Brief commentary on this Dylan Thomas poem by J. Bronowski.
As in many of the Dylan Thomas poems, the central thought here is simple. It consists of the confrontation in each verse of the same ideas. One is the idea of green fuse, the power in nature that drives everything forward; we feel this, we share its activity, and its makes us feel stronger and bolder with each experience, and life and time to be on our side.
The second idea in each verse is that we are, however, being destroyed by this very same power. We are getting older, life and time are killing us a little with each experience.
I suggest reading the first verse again; it shows the contrast of the two meaning clearly — the predicament of all living and growing things..
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.
– Dylan Thomas
From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas.