About the Poet:
Dylan Marlais Thomas was a Welsh poet well- known for his strong literature. His most notable works include “do not go gentle into that good night” and “And death shall have no denominator”. He was also famous for his radio broadcasts such as “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” and “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog”. Born on 27th October 1914, in Swansea, Wales, Dylan left school at 16 to become a journalist for a short time, after which he got married and settled in the Welsh village of Laugharne. He later traveled to the United States and acquired his fame as a poet. On his fourth trip to New York City due to his deteriorating health, he fell into a coma and died on 9th of November, 1953.
Introduction to Lament:
This poem by Dylan Thomas is about all the lustful encounters that the poet faces through his short-lived life. He speaks not only of his growth from a boy to a man in this poem but also narrates his mental tensions and the sexual tension in his surrounds at that particular time in his life. It is his story of going through life under the constant influence of sexual longings.
The setting of Lament:
The poem deals with Dylan Thomas growing from a boy to a slightly amateur boy to a completely mature man. His journey is described along the lines of the social scenario in that period of his life, usually revolving around the aspects of lust and sexual desire.
Poetic Devices in Lament:
Line 1: When I was a windy boy
Line 4: like a tell-tale tit,
Line 6: blush as the big girl,
Line 7: Nine-pin down on donkey’s common,
Line 8: seesaw Sunday nights
Line 9: Whoever I would with my wicked eyes,
Line 10: could love and leave
Line 11: leave little weddings’ wives
Line 12: coal black bush
Line 14: black beast of the beetles’ pet
Line 16: Not a boy and a bit
Line 17: Dipping moon and drunk as a new dropped calf,
Line 19: Midwives grew in the midnight ditches,
Line 20: sizzling sheets of the town
Line 25: When I was a man you could call a man
Line 26: of the holy house,
Line 28: Brandy and ripe in my bright, bass prime,
Line 29: spring-tailed Tom in the red hot town
Line 32: great good time
Line 39: dying of downfall
Line 40: No flailing calf or cat in a flame
Line 42: But a black sheep
Line 45: my soul a blind, slashed eye,
Line 50: reward for a roaring life,
Line 51: Sighed the old ram rod, dying of strangers
Line 54: For, oh, my soul found a Sunday wife
Line 55: black sky and she bore angel
Line 57: Chastity prays for me, piety sings
Line 58: last black breath,
Line 60: deadly virtues plague my death.
The black spite in line 2 symbolizes nastiness and trouble whereas dying of women in the next line symbolizes women dying of sexual hunger. The “wick- dipping moon” symbolizes the poet’s indulgence in sexual love. The gossip about his infamous sexual misdoings is symbolized in the phrase “sizzling sheets”.
The Style of Lament:
When I was a windy boy and a bit (A)
And the black spit of the chapel fold, (B)
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of women), (C)
I tiptoed shy in the gooseberry wood, (D)
The rude owl cried like a tell-tale tit, (A)
I skipped in a blush as the big girls rolled (B)
Nine-pin down on donkey’s common, (C)
And see-saw Sunday nights I wooed (D)
Whoever I would with my wicked eyes, (E)
The whole of the moon I could love and leave (F)
All the green left little weddings’ wives (E)
In the coal black bush and let them grieve. (F)
Summary of Lament:
Lament is Dylan Thomas’s attempt at lamenting over his life and the life around him, in the perspective of how sexual tensions and religious bondage affected one another along with the people whose lives it changed. It begins with Thomas being an innocent child to the world of copulation but is later much like a parasite that seems to thrive on it. He is later influenced by religion and becomes frustrated mentally and physically by the bondage that it has over him. He is then depressed by the tedium of Christian marriage, which doesn’t seem to have alleviated the depression caused by his “roaring” life of sexual incontinence”
Critical Analysis of Lament:
The poem is a lament to the sexual, religious and psychological influences that govern the lives of people in the modern times, as seen through the eyes of Dylan Thomas. His voice and narrative change dramatically as he explains his transition from a boy to a man along with all the experiences that he goes through. Each line gives us a life like the narrative of his existing state of being.
Central Idea of Lament:
Although the theme of the poem is dark and harsh, the descriptive narration of Dylan Thomas is what draws the reader to keep reading ahead. His theme, in this given poem, revolves around the timeline of his life and how one after the other- sexual desire, religion and marriage affect his mental state into changing his outlook towards life.
The tone of Lament:
The poem begins with Thomas starting off as a young boy, who is oblivious to the bodily pleasures of humanity. But after being exposed and involved in the “sexual disease” as he called it, Thomas becomes much closer to being a fully grown man. It is mentioned later that after this prolonged exposure to sex is he then desirous of religion. But religion too seems to bond him and this gets him depressed. In the end, he can seem to find peace in neither religion nor marriage and is hence is in deep distress as he enters the last few years of his life.
This poem by Thomas is a literal lament towards the ways of the modern world and its manipulative ways of controlling over human nature. It is an example of how modernity and its factors of extensive sexual aggression and religious force can make or break the life of men, like that of the poet.
Contributor: Deeksha Honawar