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Dylan Thomas

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

This Side of the Truth

(for Llewelyn)

This side of the truth,
You may not see, my son,
King of your blue eyes
In the blinding country of youth,
That all is undone,
Under the unminding skies,
Of innocence and guilt
Before you move to make
One gesture of the heart or head,
Is gathered and spilt
Into the winding dark
Like the dust of the dead.

Good and bad, two ways
Of moving about your death
By the grinding sea,
King of your heart in the blind days,
Blow away like breath,
Go crying through you and me
And the souls of all men
Into the innocent
Dark, and the guilty dark, and good
Death, and bad death, and then
In the last element
Fly like the stars' blood

Like the sun's tears,
Like the moon's seed, rubbish
And fire, the flying rant
Of the sky, king of your six years.
And the wicked wish,
Down the beginning of plants
And animals and birds,
Water and Light, the earth and sky,
Is cast before you move,
And all your deeds and words,
Each truth, each lie,
Die in unjudging love.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Ted Davis (4/20/2007 3:33:00 AM)

    I quoted from this poem in something I wrote to a friend. She said she enjoyed and appreciated what I wrote, but took exception to the reference made to 'unjudging love.' She wanted to know if such love were really possible, and, if so, how I might clarify the concept.

    I was becoming annoyed by this analytical response to a phrase that was not intended as some object of science to be vivisected in a laboratory. I sent her a copy of the entire poem, and stated that reflecting on the phrase 'unjudging love' in the context of the poem should tell her all she needed to know about the existence or 'true meaning' of unjudging love.

    I suppose we could ponder Dylan Thomas' words and attempt to reduce them to statements of fact. We might say that he's telling his son that 'nothing matters.' We might say that he's telling his son that doing harm to others, committing homicide, whatever, is all well and good and, after all is said and done, makes no difference.

    We would be wrong. I believe the common academic approach to literature causes students to believe that, no matter what a writer says, he or she 'really means' something else.

    The only way I could rephrase or clarify Dylan Thomas' poem to his son is to be a better poet writing a better poem for Llewelyn.

    Is there such a thing as 'unjudging love? ' Of course there is. You can see it for yourself by simply reading the poem. No further proof is necessary.

    What did Dylan Thomas really mean by what he wrote? He meant what he said. Again, it's all there. It's all in the poem. And the poem says what it means.

    Next time I write and refer to 'unjudging love, ' I will specify that particular plane of love that caused the mome raths to outgrabe. I will refer to an unjudging love that gyres and gimbles in the wabe. If the recipient of my writing asks for clarification, I'll refer her to Puff, the magic dragon.

    In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy the poetry of Dylan Thomas without losing sleep over any concern about 'what he really means.'

    Ted Davis
    San Francisco (Report) Reply

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