Tuesday, June 20, 2006

In The Mustard Seed Sun

Ah, Mr. Thomas let us, indeed ramble through the midnight fair. You, that poet that fostered in me the love of language, with a crystal set under the covers circa '59!

Hearing Burton's voice with your words, celebrating the night sky as 'star-less and bible-black' and knowing of your last instruction, in New York, to that veritable cast for your 'play with voices', Under Milk Wood.

Arriving, drunk as a skunk and taking the 'lorry driver's nap', you woke, ceremoniously, and finished the play, instructing your cast to 'Love the words. Love the words', one simple instruction, but apt.

And then, later, in the Chelsea Hotel with your mistress, Lizzie Reitel, you said, and the last words you were ever to speak, oh my Bard of Cywmdonkin Drive (Swansea), '18 double whiskies this must be a record'!’ before the doctors killed you, not realising that morphine and diabetes don't mix. The 18 double whiskies were consumed in 90 minutes, however!

And you flew above America 'like a damp and ranting bird'. Now comes Caitlin, one loyal wife, railing, ranting, roaring from her own particular Irish heaven, stomping up a storm and beating the crap out of the doctors, ignoring Lizzie and getting herself sectioned into Belleville Mental Hospital with some ease.

Eventually released, she accompanied the body of the Bard back to Laugharne, out there in the Gower Peninsula, on the estuary of the River Taf where you had sat in the bath with your boiled sweets and was the 'rhymer in the long tongued room', actually a shed with a photo of W.H Auden pinned to the wall. On the boat journey back from America Caitlin went down to the hold and found the sailors with beer bottles, playing cards on the coffin, initially horrified she suddenly realised what a tribute to the poet that this actually was and asked for a 'hand'.

Under and round him go
Flounders, gulls, on their cold, dying
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

Back there in Laugharne, where, at Browns Hotel 20 years ago they tried to get me to settle Thomas' bill, the wake was proceeding. One woman of that parish decided that a tribute to the poet was appropriate - open doors and open legs - the queue was round the block! The Scottish poet, Louis McNiece, fey in the
extreme, was filing past the open grave, preceded by mourners throwing their flowers onto the coffin, he had his flowers in one hand and his sandwiches in the other - the sandwiches were buried with the Bard!

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

'Poem on his birthday' this short sample above, written in Laugharne when Thomas was 35 years old and subsequently sent to his agent in New York, John Malcolm Brinnen with an accompanying note saying, ' Here is 'Poem on his birthday' it has taken me 3 months to hone and perfect, I would appreciate a fat cheque from an over-monied illiterate!' It is now fifty years since Dylan Thomas died but his Celtic 'stream of consciousness' poetry lives on and in the words of the Incredible String Band's Robin Williamson,

As bacon wafts through hungry streets,
your ghost pervades
Just like an old ex-boxer
aged twenty two
Staged up like Falstaff or the
wild welsh Rimbaud
You'd laugh to see these monochromes they make of

Up there, buried on the Druid's hill 'you made of the cock's quill the right of language and the pricking heart a sword against the hours' (RW again).

Dylan Marlais Thomas is regarded by many as the greatest poet of the last century. To others he was the consummate writer and broadcaster for radio. Many remember the myth that has developed around his private life and early death. The importance of Dylan Thomas as one of the great figures of literature cannot be overstated. Thomas achieved world wide acclaim for his work and even after his death continues to inspire generations of people from artists to musicians and even former presidents.

What marks out Dylan Thomas' work is the university of his themes. The human emotions played out in his "little town by the sea" of longing, desire, venomous hatred and prim conformity are re enacted daily in apartment buildings and office blocks across the world. Poems such as "Do not go gentle into that good night" and "And death shall have no dominion" speak directly of the human condition itself.

“One:I am a Welshman

Two: I am a drunkard

Three: I am a lover of the human race, especially of women"

Cultural Virus

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