Today we have a somewhat sad poem from the great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, composed on one of his wedding anniversaries. It is easy to guess that wedding anniversaries were not necessarily happy occasions in the Thomas household, since the poet’s reputation as a drunken oaf much of the time seems to have been well-deserved. His wife stood by him, as Dolly Parton would have recommended, but there must have been a great cost in strained relationships and domestic discord and distress. This poem acknowledges the difficult times and the almost impossible stresses which Thomas put on the couple’s initial love.
On a Wedding Anniversary
The sky is torn across
This ragged anniversary of two
Who moved for three years in tune
Down the long walks of their vows.
Now their love lies a loss
And Love and his patients roar on a chain;
From every tune or crater
Carrying cloud, Death strikes their house.
Too late in the wrong rain
They come together whom their love parted:
The windows pour into their heart
And the doors burn in their brain.
The poem opens with images of breaking apart, of destruction, after three years of the couple trying to follow their marriage vows. It is a cry of pain and regret, but without any redeeming notion that things could have been, or could be, different.
The second stanza deepens the despairing mood, acknowledging that love has been lost and that death may be the only way out, threatening the couple’s house. Death and destruction have conquered love, in this marriage.
The final stanza seems not to bring a happy ending. It is too late, the circumstances are wrong to reconcile their love and start again. The windows and doors of the last two lines may represent a prospect of escape, but more likely a sense of entrapment in this destructive cycle.
But at least the world benefitted from the couple’s unhappiness by means of a fine poem.
The Poetry Dude