Within us, every spring and winter. In us and through us: the stars, the dust, the blossoms. Every destructive wave. Every rebirth. All nature’s forces that thrust and subdue are in our blood.
Dylan Thomas’s “The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower” is one of his many masterpieces. And here: A fair warning that many of the poems of the day on my blog will be by Dylan Thomas. Thomas’s mastery was manifold, but chiefly among the many things about his work that I adore are his meter, his music, how every line is its own separate symphony. Notice the patterns here, how they come and go so audibly yet almost imperceptibly. Each first line’s iambic push, usually pentameter, with variances; the second line’s initial trochaic foot to “drive” or “stir” as the image calls it to do. The third lines each like little dyings. The anaphora to tune our blood to his song and to pull it forward.
I marvel at how Thomas’s imagery is always just barely out of reach, how it manages a universal/general tone with concrete, specific images, but also keeps its distance, how his mysteries keep calling us back. His poems get into my blood in a way that is beyond language, a way that is purely visceral and somehow beneath comprehension, though I understand the music he makes entirely within the chamber of my body. His music is at once erotic and evocative, spiritual, eternal. If you don’t have his Collected Poems, make that a gift to yourself this year. Shake your independent bookseller’s hand. Happy Holidays!
THE FORCE THAT THROUGH THE GREEN FUSE DRIVES THE FLOWER
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.
The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.
The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.
And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.