Discover Dylan Thomas Twenty Five Poems 2018-03-04T17:44:16+00:00

Twenty-five Poems was Dylan’s second collection, published in 1936.  The majority of the poems were revised from his adolescent notebooks.  He also included all 25 poems in his 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: October 1934 – March 1935
    When and where it was first published: New Verse, August/September 1935
    (as ‘A Poem in Three Parts’), 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:
    I, in my intricate image, stride on two levels,
    Forged in man’s minerals, the brassy orator
    Laying my ghost in metal,
    The scales of this twin world tread on the double,
    My half ghost in armour hold hard in death’s corridor,
    To my man-iron sidle.
  • Further information: This very long poem is in three parts. There are seventy two slight differences in line endings on the letter ‘l’. Twenty-four in each part.
  • When was it written: 24 December 1933
    When and where it was first published: New English Weekly – 16 July 1936,
    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:
    This bread I break was once the oat,
    This wine upon a foreign tree
    Plunged in its fruit;
    Man in the day or wind at night
    Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
  • Further information: This seems to be a Christmas
    poem , however the subject is the last supper. This poem was notebook 4, poem ‘thirty three’ and only slightly rewritten in January 1936 for publication. In Twenty-five Poems, there was a misprint of ‘wind’ for ‘wine’, though this was not changed until later versions of Dylan’s Collected Poems.
  • When was it written: 16 May 1933 and revised in 1935
    When and where it was first published: Sunday Referee, 11 August 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:
    Incarnated devil in a talking snake,
    The central plains of Asia in his garden,
    In shaping-time the circle stung awake,
    In shapes of sin forked out the bearded apple,
    And God walked there who was a fiddling warden
    And played down pardon from the heavens’ hill.
  • Further information: This poem was notebook 3, poem ‘thirty’. It had the title ‘Before we sinned’ and ‘Poem for Sunday’. It was cut down considerably before publication.
  • When was it written: 18 December 1930 and revised in 1935/1936
    When and where it was first published: Purpose, October/December 1936,
    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:
    Today, this insect, and the world I breathe,
    Now that my symbols have out elbowed space,
    time at the city spectacles, and half
    The dear, daft time I take to nudge the sentence,
    In trust and tale have I divided sense,
    Slapped down the guillotine, the blood-red double
    Of head and tail made witnesses to this
    Murder of Eden and green genesis.
  • Further information: This was originally notebook 2,
    poem ‘II ‘. The title was ‘To-day, this hour I breathe’. It was thoroughly revised in late 1935 and early 1936.
  • When was it written: August 29 1933 and revised in March 1936
    When and where it was first published: 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:
    The seed-at-Zero shall not storm
    That tower of ghosts, the trodden womb
    With her rampart to his tapping,
    No god-in-hero tumble down
    Like a tower on the town
    Dumbly and divinely stumbling
    Over the managing line.
  • Further information: This poem was from notebook 4, poem ‘six’. It was thoroughly revised before publication.
  • When was it written: First revision September 1934 (early version unknown) and revised again in July 1935.
    When and where it was first published: Scottish Bookman, October 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:
    Do you not father me, nor the erected arm
    For my tall tower’s sake cast in her stone?
    Do you not mother me, nor, as I am,
    The lovers’ house, lie suffering my stain?
    Do you not sister me, nor the erected crime
    For my tall turrets carry as your sin?
    Do you not brother me, nor, as you climb,
    Adore my windows for their summer scene?
  • Further information: There is an early version of this poem which exists in the archives at Buffalo University in New York.
  • When was it written: Summer 1932 and revised in December 1934
    When and where it was first published: 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:
    Out of sighs a little comes,
    But not of grief, for I have knocked down that
    Before the agony; the spirit grows,
    Forrest, and cries;
    A little comes, it tasted and found good;
    All could not disappoint;
    There must, be praised, some certainty,
    If not of loving well, then not,
    And that is true after perpetual defeat.
