Altarwise by Owl-Light
Altarwise by owl-light in the half-way house
The gentleman lay graveward with his furies;
Abaddon in the hangnail cracked from Adam,
And, from his fork, a dog among the fairies,
The atlas-eater with a jaw for news,
Bit out the mandrake with to-morrows scream.
Then, penny-eyed, that gentlemen of wounds,
Old cock from nowheres and the heaven’s egg,
With bones unbuttoned to the half-way winds,
Hatched from the windy salvage on one leg,
Scraped at my cradle in a walking word
That night of time under the Christward shelter:
I am the long world’s gentleman, he said,
And share my bed with Capricorn and Cancer
– Dylan Thomas
One critic has dismissed this poem as being ‘wilfully obscure’.
It sounds good though.
Especially that opening line.
And ‘ the atlas-eater with a jaw for news’
I like that.
And the dying fall of that last line……
And the alliteration..
Anyhow it’s not only meaning of the words that attracts you to a song,
or a poem,
it’s the melody, the rhythms, the sounds;
the meaning of the words is often subsumed in their sounds.
Listen to a few readings of Thomas’s stuff –
Richard Burton (he’s terrific),
Dylan himself, Anthony Hopkins, Peter Bellamy,
(not so good, too thespian, too sonorous)
and you come to realise that what you are listening for/to
is not the intellectual meaning
but the sensual music.
A bit like Bob Dylan,
forging strange meanings from metaphors
that gave their component parts new life,
an appeal to the ear as much as to the intellect.
Dylan! What a genius you were!