Poem of the Month: ‘A Dream of Winter’

‘Very often on winter nights the halfshaped moonlight sees
Men through a window of leaves and lashes marking gliding
Into the grave an owl-tongued childhood of birds and cold trees,’

‘A Dream of Winter’, from Dylan Thomas: Collected Poems (2014)

With the cold weather settling in, we thought we would have a read of one of Dylan’s winter poems. After all, the best way of experiencing the cold weather is to curl up in the warm with a book and read about it!

‘A Dream of Winter’ was first published in 1942 in Lilliput magazine. It was an accompaniment to a series of 8 photographs depicting winter scenes, each three line verse attached to a different picture. The photographers chosen for the piece included leading practitioners such as Bill Brandt and Brassai.

Using an enclosed tercet structure (the first and last lines rhyming), Dylan has created a neat vignette for each scene. Even though they work individually, collectively they create a dreamscape full of images of nature and winter, for example: ‘leaves and lashes’, ‘winter eyes’, and ‘frozen, birdless wood’. The middle line of each tercet rhymes with the next, creating a flow across the stanzas, reflecting the flow of the dream’s narrative. The repetition of the ‘s’ and ‘l’ sounds creates a smooth and peaceful night-time hush across the piece.

All dreams inevitably come to an end, and here is no exception. The last verse brings the sleeper back to an urban reality of solitude and ‘London Wheels’ in contrast to the ‘birds, trees, fish and bears’ of his dreams.

We’re fortunate enough to have a copy of the Lillput magazine in our Dylan Thomas Collection. If you’d like to see the full text of this wintery work, ‘A Dream of Winter’ can be found in the latest paperback edition of The Collected Poems.

Katie Bowman and Hilary Mullan

This post is also available in: Welsh

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