Monday, 22 April 2013

And Death Shall Have No Dominion by Dylan Thomas

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion. 

Thomas' 1933 poem was inspired by a line from St Paul's letter to the Romans. The relevant passage is as follows: "Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him" (Romans 6:9). 

It seems to me that Thomas claims the phrase as his own, secularising the message and attaching it to a worldview that allows for a mystical connection between man and the Earth. I'd love for you to share your opinions in the comments section.

The poem is one of Thomas' best known works and has featured in diverse film and television productions, including Soderbergh's version of Solaris and the CBS drama Beauty and the Beast. For the record, I am particularly keen of Peter Capaldi's recitation of the poem in the BBC drama Field of Blood.

I want to break with habit and post a video for the first time on this blog. Here is Richard Burton reading a selection of material by Thomas, with a portion of And Death Shall Have No Dominion coming at the end:

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