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Dylan Thomas 1914 - 1953

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Dylan Thomas 1914 - 1953
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Dylan @ the BBC

 Dylan Marlais Thomas was born in Swansea, Wales on October 27, 1914.

  The name Dylan comes from the Mabinogion, a collection of 11 mediaeval Welsh tales. The word means "sea". In the tale Math, the son of Mathonwy, challenges Aranrhod, his niece who claims to be a virgin, to step over his magic wand.

  "Arianrhod stepped over the wand, and with that step she dropped a sturdy boy with thick yellow hair; the boy gave a loud cry, and with that cry she made her way for the door.....

  "Well," said Math, "I will arrange for the baptism of this one......and I will call him Dylan."

  The boy was baptized, whereupon he immediately made for the sea, and when he came to the sea he took on its nature and swam as well as the best fish. He was called Dylan (sea) son of Ton (wave), for no wave ever broke beneath him."

  Marlais is the name of a stream which runs from the hills near the birthplace of Dylan Thomas' great uncle Gwilym Marles Thomas. Marles is a variation of the name Marlais. Dylan Thomas' sister Nancy also bore a variation of the name Marles.

  In November 1934 he moved to London and on the 18th December of that year his first book of poetry, Eighteen Poems appeared to critical acclaim. Dylan Thomas had just turned 20 when this volume of poetry was released. He had written nearly 30 poems in late 1933 and early 1934, of which 13 were published in this volume. Between May and October 1934, he completed another five for inclusion in the book. Dylan Thomas was an incredibly conscientious wordsmith, as shown by this description by his long-time friend Vernon Watkins:

  "....the composition of his poetry, for which he used separate work sheets and would spend sometimes several days on a single line, while the poem was built up phrase by phrase, at glacier like speed."

(Vernon Watkins, Adventures in the Skin Trade, introduction)

In April of 1936 he met Caitlin MacNamara, and in September his second volume of poetry Twenty-five Poems was released. In July 1937 Dylan and Caitlin were married and in 1938, they moved to Laugharne, Wales.

Their first child, Llewelyn Edouard Thomas was born in January 1939. The Map of Love was published in August 1939 and The World I Breathe was published in December 1939, in the United States. In April 1940 Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog was published and in September, Dylan began working for Strand Films which he continued for the duration of World War II.

a second child,a girl, Aeronwyn Bryn Thomas, was born in March 1943. Deaths and Entrances was published in 1946. In 1949 Dylan and Caitlin's third child, Colm Garan Hart Thomas was born. In 1952, Collected Poems, 1934-1952 became the last book published in his life time. He also published many short stories, wrote filmscripts, broadcast stories and talks, did a series of lecture tours in the United States and wrote Under Milkwood, the radio play.

During his fourth lecture tour of the United States in 1953, (which he made under a doctor's care) and a few days after his 39th birthday, he collapsed in his New York City hotel. He died on November 9th, 1953 at St Vincents Hospital, in New York City. His body was sent back to Laugharne, Wales, where his grave is marked by a simple wooden cross.

His unfinished novel, Adventures in the Skin Trade, was originally rejected by his London publisher for not being "the great, serious autobiographical work to which they had looked forward so long." The novel itself is the incredibly funny story of a young man, Samuel Bennet, who moves to London, after metaphorically (and nearly literally) burning his bridges behind him. In the few extant chapters, Samuel gets involved in a series of inextricable situations, beginning with getting a finger permanently stuck inside of a Bass Ale bottle. The title, in typically Dylan Thomas fashion refers, of course, to the young man's trading one life for another, a metaphoric trading of skins. In correspondence with Vernon Watkins, he describes the work-in-progress as:

 "a mixture of Oliver Twist, Little Dorrit, Kafka, Beachcomber, and good old 3-adjectives-a-penny belly-churning Thomas, the Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive."

Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
     In the sun that is young once only,
          Time let me play and be
     Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
          And the sabbath rang slowly
     In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
     And playing, lovely and watery
          And fire green as grass.
     And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
     Flying with the ricks, and the horses
          Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
     Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
          The sky gathered again
     And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
     Out of the whinnying green stable
          On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
     In the sun born over and over,
          I ran my heedless ways,
     My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
     Before the children green and golden
          Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would
                  take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
     In the moon that is always rising,
          Nor that riding to sleep
     I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Dylan and Caitlin [click for larger]

Dylan broadcast a
number of talks at
the BBC

Biography Project>> Dylan Thomas

 Dylan Thomas Boathouse at Laugharne (The) >> An educational, heritage, cultural and literary resource on Dylan Thomas

 Dylan Thomas Exhibition and Collection >> Under Milkwood

 Dylan Thomas >> In the news

 Dylan Thomas >> Life and works chronology

 Time Line of Dylan Thomas >> by the BBC

 Under Milk Wood >> Complete text online

Under Milk Wood: A Play For Voices (1954) >> an BBC article on the play

 Writing of Dylan Thomas (The) >> Collected works and biography of Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas' grave
.

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