When the morning was waking over the war He put on his clothes and stepped out and he died, The locks yawned loose and a blast blew them wide, He dropped where he loved on the burst pavement stone And the funeral grains of the slaughtered floor. Tell his street on its back he stopped a sun And the craters of his eyes grew springshoots and fire When all the keys shot from the locks, and rang. Dig no more for the chains of his grey-haired heart. The heavenly ambulance drawn by a wound Assembling waits for the spade’s ring on the cage. O keep his bones away from the common cart, The morning is flying on the wings of his age And a hundred storks perch on the sun’s right hand.
By Dylan Thomas (July 1941)
Additional information: I have seen online a number of sources have ‘springshots’ instead of ‘springshoots’. The book I reference, and the above clip where you can hear the poet himself reciting the poem, confirms it is ‘springshoot’ . I can only imagine those sources copied each other or there is some alternate ‘American English’ version I am unfamiliar with.
Characteristically, the sonnet refuses to let the natural triumph of the centenarian’s death be obscured by piety, officialese or propaganda. Instead, it records the events with a quiet irony – that such an old man should need to be killed by a bomb. The flat title was an actual headline in a newspaper. With an even crueller irony. Thomas considered, as a title for the second part of ‘Ceremony After a Fire Raid’ known as ‘Among Those Burned to Death was a Child Aged a Few Hours’.
All men. Or shall we say, not chauvinistic, all people, it is all people? Beasts manure the ground, nibble to promote growth; but man, the consumer, swallows like the god of mythology his own kind. Beasts walk among birds and never do the birds scare; but the human, that alienating shadow with the Bible under the one arm and under the other the bomb, as often drawn as he is repelled by the stranger waiting for him in the mirror – how can he return home when his gaze forages beyond the stars? Pity him, then, this winged god, rupturer of gravity's control accelerating on and outward in the afterglow of a receding laughter?
by R. S. Thomas from No Truce With The Furies (1995)