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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"The existentialist void and the divine image" : the poetry of Dylan Thomas Monro, Colin James Outram

Abstract

The principal aim of this thesis has been to trace the course of Dylan Thomas's poetic evolution, which falls roughly into three main periods. It would be wrong to consider these water-tight compartments, however, since it is possible to discern from any one stage of his development lineaments of the past or of the future. Thus any generalization is automatically so qualified. The first period is principally concerned with the creative and destructive forces which comprise the pattern of the changing and unchanging universe. Its focal image is procreative and its exploration of the natural dialectic is rendered very largely through the kind of perceptions belonging to the subconscious mind. It would be mistaken to infer from this that the poetry is chaotic, but its almost continual reliance upon symbolic meaning demands a response in which areas of the mind outside the rational are very often brought into play. The obscurities of style reflect the difficulties inherent in the putting into words of the chaos beyond consciousness. There are places where a nucleus of significance is lacking, and the poet becomes lost in obfuscated imagery, but at best he achieves a superb, solidified resonance. The second period shows a growing concern with the relation of the macrocosm to the microcosm. Correspondingly, the degrees of both affirmation and negation are more extreme. At this time the growing pressure of problems of personal existence and of a greater awareness results in the questions outnumbering the answers. There are poems so dense and so opaque they virtually defy efforts to elucidate them; others, however, reveal a greater measure of clarity and a more plastic command of language. The third period is, in my opinion, the finest. It explores the many-colored world and possesses the mellowed abundance of artistic maturity. At last the poet appears to have transformed the void at the heart of being into a shining image of faith and redemption, but it should be remembered that in Thomas the negation remains and provides the impetus to his triumphant acclamation of life. Taken on its own terms existence is intolerable; his reconciliation occurs as a result of his rejecting the earth for a vision of immortality. He achieves the poised tranquillity if not the neutral flexibility of the language of, say, Keats or Yeats, which marks the vast and detached power of great poetry. Though there are places where the inspiration seems a trifle flaccid, I should not hesitate to describe the end as a rich and complete poetic harvest.

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