Monday, February 28, 2005

Poem of the Week 2/28/2005: In My Craft or Sullen Art

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
>From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art

Dylan Thomas

Happy Monday, all! I hope that everything is going well for everybody, or, since that is a little idealistic, I hope that something is going well for everybody. Anyway, a first reading of this poem makes it feel simple and clear, but, as happens so often, looking closer reveals how complex it really is. If we slow way down and ask why this craft is sullen, or look at the rhyme structure (there are only two true couplets here - the rest are split up or slanted - "psalms" and "arms," "heart" and "apart," and then I might argue that the poem is circular, and that the word "art" acts as a sort of strange broken couplet with which to frame the poem). Actually, I think that the rhyming holds a lot of insight into the poem. The couplets are kind of like lovers - they point us to think differently about what a lover is. Does a lover have to be with somebody else to be a lover? Maybe that's why lovers have their arms "round the griefs of the ages;" they are alone, and struggle with the same grief that has touched thousands of years worth of humans. At any rate, it is certainly an interesting poem, and a justly famous one. Have a nice day!


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