Discuss Dylan Thomas as a religious poet with reference to Poem in October

Shape Shape

Poem in October is a notable literary work by Dylan Thomas. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of Poem in October.


How does Dylan Thomas treat the theme of religion in his poetry?
Or, Comment on the religious elements in Dylan Thomas’s poetry with reference to “Poem in October.”
Or, Discuss Dylan Thomas as a religious poet with reference to Poem in October.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) was not a pious man in his personal life. In fact, like his father, he did not have firm faith in conventional Christianity, so his poetry does not reveal the mystery and meaning of any conventional religion. Yet, it is possible to figure out some major religious issues in his poetry. Thomas deals with the unity of all living beings, life and death, and the continuity of generations. Again, he takes his imagery largely from the Bible. Thus, a type of religious vocabulary is detectable in his poetry.

The holiness of nature and declaration of death: In “Poem in October”, the poet asserts that the whole of nature is greeting him on his thirtieth birthday. The whole scene seems holy to him, as the phrase “heron / Priested shore” suggests. The seawater seems to be offering a prayer to heaven. The poet mentions the “sea-wet church the size of a snail”. However, this sense of holiness is not to be associated with Christianity. They provide just the metaphor of the poet’s sense of mystery on his birthday. Even the initial mention of “my thirtieth year to heaven” does not signify the religious notion of paradise: the only sense is that the poet is another step ahead towards death.

Identification of an eternal force: In his childhood, the whole of nature appeared to be harmonious, expressing a unified existence, and this harmony seemed to show the presence of God everywhere. Thus, everything seemed holy to the boy. To his imagination, the church bell on Sunday mingled with the sounds of the water falling on the pebbles. At the time, the streams appeared holy for the poet. In other words, the bay learned to admire God by seeing the mystery of His creation. The same religious sentiment is expressed in the incident when the beauty and majesty of the farm reminded the boy of the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve passed happy days in a state of innocence.

Mysterious sense of pantheism: The use of religious images pervades in the poems of Dylan Thomas. For example, in “Poem in October”, the poet recollects his childhood by saying that he used to walk with his mother in the “parables of sunlight” and the “legends of the green chapels”.

“Through the parables
Of sunlight
And the legends of the green chapels”

The poet also offers a prayer that he may write a poem on his next birthday. However, this use of religious images does not necessarily signify the devout Christian heart of the poet. They are just the vehicles of his message. He collects such vehicles from other sources, too. For example, in “After the Funeral”, the poet says that her aunt would “need no druid of her broken body”. Here, druid means the priest of the ancient Celtic pagans. Again, in “Fern Hill”, the poet expresses the theme of the oneness of the universe, which might be termed pantheism.

Journey towards death: “Poem in October” is the precise distinction between the remembered childhood and the adult experience. The distinction seems to be drawn between the adult’s merely appreciative sense of the picturesque and the remembered child’s far more deeply felt response, which recognizes the indivisible oneness of man and nature;

“And there could I marvel my birthday
………………….And the true
Joy of the long dead child……..

The distinction is close to that drawn by Coleridge in his “Dejection: An Ode”:

“I see them all so excellently fair
I see, not feel, how beautiful they are”.

Thomas feels that childhood represents a particular way of seeing and feeling, and the precise discrimination helps us to see the poem more thoughtfully than simply nostalgia. And the thoughtful mind reflects nothing else but the inevitable death.

Thus, Dylan Thomas is a religious poet, not because his poetry has a devotional quality like that of Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan. Rather, he is a religious poet in that his poetry expresses the unifying principle of the universe. Like Thomas Hardy, he identifies the universe’s driving force, which generates and destroys.