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Dylan Thomas

Poem in October

Some questions to challenge you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 18 January 2014
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It's the poet's 30th birthday. It's autumn in Wales. He takes a walk in the early morning, climbing high onto a hill overlooking his beautiful Welsh village. He looks down with great joy onto the brightly coloured autumn world, listening to the sounds of the birds and remembering a similar walk he did while he was still a young boy.


Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea (Wales) in October 1914. His father was a schoolmaster, his mother a seamstress.

The poet spent much of his youth in Swansea where he often visited his aunt's dairy farm. It was these visits which inspired much of his poetry. "Poem in October" records memories of those happy days.

Thomas was always a sickly child who tended to keep to himself. He was educated initially at a private school which he referred to as Mrs. Hole's "Dame School". Later he would attend the Swansea Grammar School where he published his first poem in the school's magazine.

He loved literature but ignored most of his other subjects, eventually dropping out of school at the age of 16, thereupon becoming a reporter for a local newspaper. Later he would continue to work as a freelance journalist.

Most of his poems and short stories were written at his home at Cwmdonkin in Wales.

When World War II erupted, Thomas was essentially not fit to fight. Instead he worked for the Ministry of Information, producing propaganda movies. It was during this time, however, that he began to drink heavily.

He would later become famous for his poetry readings where his Welsh accent captivated audiences. He was particularly involved with the BBC and is now most remembered for his play-for-voices called Under Milk Wood. Most of his poetry was similarly renowned for its play on sounds and words, and for its quaint imagery and word order.

Thomas married a dancer, Caitlin MacNamara, and maintained a stormy relationship where rumours of affairs on both sides were rife. They would have three children. He would die in New York in 1953 from an overindulgence in alcohol . He was then just 39 years of age.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"Most of Dylan Thomas's poetry was renowned for its play on sounds and words, and for its quaint imagery and word order."
  • With this in mind, comment on this poem while using examples to illustrate your point. (10)

[Need help?]

"It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth."
  • Comment on the poet's description, "It was my thirtieth year to heaven". (4)

[Need help?]

  • Examine the descriptions, "neighbour wood", "mussel pooled" and "heron priested shore". (6)

[Need help?]

  • It's early morning and a time for morning prayer. Explain how the poet deals in this verse with this idea. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Examine the use of onomatopoeia, assonance and alliteration in the line "the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall". (6)

[Need help?]

"Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses."
  • One of Dylan Thomas's delightful ways of creating lyrical, fun poetry is his use of TRANSFERRED EPITHETS. What is a transferred epithet? Explain the use of one in these lines. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on the poet's description of the "white horses". (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why would the birds be "flying my name"? (4)

[Need help?]

"And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days."
  • What does the poet mean by "in a shower of all my days"? (4)

[Need help?]

"And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke."
  • Comment on the poet's playing with the word "closed". (4)

[Need help?]

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