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Poem in October is a beautiful work by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas that is centred around the celebration of his thirtieth birthday, spent in his beloved Welsh fishing village of Laugharne. It is a testament to the poet’s profound connection with nature and his struggle with time.

The poem begins with the poet taking a walk on his thirtieth birthday, in the small fishing town of Laugharne, Wales. He encounters a landscape steeped in the beauty of fall, presenting the reader with rich natural imagery, invoking scenes of the town, woods, harbour, and the sea. This intense natural imagery permeates the poem and reflects Thomas’s investment in pastoral traditions. By aligning his celebration with the richness of the autumn season, Thomas paints a vivid picture of natural beauty and rejuvenation.

As the poem progresses, there’s a shift from observing the outer world to reflecting on the inner. The walk incites deep personal introspection, symbolizing a spiritual journey. The narrator finds himself plunged into a childlike state, reflecting on his past with a mix of joy and nostalgia. The natural world becomes a catalyst for this reflection on youth and the awareness of the passage of time.

The tone of the poem shifts from the jubilation of existence to a painful recognition of mortality, reflecting Thomas’s vexed relationship with the passage of time, ageing, and death. The poet toggles between an enchanting natural world and the realities of ageing, emphasizing the tension between life’s beauty and its inherent ephemerality. The dichotomy between celebration and lamentation is a recurring theme. This is reflected in the shift in tone as the poem progresses, transitioning from a celebration of life and nature’s grandeur to a poignant realization of life’s transience and the inevitable passage of time.

The poem then oscillates between these contrasts -the exuberance of nature and the melancholy of ageing. Despite celebrating the beauty of existence, the poet can’t help but confront the reality of his mortality. Eventually, the poem concludes with the sentiment of acceptance. The poet reconciles his struggle with time, ageing, and death, emphasizing the fleeting yet beautiful nature of life. Thomas leaves the reader with the idea that each moment of life, regardless of its impermanence, is worth cherishing.

Themes of rebirth and renewal are prominent. The poet seems to pass into a supernatural, transcendental state where he reverts to childlike innocence and experiences the world anew. There’s a nostalgic longing for his childhood as he turns thirty, and this deeply personal reflection enables him to engage with the universal theme of the passage of time.

Dylan Thomas

Thomas masterfully uses naturalistic imagery throughout the poem, demonstrating his deep connection to the environment and his skills in capturing it in words. This connection is powerfully nostalgic and serves both as a celebration of his journey into adulthood and a lament for the loss of childhood innocence.

The use of language is exceptionally lyrical, with an attention to rhythm and internal rhyme. This demonstrates his skill as a craftsman of verse and his ability to create poetic music that further enhances the scenic descriptions and emotional depth. His ability to marshal rhythm, rhyme, and lyrical language enhances both the visual and emotional richness of the poem. This mastery of verse is integral to Thomas’s work, adding a musicality that heightens the sensory experience of his poetry.

Poem in October is a profound journey that simultaneously celebrates the life and reflects on its fleeting nature. It showcases Thomas’s spiritual connection with nature and his tension between nostalgia and the passage of time, culminating in a celebration of existence articulated through his sheer mastery of language and imagery. It is an evocative exploration of life’s joys and anxieties, viewed through the lens of personal experience and the ebb and flow of the natural world. With this poem, Thomas invites the reader to share his journey, encouraging us to reflect on our relationships with time, ageing, and the world around us.

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δάσκαλος (dáskalos) means the teacher in Greek. Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature since 2006. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges under this directorate and is now posted at the Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of lecture notes she prepared by referencing various sources for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.