The two Dylan Thomas poems I posted over the previous two days were ones I discovered when I was studying English Literature for my A-Levels. This was before I experienced mortality in my close family but I think it illustrates the value of teaching poems in schools; I laid a foundation for considering what the words might mean and the words themselves became part of me, food laid up for future journeying.
I love the heroic sound of ‘Do not go gentle‘ but it’s sentiment, of raging against death, ‘the dying of the light’, is antithetical to my beliefs on the subject. Certainly, there are circumstances where to resist and ‘rage’ seem fitting but I wonder if Western cultures struggle too much to avoid dying when more profitable consideration could perhaps be given to dying well. Even if I believed that death meant the cessation of personal existence, I’m not sure immortality is something the wise should grasp at in this vale of tears. With Easter on my mind, there is all the more reason for me to feel that Thomas lends the force of his words to a futile and unnecessary struggle.
On the other hand, the tenor of ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower‘ is one that I find more resonant. Even in that first line, I love the view of a flower’s stem as a fuse. Botanically, I recognise that the flow of life is up and down – although from leaves to roots and then back to the flowers, which seem to be the end of the line, functionally speaking. Theologically, I might balk at the suggested pantheism although there are some commonalities to the experience of life and, more in the focus of this verse, death. However, the life that lights the flower must also pass through death and seed to multiply.
On the evidence of these two poems, I couldn’t presume to say what Thomas believed about life, death and eternity or even much about how those intimations may have shifted over time. However, while neither become a song I could wholeheartedly sing, both for a long time now have been channels through which my meditations can take part of their flow.