Saturday, October 01, 2005
October - Dylan Thomas, Wales and the San Francisco Peninsula
The first day of October. Thought of the poem by the late Dylan Thomas. "Especially when the October wind
With frosty fingers punishes my hair,......"
Great poem. For us in the San Francisco Peninsula frosty fingers are unheard of in October. October means sunny, bracingly cold days and blue skies. After unseasonably cool days during most of the second-half of September, we had our Indian summer. During the last few days the daytime temperature climbed over 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). JHL and I hiked the 7.5 mile Los Trancos trail a few days back and felt the heat. We were tired and sweaty but it felt good. Buckeye Creek was almost dry but that will soon change. Today is noticeably cooler.
Back to Dylan Thomas and October in Wales that he described so powerfully. There is beauty and there is harshness. The Welsh must be hardy people to cope with such stark autumn.
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 post 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."
"I first saw the light of
day in a Glamorgan villa,
and,amid the terrors of the
Welsh accent and the smoke
of the tinplate stacks, grew
up to be a sweet baby, a
precocious child, a rebellious
boy, and a morbid youth"
---Dylan Marlais Thomas (1914-1953)
For those who are interested in learning more about Dylan Thomas, the BBC's web site is a treasure trove.