A Brief Outline of Thomas’ Life

 

“It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea.”

 

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Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914, in the upstairs front bedroom of his parents newly built house at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea and Dylan Thomas was named after a character in the collection of medieval Welsh tales, The Mabinogion.

Behind the house ran an alley and across the road was Cwmdonkin Park. Dylan is said to have been inspired by the leafy glades and shady paths of Cwmdonkin park. In his radio broadcast ‘Reminiscences of Childhood’ he speaks about the importance of the park and its significance in his early life. He describes it as:

A world within the world of the sea town full of terrors and treasuresa country just born and always changing.and that park grew up with me.In that small, iron-railed universe of rockery, gravel-path, playbank, bowling-green, bandstand reservoir, chrysanthemum garden, ..in the grass one must keep off, I endured, with pleasure, the first agonies of unrequited love, the first slow boiling in the belly of a bad poem, the strutting and raven-locked self-dramatization of what, at that time seemed incurable adolescence.”

During his childhood, the city life of Swansea was contrasted by summer holidays spent at his aunt’s farm in Camarthenshire, the landscape proving vital to his imaginative life in such poems as Fern Hill (read by Richard Burton).

By the time he moved to London in 1934 he was already writing some of the poems on which his later reputation would be based, including And Death Shall Have no Dominion (read by Dylan Thomas) and The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower(Read by Dylan Thomas).

His first book, 18 Poems, appeared in 1934 and was recognised as coming from the pen of a writer with unique talent.

His hard drinking and riotous behaviour in London was the start of the darker aspect to his legend. In 1936 he met Caitlin Macnamara and they were married the following year. They had a fiery relationship, which was fraught with mutual infidelity, money problems and alcohol abuse. By 1943 the couple had three children and mounting debt. During this period he continued to write some of his greatest poems, particularly those that appeared in the 1946 collection, including the war- influenced Deaths and Entrances (Read by Richard Burton).

In the need to earn money, radio became one regular source of employment with frequent broadcasts for the BBC and in 1950 Thomas fulfilled a long-standing ambition to tour America, giving readings, which attracted large audiences. Thomas made two further trips to America with similar results: increasing fame, coupled with drunkenness and financial imprudence.

His final trip to New York in October 1953 proved to be his last. He died on 9th November, the cause of death being given as a combination of pneumonia and pressure on the brain due to alcohol.

The New York Times said of Thomas at the time of his American tours:

“Dylan Thomas’s voice has added a new dimension to literary history. He will surely be remembered as the first in modern literature to be both a maker and speaker of poetry…the typical reader will become entranced after hearing him recite.” 

 

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