Discover Dylan Thomas’s quotations 2018-05-08T08:22:19+00:00

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve compiled a selection of some of the more popular quotations from the works of Dylan Thomas as well as a few that are less well known.

Quotations to download and share

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Quotations from poems

From Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait (1941)

  • When was it written: Winter 1941 When and where it was first published: Horizon, July 1941, Selected Poems (1943), Deaths and Entrances (1946) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    The bows glided down, and the coast
    Blackened with birds took at last look
    At his thrashing hair and whale-blue wye;
    The trodden town rang its cobbles for luck.
  • Further information: It’s original title was ‘The Ballad of Samson Jack‘, possibly linked to a stone in Gower, Swansea called ‘Samson’s Jack‘. This is a very long poem, about 220 lines, all in perfect four line stanzas. In fact, it is Dylan’s longest poem.

From In My Craft and Sullen Art
(1945)

  • When was it written: Summer 1945
    When and where it was first published: Life and Letters Today, October 1945,
    Deaths and Entrances (1946) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    In my craft or sullen art
    Exercised in the still of night
    When only the moon rages
    And the lovers lie abed
    With all their griefs in their arms.
  • Further information: This is a short poem, but as the title suggest, has been expertly and meticulously crafted, as Dylan did with all his poems.

From Fern Hill
(1945)

  • When was it written: Summer 1945
    When and where it was first published: Horizon, October 1945,
    Deaths and Entrances (1946) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
    About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
    The night above the dingle starry,
    Time let me hail and climb
    Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
    And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
    And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
    Trail with daisies and barley
    Down the rivers of the windfall light.
  • Further information: This is one of Dylan’s most popular poems, written at the end of the Second World War, looking back nostalgically at his childhood. Fern Hill was a farm owned by Dylan’s Aunt Annie in Carmarthenshire, West Wales.

From And death shall have no dominion (1933)

  • When was it written: April 1933 and revised in February 1936
    When and where it was first published: New English weekly, 18 May 1933, Twenty-five Poems (1936) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    And death shall have no dominion.
    Dead men naked they shall be one
    With the man in the wind and the west moon;
    When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
    They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
    Though they go mad they shall be sane,
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
    Though lovers be lost love shall not;
    And death shall have no dominion.
  • Further information: This was notebook 3, poem ‘twenty-three’, revised in February 1936. It was the first of Dylan’s poems to appear in a national journal. It has a rhyming pattern and is on the subject of immortality.

From Poem in October
(1944)

  • When was it written: August 1944
    When and where it was first published: Horizon, February 1945,
    Poetry (Chicago) February 1945, Deaths and Entrances (1946) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    It was my thirtieth year to heaven
    Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
    And the mussel pooled and the heron
    Priested shore
    The morning beckon
    With water praying and call of seagull and rook
    And the knock of sailing boats on a net webbed wall
    Myself to set foot
    That second
    In the still sleeping town and set forth.
  • Further information: In 1944, Dylan had escaped from the bombs in London to the seatown of New Quay in West Wales and this part of his life proved to be very productive, a second flowering period in fact. This poem was completed during that time, though it may have been conceived while living in Laugharne in the late 1930s, as Dylan referred to it as ‘ A Laugharne poem: first place poem I’ve written’.

From Poem in October
(1944)

  • When was it written: August 1944
    When and where it was first published: Horizon, February 1945,
    Poetry (Chicago) February 1945, Deaths and Entrances (1946) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    It was my thirtieth year to heaven
    Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
    And the mussel pooled and the heron
    Priested shore
    The morning beckon
    With water praying and call of seagull and rook
    And the knock of sailing boats on a net webbed wall
    Myself to set foot
    That second
    In the still sleeping town and set forth.
  • Further information: In 1944, Dylan had escaped from the bombs in London to the seatown of New Quay in West Wales and this part of his life proved to be very productive, a second flowering period in fact. This poem was completed during that time, though it may have been conceived while living in Laugharne in the late 1930s, as Dylan referred to it as ‘ A Laugharne poem: first place poem I’ve written’.

The Force that through the green fuse
(1933)

  • When was it written: 12 October 1933
    When and where it was first published: Sunday Referee, 29 October 1933, 18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: Dylan Thomas: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    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.
  • Further information: This poem is dedicated To E.P. (perhaps Evelyn ‘Titch’ Phillips, a Swansea friend). It was notebook 4, poem ‘Twenty Three’ but was revised before publication. This poem demonstrates both the positive and negative consequences of nature and time. The last line is ‘How heaven has ticked a heaven round the stars’. The word for time in Welsh is amser and Dylan split the word into am and ser, which gave him the Welsh words for ’round the stars’. This poem was the winner of the Sunday Referee’s best annual poem prize.

From Should lanterns shine
(1934)

  • When was it written: Autumn 1934
    When and where it was first published: New Verse, December 1935, Twenty-five Poems (1936) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    Should lanterns shine, the holy face,
    Caught in an octagon of unaccustomed light,
    Would wither up, and any boy of love
    Look twice before he fell from grace.
  • Further information: This poem either originated in the missing 1932 notebook, or was the torn out poem ‘fifteen’ in notebook 3.

From Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines
(1934)

  • When was it written: November 20 1933
    When and where it was first published: The Listener on 14 March 1934,
    18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: Dylan Thomas: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    Light breaks where no sun shines;
    Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
    Push in their tides;
    And, broken ghosts with glow-worms in their heads,
    The thing of light
    File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.
  • Further information: This poem was published in The Listener on March 14th 1933 and is about conception. Complaint letters began to arrive almost immediately. However, the minor scandal did not harm Dylan, quite the opposite in fact. This is notebook 4, poem ‘thirty’.

A Winter’s Tale
(1944)

  • When was it written: Winter 1944-45
    When and where it was first published: Poetry (Chicago), July 1945,
    Deaths and Entrances (1946) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    It is a winter’s tale
    That the snow blind twilight ferries over the lakes
    And floating fields from the farm in the cup of the vales,
    Gliding windless through the hand folded flakes,
    The pale breath of cattle at the stealthy sail.
  • Further information: This poem could be seen as a love story and possibly a sequel to an earlier poem ‘I make this in a warring absence’, collected in The Map of Love. A number of biographers have seen a connection with the setting of this poem and Caitlin’s mother’s house in the New Forest where they lived at the start of their married life.

A Winter’s Tale
(1944)

  • When was it written: Winter 1944-45
    When and where it was first published: Poetry (Chicago), July 1945,
    Deaths and Entrances (1946) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    It is a winter’s tale
    That the snow blind twilight ferries over the lakes
    And floating fields from the farm in the cup of the vales,
    Gliding windless through the hand folded flakes,
    The pale breath of cattle at the stealthy sail.
  • Further information: This poem could be seen as a love story and possibly a sequel to an earlier poem ‘I make this in a warring absence’, collected in The Map of Love. A number of biographers have seen a connection with the setting of this poem and Caitlin’s mother’s house in the New Forest where they lived at the start of their married life.

Quotations from radio broadcasts

From the broadcast Holiday Memory (1946)

Click here to go to Collected Stories for more details.

  • Broadcast date and place: 25/10/1946, BBC Wales
  • Extract: August Bank Holiday. A tune on an ice-cream cornet. A slap of sea and a tickle of sand. A fanfare of sunshades opening. A wince and whinny of bathers dancing in deceptive water. A tuck of dresses. A rolling of trousers. A compromise of paddlers. A sunburn of girls and a lark of boys. A silent hullabaloo of balloons.
  • Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Broadcasts, edited by Ralph Maud (1991), currently out of print, and Dylan Thomas: Collected Stories, edited by Walford Davies (1983) and published by Orion.

From the broadcast The Crumbs of One Man’s Year (1946)

Click here to go to Collected Stories for more details.

  • Broadcast date and place: 27/12/1946, BBC Home Service
  • Extract: Slung as though in a hammock, or a lull, between one Christmas for ever over and a New Year nearing full of relentless surprises, waywardly and gladly I pry back at those wizening twelve months and see only a waltzing snippet of the tipsy-turvy times, flickers of vistas, flashes of queer fishes, patches and chequers of a bird’s-eye view.
  • Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Broadcasts, edited by Ralph Maud (1991), currently out of print and Dylan Thomas: Collected Stories, edited by Walford Davies (1983) and published by Orion.

From the broadcast The Crumbs of One Man’s Year (1946)

Click here to go to Collected Stories for more details.

  • Broadcast date and place: 27/12/1946, BBC Home Service
  • Extract: Slung as though in a hammock, or a lull, between one Christmas for ever over and a New Year nearing full of relentless surprises, waywardly and gladly I pry back at those wizening twelve months and see only a waltzing snippet of the tipsy-turvy times, flickers of vistas, flashes of queer fishes, patches and chequers of a bird’s-eye view.
  • Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Broadcasts, edited by Ralph Maud (1991), currently out of print and Dylan Thomas: Collected Stories, edited by Walford Davies (1983) and published by Orion.

From the broadcast A Story (1953)

  • Written for BBC television , 10 August 1953. First published in The Listener , 17 September 1953. Collected in Quite Early One Morning in 1954 and Prospect in 1955. Later became The Outing.
  • Available now in: Collected Stories by Dylan Thomas, published by Orion
  • Excerpt: If you can call it a story. There’s no real beginning or end and there’s very little in the middle. It is about a day’s outing, by charabanc, to Porthcawl, which, of course, the charabanc never reached, and it happened when I was so high and much nicer.

From the broadcast Holiday Memory (1946)

Click here to go to Collected Stories for more details.

  • Broadcast date and place: 25/10/1946, BBC Wales
  • Extract: August Bank Holiday. A tune on an ice-cream cornet. A slap of sea and a tickle of sand. A fanfare of sunshades opening. A wince and whinny of bathers dancing in deceptive water. A tuck of dresses. A rolling of trousers. A compromise of paddlers. A sunburn of girls and a lark of boys. A silent hullabaloo of balloons.
  • Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Broadcasts, edited by Ralph Maud (1991), currently out of print, and Dylan Thomas: Collected Stories, edited by Walford Davies (1983) and published by Orion.

