QotD: Favorite Poem, “Though I Sang In My Chains Like The Sea”

What is one of your favorite poems?
Submitted by marvel is my pen name.

My introduction to the works of Dylan Thomas was a peculiar and ironic one.  It really has no place here; suffice it to say that I first read his poetry in junior high school, when I was 13.    I was to write a report on him, so I set out to reading his poems.  I almost wept.  Not because of their depth and beauty, but because my tiny teenaged mind had NO IDEA what they meant.  'white giant's thigh'?  'Long-legged bait'?  What the hell?  I obviously needed more than 13 years on this earth to make sense out of those things.

But there was one poem that made sense.  Clearly and wonderfully.  It seemed to me then, as it does now (along with 'Ballad of the Long-legged Bait' and 'In the white giant's thigh' and all the others) quite marvelous and perfect. 

It's a poem that celebrates childhood, its loss and eternal memory, along with things that are even more deep and vast.  It's final two lines are inscribed under Dylan Thomas' name in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner.

I have a recording of Thomas reading this poem; with his voice the lines become even more rolling, royal and rich.  I didn't cut and paste it into my blog, I typed it – and it was as if I was reading and hearing and feeling it all at once.

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 honored 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 night-jars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing in the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his sholder: 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."

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15 responses to “QotD: Favorite Poem, “Though I Sang In My Chains Like The Sea”

  1. oh my that is beautiful.

  2. Thank goodness there are recordings of Dylan Thomas reciting his own works. Thank goodness for that. What a voice. "A Child's Christmas in Wales" is my favorite. Listen to it every December. I don't think I could type it all out by heart, Miss-I-didn't-cut-and-paste, but I think I know a lot of it by heart. So many great lines in it I can't pick only one or two though I tried for this comment. Wouldn't it have been great to share a drink with him?

  3. Lovely. 🙂
    I keep trying to find a "favorite" poem to post, but I just can't settle on one. I'll probably post later and include a few, with links to a few others!

  4. This too is a favorite of mine. My first real exposure to Dylan Thomas was a few years back when in a choir that was touring Ireland. A friend and I were browsing this old bookstore, and he suddenly disappeared. I went outside, and he came after me, and handed me a book of Thomas' poems. He's a big fan of Thomas and wanted to get me hooked. Well, he got me hooked. :)Great pick.

  5. oh that's so pretty!&:o)

  6. Truly wonderful!!!And, Dan, what a great way to "discover" Thomas!

  7. I read "A Child's Christmas in Wales" every December too. I read it, listen to it and watch the (EXCELLENT) TV serialization with Denholm Elliott.
    How about: "I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept…"

  8. I was in Laugharne when I thought I'd fall into a tiny bookstore I saw. Inside I discovered a first edition of Thomas' 'The Doctor And The Devils' They didn't take Traveler's Checks (this was a small bookstore), so I ran frantically into the nearest post office to see if they could change my T. Check into the coin of the realm. They did – unwillingly – and now that book is one of my dearest possessions.
    You have a very good friend.

  9. beautiful… Thomas' recording must be very moving.

  10. A Celtic genius, the genius of the Celt–pure, natural, flowing, anchored in the green earth. If I had this poem memorized, I would recite it each night like a prayer before sleep.

  11. Perhaps I'm a little more morbid but my favourite Dylan poem is "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night". For me, it's reflects how I feel about death and dying and how, unlike Tennyson's soft descent to death, death is something you should be fighting and beating back, no matter what your view of the afterlife.

  12. Have you ever heard a recording of him reading that poem? The power of his voice convinces me that he did not go gentle, and will, in fact, live forever.

  13. No and now I SO have to. I didn't even realize there were recordings out there. I wonder if the library has a copy…

  14. Great story! And yes, he is a great friend. He's now off in Norway with his wife and kids, composing his own poems, the bastard… 😉

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