  • Further information: This is a combination of notebook 2, poem ‘LVVVI’ and notebook 2, ‘unnumbered’ (1 July 1932).
  • When was it written: Early 1935
    When and where it was first published: Caravel (March 1936),
    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:
    Hold hard, these ancient minutes in the cuckoo’s month,
    Under the lank, fourth folly on Glamorgan’s hill,
    As the green blooms ride upward, to the drive of time;
    Time, in a folly’s rider, like a country man
    Over the vault of ridings with his hound at heel,
    Drives forth my men, my children, from the hanging south.
  • Further information: This poem appears to signify an end of an era. His close friends were moving from Swansea to London and it seems to be considering what their future lives might hold.
  • When was it written: February 8 1933 and revised in December 1935
    When and where it was first published: New English Weekly, 3 September 1936,
    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:
    Was there a time when dancers with their fiddles
    In children’s circuses could stay their troubles?
    There was a time they could cry over books,
    But time has set its maggot on their track.
  • Further information: This was notebook 3, poem ‘five’ but was cut down significantly in December 1935.
  • When was it written: C.May 1935
    When and where it was first published: 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:
    Now
    Say nay,
    Man dry man,
    Dry lover mine
    The deadlock base and blow the flowered anchor,
    Should he, for centre sake, hop in the dust,
    Forsake, the fool, the hardiness of anger.
  • Further information: This poem is particularly obscure. Dylan’s friend, Vernon Watkins suggested that it should not be included in Twenty-five Poems, but Dylan did not take Vernon’s advice.
  • When was it written: July 1 1933 and revised in January 1936
    When and where it was first published: New English Weekly, 16 July 1936,
    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:
    Why east wind chills and south wind cools
    Shall not be known till windfall dries
    And west’s no longer drowned
    In winds that bring the fruit and rind
    Of many a hundred falls;
    Why silk is soft and stone wounds
    The child shall question all his days,
    Why night-time rain and the breast’s blood
    Both quench his thirst he’ll have a black reply.
  • Further information: This began as notebook 3, poem ‘thirty seven’ but was cut down considerably on 21 January 1936.
  • When was it written: January 1935
    When and where it was first published: Programme, 23 October 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:
    A grief ago,
    She who was who I hold, the fats and flower,
    Or, water-lammed, from the scythe-sided thorn,
    Hell wind and sea,
    A stem cementing, wrestled up the tower,
    Rose maid and male,
    Or, masted venus, through the paddler’s bowl
    Sailed up the sun.
  • Further information: This poem has an element of tenderness about it as it discusses the emotional impact of the fall-out from sex.
  • When was it written: May 1935
    When and where it was first published: Programme, 23 October 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:
    How soon the servant sun
    (Sir morrow mark)
    Can time unriddle, and the cupboard stone
    (Fog has a bone
    He’ll trumpet into meat)
    Unshelve that ally gristles have a gown
    And the naked egg stand straight.
  • Further information: This was another poem that Vernon Watkins suggested was particularly obscure.
  • When was it written: 17 July 1933
    When and where it was first published: John O’London’s Weekly, 5 May 1934,
    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:
    Ears in the turrets hear
    Hand grumble on the door.
    Eyes in the gables see
    The fingers at the locks.
    Shall I unbolt or stay
    Alone till the day I die
    Unseen by stranger-eyes
    In this white-house?
    Hands, hold you poison or grapes?
  • Further information: This poem is about the isolation needed to write. It is almost exactly the same as notebook 3, poem ‘forty-seven’.
  • When was it written: 23 February 1934 and revised in 1935
    When and where it was first published: Sunday Referee, 28 October 1934, Purpose in 1935,
    Contemporary Poetry and Prose, May 1936, 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:
    Foster the light nor veil the man shaped moon,
    Nor weather winds that blow not down the bone,
    But strip the twelve-winded marrow from his circle;
    Master the night nor serve the snowman’s brain
    That shapes each bushy item of the air
    Into a polestar pointed on an icicle.
