The Force That Through the Green Fuse ….

pink-zinnias-9-12-1I am so easily side-tracked and waylaid from my plans for any given day, particularly by the mysterious and beautiful effulgence of the natural world–and (no surprise to my fellow bloggers here) by poetry.

This morning a dew speckled massive blob of hot pink petals, a zinnia the size of a softball as a matter of fact, stopped me in my tracks as I was on my way back from scooping up the equally damp Times at the foot of my driveway.

What is this? said I.  What a gorgeous delicate wad of glorious color! I leaned in for more myopic scrutiny.  I’d planted this miracle myself with a tiny seed and here it was roaring out of the ground on a slender fourteen inch stem.

And wouldn’t you know it? In a nanosecond Dylan Thomas was bellowing in my ear–

The Force That through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower*

By Dylan Thomas

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.
The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.
The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.
And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.


[*Wordpress is giving me fits putting in the stanza breaks in this poem! Read the original with proper stanza breaks at ]

The essential unity of all living things, their mystery, transience, all of it powered by, brought into being, and cast down at last by a force we cannot apprehend but in the fleeting particular instance (a flower, a sunset, a lover’s kiss) and only momentarily, for the weight of the matter is too great for our minds to hold for long.

Thomas’ stature among literary critics and the gate-keepers of the canon has ebbed and flowed, though sadly in the main because of his wild man drunkard persona, not from any serious deficiencies in his work. This strikes me as rather ironic and unfair in view of the legions (haha) of wild man drunkard poets who’ve escaped similar censure.  Apparently he could be particularly obnoxious in his cups and went through a number of times when he came across as hopelessly dissolute.

Even so his poetry has survived by virtue of its sheer energy, inventiveness and amazing linguistic virtuosity.  His gift was great and perhaps the burden of it, its “force,” was sometimes too great for him to bear.

The Poetry Foundation has an excellent essay on Thomas’ life, career and fate at the hands of the critics. It’s fascinating and I recommend it –

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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6 Responses to The Force That Through the Green Fuse ….

  1. lahowlett says:

    I’ve always loved this poem. Thanks for posting it.


  2. Odd to me, but after reading the Poetry Foundation essay on Thomas, lights started going on about him for me. The “force” in his poem is the source and driver/sustainer/destroyer of all things, including the life and work of any given poet. Whapped over the head by irony and close reading once again 😉 Thanks Lee Ann,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful poem. When I’m reading Thomas, I can’t imagine anyone in the world writing any more beautiful sentences, lines, phrases, than Thomas. Yet he’s no run-of-the-mill-on-the-floss sensualist, and the beauty and texture of his work always speaks to its meanings. it’s dreamy language but it’s solid, too. How does he do it?


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