Summary of Poem in October by Dylan Thomas

This poem summary focuses on the poem ‘Poem in October’ by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. This poem was written by the poet on the occasion of his thirtieth birthday. It is made up of seven stanzas. Each of the stanzas, in turn, is made up of ten lines each.

The first stanza begins with the poet saying that he woke up on his thirtieth birthday to sounds from the sea. Since it is his native village of Swansea that he describes, the wood beside the harbour is equated with a neighbour by Thomas. A quiet reverence is in the air as morning breaks in Swansea. That is why the shore appears to be “priested” by a heron, according to Thomas, and the water seems to be praying to the heron priest. The call of birds like the seagull and the rook has brought Thomas to the state of awakening from the state of being asleep. He knows that the rest of the inhabitants of the town are stills sleeping, yet he cannot resist getting up and walking out of his house the second he hears the sound of ships arriving on shore. The harbour is active, he knows, and feels he must be active too.

In the second stanza, Thomas says that it was with water that his thirtieth birthday began (as he has already evidently and amply described in the first stanza). Farms and horses are common in the little village where he had grown up, but it was the birds and the “winged trees flying (his) name” that attracted him. In Welsh, the name ‘Dylan’ means sea-tide. Thus “flying my name” may mean that the same air currents that cause the tide also make the branches of the trees sway and give the impression of the trees having wings. However, if we do not take this phrase quite so literally, we can presume that Thomas feels as if the delights of nature only exist for him at such an early hour, and he is the only witness to their magnificence. As Thomas walks further, he starts mounting a hill, and at precisely that time, a heavy shower starts up, so heavy that the poet believes it to be equal to the sum total of all rains that he has seen till that day. As he crosses the gate that separates the town from the hill, and leaves the premises of Swansea, he can feel the other residents of the village waking up.

In the third stanza, Thomas describes how the weather on the hillside is entirely different from the weather in the wood that he has left behind. The sun is shining brightly over the hill, and the only cloud that is visible is composed only of a large number of larks flying all together in the sky and forming a single undifferentiated mass. So many blackbirds are whistling that the whole environment seems to be overflowing with the sweet and melodious sound of their chirps. As opposed to the howling wind and the shivering cold in the wood below him, Thomas is pleasantly surprised by the “fond climates and the sweet singers” that he has suddenly come upon in the hillside.

The fourth stanza has Thomas describing how small objects look from an elevated height, such as that on the hillside on which he is standing. Hence the church in the harbour resembles a small snail with its horns rising through the mist that the rainy weather has given rise to near the sea. Similarly a brown castle only reminds him of an owl. However, beyond the border of Swansea, and under a sky full of larks on the hill, everything looked tall. Thomas avows that he could spend his entire birthday just staring at the sites of Swansea, but the weather has changed and he has moved on.

In the fifth stanza, Thomas says the changing weather has brought a blue sky and the rich contrasting colours of fruits such as apples and pears and red currants. With the change in weather, the poet himself has been carried into the past. In a tone of nostalgia, he remembers his childhood days spent with his mother. Thomas here beautifully evokes childhood through the use of words like “parables” and “legends”, but he does so to show that he had been much closer to nature as a child  than he is now when he is about to turn thirty.

In the sixth stanza, Thomas continues his reminiscence and is deeply moved by the memories that have come floating back to him. He cries the tears that his boyhood self had cried, and experiences every emotion that his young heart had once felt. He remembers how, as a child, he had had conversations with the trees, the stones, and the fish – all of which were essential parts of the landscape of Swansea. Nature had been a mystery to him, but he revelled in not trying to rationalize all of it.

In the seventh stanza, Thomas again asserts that he could spend his entire birthday staring at Swansea, but then the weather has changed and he has moved on. The joy he had felt as a child on coming face to face with nature still burns in him. As he stands at noon on his thirtieth birthday, somehow feeling like it is summer though the title clearly specifies that it is in October that his birthday falls, he hopes that next year too he shall have a similar experience and find joy in the same.

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  1. I am satisfied with the analysis. It touches the core of my heart. It is really a nice poem of Dylan Thomas.

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