Dylan Thomas

1914-1953

 

Dylan Marlais Thomas is buried in the over-spill graveyard of St. Martin's Church, Laugharne, Dyfed, Wales. His grave is marked by a plain white cross. His wife, Caitlin Thomas, is buried in the same grave and her name appears on the  reverse side of the cross.
 



Gravestone of Dylan Thomas

Thomas died on November 9, 1953 while on a lecture tour of America. He had been drinking heavily the night he died in the White Horse pub in Greenwich Village, New York. Later that evening he returned to his hotel room in great pain and summonsed a doctor. Unfortunately the doctor (Dr Feltenstein) administered an abnormally large dose of morphine sulphate and Thomas slipped into a coma. Thomas' last words were: "I've had 18 straight whiskies......I think that's the record."  He was 39 years old. His body was brought back to Laugharne.

Thomas and Caitlin lived at The Boathouse in Laugharne in Wales from 1949 onwards after it was purchased for them by Margaret Taylor (the wife of the historian A.J.P. Taylor). However, Thomas used to write in a wooden garage which stood on the cliff edge a short distance from the house. The garage, which is still there today, overlooks the beautiful Taf estuary.
 

The boathouse in Laugharne, Wales

The boathouse at Laugharne (Photo copyright Cameron Self)

His routine was to work in the mornings and then retire to the Brown's Hotel in the village in the afternoon. Beer was his favourite tipple at this stage and fuelled by alcohol he could be both flamboyant and entertaining. However, his behaviour could quickly deteriorate into debauchery. He famously defined an alcoholic as 'someone who you don't like who drinks as much as you do'. Thomas sometimes exaggerated his drinking exploits though and also claimed to have cirrhosis of the liver; a fact later disproved by his autopsy.

The fictional town of Llareggub in Under Milk Wood is thought to be modelled on Laugharne - with it's 'wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. (If you read Llareggub backwards you will get an insight into Thomas' sense of humour.) Thomas' