For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Monday, 2 June 2014

In My Craft Or Sullen Art (2)

How can a list of favourite poems not include one by Dylan Thomas? For many years I used to sell Dylan's poetry books, so I feel a close connection with this flawed angel of a man, this charismatic genius with feet of clay. Some, Kingsley Amis for example, have criticised Thomas's poems for being all sound and fury, for elevating rhetoric over meaning. I can't agree. Sure, one is not always in the mood for his intense romanticism and apocalyptic gravity, but, for me, life would be infinitely less rich without the existence of those two lyrical masterpieces, Fern Hill and Poem in October.

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art   
Exercised in the still night   
When only the moon rages   
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light   
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms   
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages   
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart   
From the raging moon I write   
On these spindrift pages   
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms   
But for the lovers, their arms   
Round the griefs of the ages,   
Who pay no praise or wages   
Nor heed my craft or art.

DYLAN THOMAS

8 comments:

John Pendrey said...

Thanks. This one is new to me and of course gives insight into his work. It is the poems that matter. I enjoyed last night programme by Owen Sheers about the poems. I found it interesting how Dylan tried out words from long lists. His poems work for many people but also have a multitude of connections in a rich and sensual landscape that can satisfy us all.

The Weaver of Grass said...

He is in a class of his own Robert.

sackerson said...

I can never decided whether Dylan Thomas was a great poet or a sort of Welsh Stanley Unwin. (Perhaps the two are not mutually exclusive).

am said...

It would be difficult for me to choose between "In My Craft or Sullen Art" and "Fern Hill." Music to my ears.

George said...

I've always liked Dylan Thomas's poetry, including the poem you've reproduced here. Academic critiques aside, the question for me is not where he stands in the legions of poets, but whether he has provided an authentic voice that connects meaningfully with some of those who open an ear to his music. For me, the answer is a resounding "yes."

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes,. I agree with you John, such 'a rich and sensual landscape' Dylan gave us.

Indeed, Pat, he's unique.

Dominic: ?!

Such musicality, Am...

And George, yes, music again, and authenticity... true...

Loren said...

"Do Not Go Gently Into that Good Night" was one of the first of the poems I ever voluntarily memorized. 50 years later it seems even more relevant than it did when I first memorized it.

The Solitary Walker said...

One of his great poems, Loren.