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’.
‘They flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude
from ‘The Daffodils’ by William Wordsworth
An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed with daffodils. The sun treads the path among cedars and enormous oaks. It might be a country house, guests strolling, the rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs.
I am reading poetry to the insane. An old woman, interrupting, offers as many buckets of coal as I need. A beautiful chestnut-haired boy listens entirely absorbed. A schizophrenic
on a good day, they tell me later. In a cage of first March sun a woman sits not listening, not feeling. In her neat clothes the woman is absent. A big, mild man is tenderly led
to his chair. He has never spoken. His labourer’s hands on his knees, he rocks gently to the rhythms of the poems. I read to their presences, absences, to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.
He is suddenly standing, silently, huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow movement of spring water or the first bird of the year in the breaking darkness, the labourer’s voice recites ‘The Daffodils’.
The nurses are frozen, alert; the patients seem to listen. He is hoarse but word-perfect. Outside the daffodils are still as wax, a thousand, ten thousand, their syllables unspoken, their creams and yellows still.
Forty years ago, in a Valleys school, the class recited poetry by rote. Since the dumbness of misery fell he has remembered there was a music of speech and that once he had something to say.
When he’s done, before the applause, we observe the flowers’ silence. A thrush sings and the daffodils are flame.
By Gillian Clarke from Letter from a Far Country (1982)
Gillian remarks on her site: “All you need to know about this poem is that it is a true story. It happened in the ’70s, and it took me years to find a way to write the poem.“
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