Poem in October by Dylan Thomas

It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
Summery
On the hill’s shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart’s truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year’s turning.

by Dylan Thomas
(August 1944)

Dylan Thomas reciting both ‘Poem In October’ and ‘In My Craft or Sullen Art’

Additional information: One of Dylan Thomas‘ many birthday poems.

The setting of the poem is Laugharne in Carmarthenshire viewed, stanza three onwards, from St John’s Hill.

Thomas called it ‘a Laugharne poem: the first place poem I’ve written‘ (letter to Vernon Watkins, 26 August 1944).

Especially when the October wind by Dylan Thomas

Especially when the October wind
With frosty fingers punishes my hair,
Caught by the crabbing sun I walk on fire
And cast a shadow crab upon the land,
By the sea’s side, hearing the noise of birds,
Hearing the raven cough in winter sticks,
My busy heart who shudders as she talks
Sheds the syllabic blood and drains her words.

Shut, too, in a tower of words, I mark
On the horizon walking like the trees
The wordy shapes of women, and the rows
Of the star-gestured children in the park.
Some let me make you of the vowelled beeches,
Some of the oaken voices, from the roots
Of many a thorny shire tell you notes,
Some let me make you of the water’s speeches.

Behind a pot of ferns the wagging clock
Tells me the hour’s word, the neural meaning
Flies on the shafted disk, declaims the morning
And tells the windy weather in the cock.
Some let me make you of the meadow’s signs;
The signal grass that tells me all I know
Breaks with the wormy winter through the eye.
Some let me tell you of the raven’s sins.

Especially when the October wind
(Some let me make you of autumnal spells,
The spider-tongued, and the loud hill of Wales)
With fists of turnips punishes the land,
Some let me make of you the heartless words.
The heart is drained that, spelling in the scurry
Of chemic blood, warned of the coming fury.
By the sea’s side hear the dark-vowelled birds.

by Dylan Thomas
(October 1934)

A recording of Dylan Thomas reciting his poem ‘Especially When the October Wind’.

Additional information: Two of Dylan Thomas‘ major themes come together in this poem. One, stemming from the fact that October was the month of his birth, is the initiation of decay traditionally associated with autumn. The other, confirmed by similar statements in the letters and by an earlier version of the poem, is what philosophers call the problem of ‘nominalism and universals‘. That is to say, for Thomas, word and thing seem indivisible: ‘When I experience anything, I experience it as a thing and a word at the same time, both equally amazing‘ (E. W. Tedlock, ed. Dylan Thomas: The Legend and the Poet [Mercury Books, 1963], p.54).

Зима приближается (Winter Approaches) by Boris Pasternak

Winter approaches. And once again
The secret retreat of some bear
Will vanish under impassible mud
To a tearful child's despair.

Little huts will awaken in lakes
Reflecting their smoke like a path.
Encircled by autumn's cold slush,
Life-lovers will meet by the heath.

Inhabitants of the stern North,
Whose roof is the open air,
'In this sign conquer' is written
On each inaccessible lair.

I love you, provincial retreats,
Off the map, off the road, past the farm.
The more thumbed and grubby the book,
The greater for me its charm.

Slow lines of lumbering carts,
You spell out an alphabet leading
From meadow to meadow. Your pages
Were always my favourite reading.

And suddenly here it is written
Again, in the first snow – the spidery
Cursive italic of sleigh runners -
A page like a piece of embroidery.

A silvery-hazel October.
Pewter shine since the frosts began.
Autumnal twilight of Chekov,
Tchaikovsky and Levitan.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1943)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
The poem read in Russian by the actor Aleksandr Feklistov

Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem:

Зима приближается


Зима приближается. Сызнова
Какой-нибудь угол медвежий
Под слезы ребенка капризного
Исчезнет в грязи непроезжей.

Домишки в озерах очутятся,
Над ними закурятся трубы.
В холодных объятьях распутицы
Сойдутся к огню жизнелюбы.

Обители севера строгого,
Накрытые небом, как крышей!
На вас, захолустные логова,
Написано: сим победиши.

Люблю вас, далекие пристани
В провинции или деревне.
Чем книга чернее и листанней,
Тем прелесть ее задушевней.

Обозы тяжелые двигая,
Раскинувши нив алфавиты,
Вы с детства любимою книгою
Как бы посредине открыты.

И вдруг она пишется заново
Ближайшею первой метелью,
Вся в росчерках полоза санного
И белая, как рукоделье.

Октябрь серебристо-ореховый.
Блеск заморозков оловянный.
Осенние сумерки Чехова,
Чайковского и Левитана.

‘He Loved Light, Freedom and Animals’ by Mike Jenkins

An inscription on the grave of one of the children who died in the Aberfan disaster of October 21st, 1966

 

No grave could contain him.

He will always be young

in the classroom

waving an answer

like a greeting.

 

Buried alive –

alive he is

by the river

skimming stones down

the path of the sun.

 

When the tumour on the hillside

burst and the black blood

of coal drowned him,

he ran forever

with his sheepdog leaping

for sticks, tumbling together

in windblown abandon.

 

I gulp back tears

because of a notion of manliness.

After the October rain

the slag-heap sagged

its greedy coalowner’s belly.

 

He drew a picture of a wren,

his favourite bird for fraility

and determination. His eyes gleamed

as gorse-flowers do now

above the village.

 

His scream was stopped mid-flight.

Black and blemished

with the hill’s sickness

he must have been,

like a child collier

dragged out of one of Bute’s mines –

a limp statistic.

 

There he is, climbing a tree,

mimicking an ape, calling out names

at classmates. Laughs springing

down the slope. My wife hears them

her ears attuned as a ewe’s in lambing,

and I try to foster the inscription,

away from its stubborn stone.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from Empire of Smoke


Not so Fun facts: This poem refers to the Aberfan disaster the catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip at 9.15 am on 21 October 1966. The tip had been created on a mountain slope above the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil and overlaid a natural spring. A period of heavy rain led to a build-up of water within the tip which caused it to suddenly slide downhill as a slurry, killing 116 children and 28 adults as it engulfed the local junior school and other buildings. The tip was the responsibility of the National Coal Board (NCB), and the subsequent inquiry placed the blame for the disaster on the organisation and nine named employees.

I’ve been to the town and it’s still a very quiet place to this day as a generation of the community was lost in that disaster. Where the junior school once stood there is now a memorial garden.

‘All all the trees go piff’ by Daniil Kharms

All all the trees go piff

all all the rocks go paff

all all of nature poof.

 

All all the girls go piff

all all the guys go paff

all all the marriage poof.

 

All all the slavs go piff

all all the jews go paff

all all of Russia poof.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(early October 1929)

translated by Matvei Yankelevich