From the broadcast Living in Wales (1949)

  • Broadcast date and place: 23/06/1949, BBC Scottish Region
  • Extract: But all this was easy stuff…what was harder to remember was what birds sounded like and said in Gower; what sort of a sound and a shape was Carmarthen Bay; how did the morning come in through the windows of Solva; what silence when night fell in the Aeron Valley. I could not remember, try as I might.
  • Further information: Dylan gave a talk on the subject of returning to live in Wales.
  • Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Broadcasts, edited by Ralph Maud (1991). Currently out of print.

From the broadcast The Crumbs of One Man’s Year (1946)

Click here to go to Collected Stories for more details.

  • Broadcast date and place: 27/12/1946, BBC Home Service
  • Extract: Slung as though in a hammock, or a lull, between one Christmas for ever over and a New Year nearing full of relentless surprises, waywardly and gladly I pry back at those wizening twelve months and see only a waltzing snippet of the tipsy-turvy times, flickers of vistas, flashes of queer fishes, patches and chequers of a bird’s-eye view.
  • Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Broadcasts, edited by Ralph Maud (1991), currently out of print and Dylan Thomas: Collected Stories, edited by Walford Davies (1983) and published by Orion.

Quotations from stories

From the story & broadcast
A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1950)

Click here to go to broadcasts for more details.

  • First Broadcast as ‘Memories of Christmas’ for BBC Wales Children’s Hour , on 16 December 1945. This was first published in The Listener , on 20 December 1945 , and Wales , in Winter 1946. Collected in the British edition of Quite Early One Morning in 1954.

    Dylan later wrote a piece called, ‘Conversation about Christmas’. This was first published on 27 December 1947 in Picture Post.

    ‘Memories of Christmas’ and ‘Conversation about Christmas’ were combined to become A Child’s Memories of Christmas in Wales, first published in December 1950 in Harper’s Bazaar. It was later published in the American Edition of Quite Early One Morning in 1954.

  • Available now in: Collected Stories by Dylan Thomas, published by Orion
  • Excerpt: One Christmas was so much like another, in those days around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

From the story & broadcast
A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1950)

Click here to go to broadcasts for more details.

  • First Broadcast as ‘Memories of Christmas’ for BBC Wales Children’s Hour , on 16 December 1945. This was first published in The Listener , on 20 December 1945 , and Wales , in Winter 1946. Collected in the British edition of Quite Early One Morning in 1954.

    Dylan later wrote a piece called, ‘Conversation about Christmas’. This was first published on 27 December 1947 in Picture Post.

    ‘Memories of Christmas’ and ‘Conversation about Christmas’ were combined to become A Child’s Memories of Christmas in Wales, first published in December 1950 in Harper’s Bazaar. It was later published in the American Edition of Quite Early One Morning in 1954.

  • Available now in: Collected Stories by Dylan Thomas, published by Orion
  • Excerpt: One Christmas was so much like another, in those days around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

From the story & broadcast
A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1950)

Click here to go to broadcasts for more details.

  • First Broadcast as ‘Memories of Christmas’ for BBC Wales Children’s Hour , on 16 December 1945. This was first published in The Listener , on 20 December 1945 , and Wales , in Winter 1946. Collected in the British edition of Quite Early One Morning in 1954.

    Dylan later wrote a piece called, ‘Conversation about Christmas’. This was first published on 27 December 1947 in Picture Post.

    ‘Memories of Christmas’ and ‘Conversation about Christmas’ were combined to become A Child’s Memories of Christmas in Wales, first published in December 1950 in Harper’s Bazaar. It was later published in the American Edition of Quite Early One Morning in 1954.

  • Available now in: Collected Stories by Dylan Thomas, published by Orion
  • Excerpt: One Christmas was so much like another, in those days around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

Quotations from screenplays

From the screenplay The Doctor and the Devils (1953)

  • Written: C.1944/1945 First released: 1985
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and The Doctor & The Devils [DVD] [1985). Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: A small black figure appears at the top of the road, and moves downhill. A small black figure with another darkness billowing around it. Now we see the downhill-approaching figure as a top-hatted man in the wind. From our distance he is still the mystery of a man, alone in a blowing morning on a lonely hill-top; still the shadow, not the recognisably featured substance, of a man.
  • Further information: This film was based on the body-snatchers Burke and Hare, who helped provide Dr Know with dead bodies for medical research.

Quotations from Under Milk Wood

From Under Milk Wood
(1953)

From Under Milk Wood
(1953)

From Under Milk Wood
(1953)

Quotations from letters

From a letter to Pamela Hansford Johnson (1933)

  • Letter to: Pamela Hansford Johnson
    Dated: December 1933
    Sent from: 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea

  • Further information: Visit the Letters page.

From a letter to Pamela Hansford Johnson (1933)

  • Letter to: Pamela Hansford Johnson
    Dated: December 1933
    Sent from: 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea

  • Further information: Visit the Letters page.

From a letter Vernon Watkins (1939)

  • Letter to: Vernon Watkins
    Dated: December 13th 1939
    Sent from: Sea View, Laugharne

  • Further information: Visit the Letters page.