Biography of Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas Part 2

About the famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, history and biography of the artist.

GALLERY OF GREAT PERFORMING AND CREATIVE ARTISTS

DYLAN THOMAS (1914-1953)

As a friend, Thomas was charming. His innate abilities as an actor easily came into play, and he had a manner of adapting himself to whomever he was speaking in such a natural way that they were immediately put at ease--unless, of course, he was in the process of shocking them.

Thomas went to the U.S. for the first time in 1950, in order to make money. By this time he was in poor health, and the dazzling whirlwind of readings, literary parties, flirtatious women, and unfamiliar cities did not incline him to sobriety. In fact, it was very much in vogue to go to a party and watch the great bard get drunk, and be exposed to his outrageous, bawdy behavior. A typical incident occurred at a party in New York. The story is told in Paul Ferris's biography, Dylan Thomas: "A woman asked him to read from a book of his poems that she had brought, with her. He fell on his knees and put his head under her skirt. Eventually he took hold of the book...Thomas turned the book upside down and gave a reading of 'loud mooselike bellows and nonsense syllables...All the while he was gesturing madly, like a Roman emperor in the throes of an epileptic seizure.' Gruen said it lasted ten minutes, before Thomas collapsed into a chair, mumbling--'an unreachable, exhausted man on the brink of another long alcoholic sleep.'"

In truth, Thomas was in some ways quite shy, and was moreover a kind, loving, and passionate man. It also may be said that he was in a sense exploited and urged into sensational situations. In any case, he returned to England with almost no money.

He made his fourth and last trip to America in 1953. After falling ill, he left his sickbed one night to go drinking, and upon his return said, "I've had 18 straight whiskies. I think that's the record." This was probably not the truth, but the four or five he did drink worsened his condition. After being given a dangerous dose of morphine for his pain, he fell into a coma. He died five days later, on Nov. 9, at the age of 39.

Wrote Theodore Roethke: "He was one of the great ones, there can be no doubt of that. And he drank his own blood, ate his own marrow, to get at some of that material. His poems need no words, least of all mine, to defend or explain them."

To quote Thomas himself in his best-known poem, "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," is perhaps the most fitting epitaph:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should rave and burn at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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