Discover Dylan Thomas In Country Sleep 2018-03-04T17:44:15+00:00

In Country Sleep was  published in the United States in 1952 and the six poems were also included in Dylan’s  Collected Poems (1952).  The poems are still in print in both 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.

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  • When was it written: May -July 1947
    When and where it was first published: Atlantic and Horizon, December 1947,
    In Country Sleep (1952) 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 and never, my girl riding far and near
    In the land of the hearthstone tales, and spelled asleep,
    Fear or believe that the wolf in a sheep white hood
    Loping and bleating roughly and blithely leap,
    My dear, my dear,
    Out of a lair in the flocked leaves in the dew dipped year
    To eat your heart in the house in the rosy wood.
  • Further information: In this poem, the poet is both reassuring and warning the girl, who is frightened of a mysterious figure, likely to be time or death. It may well have been inspired by Dylan reading his daughter, Aeronwy, fairytales. It was adapted from another poem called ‘In Country Heaven‘.
  • When was it written: May 1949
    When and where it was first published: Botteghe Oscure, December 1949, Hudson Review, Autumn 1950,
    Times Literary Supplement, 24 August 1951, In Country Sleep 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:
    Over Sir John’s hill,
    The hawk on fire hangs still;
    In a hoisted cloud, at drop of dusk, he pulls to his claws
    And gallows, up the rays of his eyes the small birds of the bay
    And the shrill child’s play
    Wars
    Of the sparrows and such who swinging, dusk, in wrangling hedges.
    And blithely they squawk
    To fiery tyburn over the wrestle of elms until
    The flash the noosed hawk
    Crashes, and slowly the fishing holy stalking heron
    In the river Towy below bows his tilted headstone.
  • Further information: This poem was written when Dylan returned to Wales after a number of years living in Oxfordshire and found that he was able to work hard on his writing once again. You can see the view of Sir John’s Hill through the window of his writing shed in Laugharne.
  • When was it written: October 1949
    When and where it was first published: World Review, October 1951 ( an early version), Atlantic, March 1952, In Country Sleep 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 the mustarded sun,
    By full tilt river and switchback sea
    Where the cormorants scud,
    In his house on stilts high among beaks
    And palavers of birds
    This sangria day in the bent bay’s grave
    He celebrates and spurns
    His driftwood thirty-fifth wind turned age;
    Heron spire and spear.
  • Further information: This poem is likely to have been written with Dylan’s thirty-fifth birthday in mind. It is one of his four birthday poems which also include: Especially when the October wind, Twenty-four and Poem in October.
  • When was it written: May 1951
    When and where it was first published: Botteghe Oscure, November 1951,
    In Country Sleep 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:
    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at the close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
  • Further information: This is probably Dylan’s most famous poem, a wonderful villanelle. It was written for Dylan’s father, D.J, during his gradual decline in health and battle with cancer. Dylan wrote about it in a letter to Princess Caetani in March 1951.

    ‘The only person I can’t show this to is, of course, my father, who doesn’t know he’s dying’.

    D.J died in December 1952, less than a year before Dylan himself.

  • When was it written: Early 1951
    When and where it was first published: Botteghe Oscure, November 1951 (without the fourth stanza), Partisan Review, January-February 1952, In Country Sleep (1952) 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 was a windy boy and a bit
    And the black spit of the chapel fold,
    (Sighed the old ram rod, dying of women),
    I tiptoed shy in the gooseberry wood,
    The rude owl cried like a telltale tit,
    I skipped in a blush as the big girls rolled
    Ninepin down on the donkeys common,
    And on seesaw sunday nights I wooed
    Whoever I would with my wicked eyes,
    The whole of the moon I could love and leave
    All the green leaved little weddings’ wives
    In the coal black bush and let them grieve.
  • Further information: The original title of this poem was ‘The miner’s lament‘. This has an exaggerated style and is possibly a caricature of Dylan himself.
  • When was it written: Summer 1949-May 1951
    When and where it was first published: Botteghe Osure, summer 1950, Atlantic, September 1951, In Country Sleep 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:
    Through throats where many rivers meet, the curlews cry,
    Under the conceiving moon, on the high chalk hill,
    And there this night I walk in the white giant’s thigh
    Where barren as boulders women lie longing still

    To labour and love though they lay down long ago.

  • Further information: It is likely that this poem remembers the giant chalk figure at Cerne Abbas in Dorset, which Dylan would have seen when staying at Blashford in Hampshire with his wife’s family. It is thought that the figure can help with fertily problems. It mixes the Dorset scenery with the Laugharne landscape he sees from his writing shed window.