Dylan Thomas

(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953 / Swansea / Wales)

Before I Knocked


Before I knocked and flesh let enter,
With liquid hands tapped on the womb,
I who was as shapeless as the water
That shaped the Jordan near my home
Was brother to Mnetha's daughter
And sister to the fathering worm.

I who was deaf to spring and summer,
Who knew not sun nor moon by name,
Felt thud beneath my flesh's armour,
As yet was in a molten form
The leaden stars, the rainy hammer
Swung by my father from his dome.

I knew the message of the winter,
The darted hail, the childish snow,
And the wind was my sister suitor;
Wind in me leaped, the hellborn dew;
My veins flowed with the Eastern weather;
Ungotten I knew night and day.

As yet ungotten, I did suffer;
The rack of dreams my lily bones
Did twist into a living cipher,
And flesh was snipped to cross the lines
Of gallow crosses on the liver
And brambles in the wringing brains.

My throat knew thirst before the structure
Of skin and vein around the well
Where words and water make a mixture
Unfailing till the blood runs foul;
My heart knew love, my belly hunger;
I smelt the maggot in my stool.

And time cast forth my mortal creature
To drift or drown upon the seas
Acquainted with the salt adventure
Of tides that never touch the shores.
I who was rich was made the richer
By sipping at the vine of days.

I, born of flesh and ghost, was neither
A ghost nor man, but mortal ghost.
And I was struck down by death's feather.
I was a mortal to the last
Long breath that carried to my father
The message of his dying christ.

You who bow down at cross and altar,
Remember me and pity Him
Who took my flesh and bone for armour
And doublecrossed my mother's womb.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Cecilia Nicoletti (2/11/2007 6:07:00 AM)

    Dylan Thomas always young and rebel.Dylan Thomas some kind of modern Rimbaud, bohemian and loner as if he was possesed by the POET cliché.And this is a good example of his anxious and almost hopeless poetry.
    It must be hard to charge that talent on his back. (Report) Reply

  • Sean Godley (4/11/2006 3:11:00 PM)

    Amazing poem - especially considering Thomas was a teenager when he wrote it. Already the genius was finding its way to the page! He was an astounding man who died too young - but then he always thought he would. Who else can throw words together with such effect? Not many. A true celtic legend. (Report) Reply

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