides his secret selves
      Deep in its black, base bones,
   Lulling of spheres in the seashell flesh,
      And this last blessing most,

      That the closer I move
   To death, one man through his sundered hulks,
      The louder the sun blooms
   And the tusked, ramshackling sea exults;
      And every wave of the way
   And gale I tackle, the whole world then,
      With more triumphant faith
   Than ever was since the world was said,
      Spins its morning of praise,

      I hear the bouncing hills
   Grow larked and greener at berry brown
      Fall and the dew larks sing
   Taller this thunderclap spring, and how
      More spanned with angels ride
   The mansouled fiery islands! Oh,
      Holier then their eyes,
   And my shining men no more alone
      As I sail out to die

From Dylan Thomas: The Poems, published by J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, 1971
Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1956, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1977 The Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas.

The Life And Work Of Dylan Thomas written, designed, and copyright (except where otherwise noted) © by Willem Jonkman. All rights reserved. Contact: [email protected]

Copyright for the works of Dylan Thomas on this site © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1956, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1977 The Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright for the recording of Under Milk Wood used on this site, © 1963, 1995 BBC Worldwide Ltd. Most works on this site are read by the author, using embedded audio-files which require Adobe Flash Player. Listening is best experienced using a broadband connection (DSL, cable, T1) in order to enjoy seamless play of this site's audio features.

Acknowledgements: Constantine FitzGibbon, The Life Of Dylan Thomas © 1965; Annis Pratt, Dylan Thomas' Early Prose: A Study In Creative Mythology © 1970; Andrew Sinclair, Dylan Thomas © 1975; Paul Ferris, Dylan Thomas - A Biography © 1977; John Ackerman, Welsh Dylan © 1979; Susan Richardson, The Legacy Of Dylan Thomas In Wales © 2000; Joan Gooding, Britain's Last Romantic Poet: Dylan Thomas © 2000.