Discover Dylan Thomas’s Deaths and Entrances 2018-03-04T17:44:15+00:00

Deaths and Entrances was  published in 1946, though it had been planned as early as 1941, but war delayed things. Though the majority of the poems were original compositions, Dylan was still occasionally  utilising his notebooks from the early 1930s.  Three poems, ‘On the marriage of a virgin’, ‘Holy spring’ and ‘The hunchback in the park’ were revised poems from notebook 2 and notebook 3.  All but one of the twenty five poems from this volume were included in Dylan’s  Collected Poems (1952).  The poems are still in print in 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.

Please click on the below  +  symbols to reveal more information on each subject.

  • When was it written: March 1945
    When and where it was first published: life and Letters Today, July 1945,
    New Republic, 16 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:
    The conversation of prayers about to be said
    By the child going to bed and the man on the stairs
    Who climbs to his dying love in her high room,
    The one not caring to whom in his sleep he will move
    And the other full of tears that she will be dead.
  • Further information: When this poem was originally published in Deaths and Entrances, it was under the title ‘The Conversation of Prayer’. However, in newer editions of the Collected Poems they have used the plural version, which is how Dylan referred to it in a letter to his friend and mentor, Vernon Watkins.
  • When was it written: October/November 1944
    When and where it was first published: New Republic, 14 May 1945,
    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:
    Never to the mankind making
    Bird beast and flower
    Fathering and all humbling darkness
    Tells with silence the last light breaking
    And the still hour
    Is come of the sea tumbling in harness.
  • Further information: This poem was based on Dylan’s time in London during the blitz and is a favourite of former American president, Jimmy Carter.
  • 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’.
  • When was it written: Early 1945
    When and where it was first published: New Republic, 2nd July 1945,
    Life and Letters Today, 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:
    This side of the truth,
    You may not see, my son,
    King of your blue eyes
    In the blinding country of youth,
    That all is undone,
    Under the unwinding skies,
    Of innocence and guilt.
  • Further information: It has been suggested that this poem was written for Dylan’s first son, Llewelyn Thomas, who would have been six at the time it was completed.
  • When was it written: May 1939
    When and where it was first published: Seven, Autumn 1939, 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:
    Friend by enemy I call you out.
    You with a bad coin in your socket,
    You my friend there with a winning air
    Who palmed the lie on me when you looked
    Brassily at my shutouts secret.
  • Further information: This poem alleges that a number of Dylan’s friends had been disloyal and betrayed him, though it does not name them.
  • When was it written: 1939 and rewritten in summer 1945
    When and where it was first published: Life and Letters Today, October 1939 (an earlier version, ‘Poem To Caitlin’),
    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:
    Unluckily for a death
    Waiting with phoenix under
    The pyre yet to be lighted of my sins and days,
    And for the woman in shades
    Saint carved and sensual among the scudding
    Dead and gone, dedicate forever to my self
    Though the brawl of the kiss has not occurred.
  • Further information: This could be considered a sort of love letter to his wife, Caitlin. There were two earlier titles for this poem, ‘Poem for Caitlin’ and ‘Poem to Caitlin’ which were later revised significantly.
  • When was it written: 9 May 1932 and revised in July 1941
    When and where it was first published: Life and Letters Today, October 1941, 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 hunchback in the park
    A solitary mister
    Propped between trees and water
    From the opening of the garden lock
    That lets the trees and water enter
    Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark.
  • Further information: The setting of this poem is Cwmdonkin Park, which was just a stone’s throw away from his childhood home. This was a revised version of notebook 2, poem ‘LVVV’. The style was changed significantly from free-verse to rhyming stanzas.
  • When was it written: March 1940
    When and where it was first published: Life and Letters Today, November 1940,
    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:
    Into her lying down head
    His enemies entered bed,
    Under the encumbered eyelid,
    Through the rippled drum of the hair-buried ear;
    And Noah’s rekindled now unkind dove
    Flew man-bearing there.
  • Further information: This was a challenging poem to write and Dylan commented, ‘I’ve never worked harder on anything, maybe too hard.’ It was still being edited and revised just before inclusion in Deaths and Entrances.
  • When was it written: Summer 1939
    When and where it was first published: Seven, Autumn 1939
    and Deaths and Entrances (1946)
  • 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:
    Paper and sticks and shovel and match
    Why won’t the news of the old world catch
    And the fire in a temper start.
  • Further information: By 1952, Dylan was very unhappy with this poem and refused to include it in his Collected Poems (1952). It is included in more recent editions.
  • When was it written: Summer 1940
    When and where it was first published: Horizon, January 1941
    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:
    On almost the incendiary eve
    Of several near deaths,
    When one at the great least of your best loved
    And always known must leave
    Lions and fires of his flying breath.
  • Further information: This is another poem influenced by Dylan’s experiences of the London blitz during the Second World War. Dylan arrived in London during the first devastating raid of the war in September 1941 and this poem was completed not long after that. In a letter to his friend Vernon Watkins, he described having ‘nightmares like invasions’ which reminds us that invasion was an all too real threat at that time.
  • 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.
  • When was it written: July 1940 and revised in September 1945
