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Dylan Thomas

Poem in October

Some more 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:

"A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
On the hill's shoulder."
  • Comment on the contradictions in these lines. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Explain how the poet has made the description of the day such a glorious one. (4)

[Need help?]

"Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls."
  • What words tell us that the poet appears to be climbing a hill? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Explain the images found in "the sea wet church the size of a snail with its horns through the mist". (4)

[Need help?]

  • What figure of speech is used in "the castle brown as owls"? (2)

[Need help?]

"But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud."
  • Comment on the image of the "gardens of spring and summer" blooming in "tall tales". (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why would the cloud be a "lark full cloud"? (4)

[Need help?]

"And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds."
  • What is this reference to "his" and "a boy"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What is the "summertime of the dead"? (4)

[Need help?]

"Though the town below lay leaved with October blood."
  • Why would the town below be "leaved with October blood"? (2)

[Need help?]

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