The Swansea Grammar
Dylan Marlais Thomas was born is Swansea, Wales on October 27, 1914, he was the product of Florence Williams, a nurturing housewife, and David John Thomas, a religious English teacher. Thomas’s father exposed him to poetry at an early age, Shakespeare and the bible were his bedtime stories, and by the age of four he was reciting verses from both. By the age of eight he was writing his own poetry, even before he entered the Swansea Grammar School in September 1925, where he was a quiet student often lost in his own thoughts.
When he attended school his only real interest was editing the Swansea Grammar School Magazine, where along with editing he published poems imitating popular works of the time. Thomas often used his mothers caring nature to avoid tasks that he thought to be unpleasant, school being one of them. His mother thought of him as a sickly child, so he got out of school often, not to go play with his friends but to stay home and indulge himself with his fathers immense selection of literature from the family library.
This is where Thomas’s real education took place, he read a diverse selection of authors such as; Edgar Allan Poe, the Brothers Grimm, Sir Thomas Browne, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Here in his father’s library, with his love for words and his vast selection of books, he nurtured his understanding of literature and talent for writing. Thomas left the Swansea Grammar School at the age of sixteen, and went to work at the local newspaper the South Wales Daily Post, writing reviews and critiques of local plays, concerts, and also editing articles.
During this time Thomas had become heavily immersed in the local pub scene, where he became known for his obscene jokes, stories and limericks, which he told with great drunken enthusiasm. He was also starting to read his poems aloud to friends in the pub, not wanting them to read it them selves but wanting for them to hear the words the way he wanted them to sound. Thomas was always fascinated by words; he strongly believed that the best poetry was music to the ears, as he wrote in a 1934 poetry review:
“Too much poetry today is flat on the page, a black and white things of words created by intelligences that no longer think it is necessary for a poem to be read and understood by anything but the eyes. ” Thomas’s first serious publication of his poems was when he was twenty, called 18 Poems. Literary critics received this first volume of poetry, very positively, writing that Thomas was “a highly unique yet traditional poetic voice”.
Much of the writing in 18 Poems talks about his childhood and adolescent experiences, revolving around the innocence of childhood, the relationship between human and natural life, death, and the sexual psyche of the human condition. “He often seem to be arguing rhetorically with himself on the subjects of sex and death, sin and redemption, the natural process, birth and decay”1 Thomas felt a strong connection between man and nature, in this letter we see that Thomas believes that it is through the physical body that man understands the world around him: “All thoughts and actions emanate from the body.
Therefore the description of thought or action – however abstruse it may be – can be beaten home by bringing it onto a physical level. Every idea, intuitive or intellectual, can be imaged and translated in terms of the body, its flesh, skin, blood, sinews, veins, glands, organs, cells or senses. ” 2 Clearly this connection that Thomas felt with the natural world has had a large impact on his choice of themes. ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower’ links man with the natural world, emphasizing the natural process of death and destruction that man shares with nature:
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees Is my destroyer. And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose My youth is bent by the same wintry fever. This poem was written in October 1933, close to the time when Thomas made his famous quote linking himself to nature saying that; ‘that the blood in my lungs is the blood that goes up and down in a tree’, this idea is continued in the second stanza: The force that drives the water through the rocks Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams.
Turns mine to wax. And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks. Throughout the poem Thomas lays a strong emphasis on the process of creation, relating it to the creation of his own body (Ackerman p67). In the last lines of these stanza’s Thomas express his pain in the fact that he can’t communicate to the natural world that he feels such a strong connection to it; his own blood and its link to the ‘mouthing streams’, his ageing to the natural ageing of ‘the roots of trees’.
Here my point of; Thomas’s strong connection to the natural world is further proven by the analysis of John Ackerman on ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower’: “It is not surprising that the relationship of his own body to the world of nature is a major preoccupation. While the first verse uses natural imagery of flowers and trees, the second of rocks and streams, the third begins with the imagery of water but moves to imagery of earth (‘quicksand’ while evoking life in ‘quick’, evokes death as in ‘sands of time’, and ‘clay’ is the bodies final identity) and wind.