Symbols in the poems of Dylan Thomas


A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that signifies an idea, object, or relationship. Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) uses symbols to attach great importance to his poetry. We will now keenly observe Dylan Thomas’s symbolism in his famous poems.   

Symbols in Poem in October  

‘Poem in October’ contains various types of symbols. At the beginning of the poem, the poet finds a heron on the shore. To him, the heron becomes a symbol of sacredness and is regarded as a priest sitting on the seashore. The ‘Winged Trees’ symbolize the poem in which the poet celebrates his birthday. The waves of the ocean rising high seem to the poet a kind of prayer to heaven on the occasion of his birthday.  

 The call of the seagull coming from the shore, the crowing of the rooks from the wood, and the knock of the sailing boats near the harbor symbolize an invitation to the poet to wake up and come out to enjoy the beauty of nature.   

The word ‘Dylan’ in English means ‘high tide’ and so the birds may simply be flying the waves which are rising high. The white horse symbolizes something highly desirable.  

And I rose in rainy autumn 

This line signifies that the poet was born in October which is the month of autumn.  

More Notes: Dylan Thomas

Symbols in Fern Hill  

Fern Hill is a simple poem by Thomas. Here, Dylan Thomas uses very few Symbols. ‘Adam and maiden’ symbolize the wonderful state of innocent childhood or boyhood. The expression ‘lamb white days’ also symbolizes innocence and purity, and freedom from all wickedness. The closing two lines symbolize the anxieties and the responsibilities that maturity brings with it and which chain the growing boy. 

Symbols in After the Funeral’  

“After the Funeral” by Dylan Thomas is packed up with a number of symbols. The ‘parched woods of Wales’ symbolize places and people devoid of the kindness and sympathy which the dead woman had in real abundance. ‘Dry leaves’, for instance, symbolize the pages on which Thomas will write a poem to express his grief over the death of his maternal aunt.   

The four crossing birds are a very powerful Biblical symbol in this poem. The criss-cross movements with which the four birds, probably doves, make the four-pointed sign of the cross are a formal blessing over the dead woman. Here, the sign of the cross is holy for Christians.  

More Notes: Suggestions

Symbols in The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower  

Dylan Thomas identifies the human body with the physical universe, and in doing so Thomas makes use of many symbols in this poem.  ‘The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower’ is a poem in which the word ‘flower’ is in the very first line, and serves as a symbol for Nature.   

Quicksand’ is employed here, as a symbol of a destructive aspect of Nature. Wax in this poem is used as a symbol for dead flesh. The phrase ‘shroud sail’ suggests both death and life. ‘Sail’ represents movement or life.  

The ‘mountain spring’ and the ‘fountain head’ are both symbols of life and nourishment. The ‘fountainhead’ symbolizes the womb which is the source of life. There is a symbolic line in the poem,   

How time has ticked a heaven round the stars 

This line is a symbolic way of saying that, under the pressure of Time, man has invented eternity.  


Most of the symbols of Dylan Thomas are used to express his private feelings not have a universal appeal. But using these symbols Dylan Thomas picturized his poetry like a symbolist.   

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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