  • Further information: This began as notebook 4, ‘thirty-six’ and was adapted in 1935. A letter from Trevor Hughes, while Dylan’s father was battling cancer, used the line, ‘Foster the light, and God be with you’, which seems to have influenced this poem.
  • When was it written: 17 August 1934 and revised in November 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:
    The hand that signed the paper felled a city;
    Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,
    Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;
    These five kings did a king to death.
  • Further information: This was from notebook 4, poem ‘one’. Dylan revised it in November 1934. This political poem was dedicated to A.E.T, the initials of Bert Trick who was Dylan’s friend and also a member of the Labour party.
  • 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.
  • When was it written: 1 March 1933 and rewritten in January 1936
    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:
    I have longed to move away
    From the hissing of the spent lie
    And the old terrors’ continual cry
    Growing more terrible as the day
    Goes over the hill into the deep sea;
    I have longed to move away
    From the repetitions of salutes,
    For there are ghost in the air
    And ghostly echoes on paper,
    And the thunder of calls and notes.
  • Further information: This started as notebook 3, poem ‘fourteen’. At that point, Dylan was probably wanting to leave Swansea to further his career in London, yet very scared to do so. It was rewritten on 13 January 1936 and Dylan, by then, had moved to London.
  • When was it written: 13 July 1933 and revised in January 1936
    When and where it was first published: Purpose (April-June 1936),
    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:
    Find meat on bones that soon have none,
    And drink in the two milked crags,
    The merriest marrow and the dregs,
    Before the ladies breasts are hags
    And the limbs are torn.
    Disturb no winding-sheets, my son,
    But when the ladies are cold as stone
    Then hang a ram rose over the rags.
  • Further information: This was notebook 3, poem ‘forty six’ which was later revised. It includes the voice of a father advising his son, and the son rejecting that advice. When published in Purpose it had an unfortunate misprint, ‘Fine meat on bones.’
  • When was it written: August/September 1933 and revised in August 1935
    When and where it was first published: Comment, February 1936,
    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:
    Grief thief of time crawls off,
    The moon-drawn grave, with the seafaring years,
    The knave of pain steals off
    The sea-halved faith that blew time to his knees,
    The old forget the cries.
  • Further information: This poem started as notebook 4, poems ‘five’ and ‘eighteen’ and was revised in August 1935.
  • 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.
  • When was it written: C.April-June 1936
    When and where it was first published: Transition in Autumn 1936,
    Purpose (October-December 1936), 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:
    Then was my neophyte,
    Child in white blood bent on its knees
    Under the bell of rocks,
    Ducked in twelve, disciple seas
    The winder of the water-clocks
    Calls a green day and night.
    My sea hermaphrodite,
    Snail of man in His ship of fires
    That burn the bitten decks,
    Knew all His horrible desires
    The climber of the water sex
    Calls the green rock of light.
  • Further information: The poem considers the idea that our life can be screened on the womb wall, before birth.
  • When was it written: December 1934-December 1935
    When and where it was first published: Life and Letters Today, December 1935 (Parts I-VII) as ‘Poems for a Poem’,
    Contemporary Poetry and Prose (Parts VIII-X) in May and July 1936, 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:
    Altar wise by owl-light in the halfway house
    The gentleman lay graveyard with his furies;
    Aberdeen in the hang-nail cracked from Adam,
    And, from his fork, a dog among the fairies,
    The atlas-eater with a jaw for news,
    Bit out the mandrake with tomorrow’s scream.
    Then, penny-eyed, that gentleman of wounds,
    old cock from nowheres and the heaven’s egg,
    With bones unbuttoned to the halfway winds,
    Hatched from the windy salvage on one leg,
    Scraped at my cradle in a walking word
    That night of time under the Christward shelter,
    I am the long word’s gentleman, he said,
    And share my bed with Capricorn and Cancer.
  • Further information: These are ten sonnets combining to create a very obscure poem. The first two sonnets are nativity poems and were probably written in December 1934 and then the rest were written during 1935.