Dylan Thomas

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Dylan Thomas

"There is in the Welsh bardic tradition much that is absolutely fundamental to Thomas' writing: its highly lyrical qualities; its strict formal control and an essentially romantic conception of the poet's function in society." (Selby 98) These traits parallel the three themes that will be belaboured in this essay: the aural/oral appeal of Dylan Thomas' work; his meticulous obscurity; and the role of the poet in society.

I: One of Thomas' more controversial and distinctive characteristics is his musicality. It is surprising that anyone would bring this up as a complaint; music is considered by many to be the purest art, and the highest poetry that which approaches nearest to music. Perhaps it is understandable that those critics who would limit meaning and contextualise art would also be aesthetically oriented such that they would find it offensive that a form for the eyes and mind should be so solicitous of the lips and ears.

It is also suggested that Thomas may be sacrificing meaning to sound, but this is hard to swallow when one considers the amount of effort he puts into codification (showing attention to meaning) and the fact that his poems simply aren't nonsense.

While attention to sound is considered a minor matter in many modern critical streams, it has always played a privileged part in Romantic aesthetics:

Sounds as well as thoughts have relation both between each other and towards that which they represent, and a perception of the order of those relations has always been found connected with a perception of the order of the relations of thoughts. Hence the language of poets have ever affected a certain uniform and harmonious recurrence of sound, without which it were not poetry, and which is scarcely less indispensable to the communication of its influence, than the words themselves, without reference to that peculiar order. (Shelley 92)

Even if it is true that the sound in some way detracts from the meaning, it is only in a temporary fashion, and is calculated. Stewart Crehan suggests: "Thomas' obscurity is calculated to foreground sound and its pleasures before the meaning sinks in." (Crehan 42) The sound has a hypnotic quality which opens up the mind and makes it more susceptible to the subtle suggestions of murky metaphysical musings.

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