    When and where it was first published: Poetry (London), 15 January 1941 (an early version), 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 sky is torn across
    This ragged anniversary of two
    Who moved for three years in tune
    Down the long walks of their vows.
  • Further information: Dylan and Caitlin had married on 11 July 1937 and presumably this is linked to three years of marriage during which their first son was born in 1939, and the Second World War broke out.
  • When was it written: January-March 1940
    When and where it was first published: Horizon (May 1940),
    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:
    There was a saviour
    Rarer than radium,
    Commoner than water, cruller than truth;
    Children kept from the sun
    Assembled at his tongue
    To hear the golden note turn in a groove,
    Prisoners of wishes locked their eyes
    In the jails and studies of his keyless smiles.
  • Further information: This would appear to be a ‘poem of peace’ in a similar vain to Milton’s ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’.
  • When was it written: March 22 1933 and rewritten in 1941
    When and where it was first published: Life and Letters Today (October 1941),
    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:
    Waking alone in a multitude of loves when morning’s light
    Surprised in the opening of her nightlong eyes
    His golden yesterday asleep upon the iris
    And this day’s sun leapt up the sky out of her thighs.
  • Further information: This was revised from notebook 3, poem ‘sixteen’ which had the title ‘The waking in a single bed’. The original was written around the time Dylan’s sister Nancy was getting married in 1933. It was significantly cut down by nearly thirty lines to only fourteen lines.
  • 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.
  • When was it written: 1944
    When and where it was first published: Our Time, May 1944,
    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:
    Myselves
    The grievers
    Grieve
    Among the street burned to tireless death
    A child of a few hours
    With its kneading mouth
    Charred on the black breast of the grave
    The mother dug, and its arms full of fires.
  • Further information: Another poem written during Dylan’s second flowering period in 1944, shortly after observing the consequences of the constant bombing in London. It has been suggested that it could be linked to the birth of his daughter Aeronwy in 1943, who was born during an air raid.
  • When was it written: 1939/40
    When and where it was first published: Life and Letters Today, March 1940, New Poems (1940),
    Selected Writings of Dylan Thomas (1946), Deaths and Entrances (1946) 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:
    Once below a time,
    When my pinned-around-the-spirit
    Cut-to-measure flesh bit,
    Suit for a serial sum
    On the first of each hardship,
    My paid-for-slaved-for own too late
    In love torn breeches and blistered jacket.
  • Further information: This poem looks back at Dylan’s childhood in Swansea.
  • When was it written: June-September 1939
    When and where it was first published: Seven, Autumn 1939,
    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:
    When I woke, the town spoke.
    Birds and clocks and cross bells
    Dinned aside the coiling crowd,
    The reptile profligates in a flame,
    Spoilers and pokers of sleep,
    The next door sea dispelled
    Frogs and satans and woman-luck,
    While a man outside with a billhook,
    Up to his head in his blood.
  • Further information: It is plausible that this poem was written with the impending war on Dylan’s mind, which he feared very much. Dylan took the line ‘You woke and the dawn spoke‘ from notebook 3, poem ‘fifty-one’ and adapted it for this poem.
  • When was it written: Summer 1941
    When and where it was first published: Life and Letters Today, August 1941,
    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:
    When the morning was waking over the war
    He put on his clothes and stepped out and he died,
    The locks yawned loose and a blast blew them wide,
    He dropped where he loved on the burst pavement stone
    And the funeral grains of the slaughtered floor.
  • Further information: Another war poem showing the horrific consequences of the blitz across the cities of Britain. Dylan was inspired to write this poem after seeing a sensational headline in a newspaper.
  • When was it written: 1944
    When and where it was first published: Life and Letters Today, June 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:
    Lie still, sleep becalmed, sufferer with the wound
    In the throat, burning and turning. All night afloat
    On the silent sea we have heard the sound
    That came from the wound wrapped in the salt sheet.
  • Further information: This is a sonnet that imagines a dialogue between a visitor and a sick patient with many interpreting it as father and son. Dylan’s father, D.J was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1933.
  • When was it written: Summer 1944
    When and where it was first published: Horizon, January 1945,
    Sewanee Review, Summer 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:
    Who
    Are you
    Who is born
    In the next room
    So loud to my own
    That I can hear the womb
    Opening and the dark run
    Over the ghost and the dropped son
    Behind the wall thin as a wren’s bone?

  • Further information: This is a very visual poem using diamond shaped stanzas. It has been suggested that this poem was a both a fear of impending fatherhood and a celebration of his son Llewelyn’s birth in 1939. However, it was not written until the end of the war, by which time, his daughter, Aeronwy had also been born.
  • 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.
  • When was it written: 22 February 1933 and rewritten around 1944
    When and where it was first published: Horizon, January 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:
    O
    Out of a bed of love
    When that immortal hospital made one move to soothe
    The cureless counted body,
    And ruin and his causes
    Over the barbed and shooting sea assumed an army.
  • Further information: This appears to be a rewritten version of notebook 3, poem ‘Ten’. This poem comes from a confusing time in Dylan’s life, in particular the outcome of the war, his marriage, and possibly his life as well.
  • 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.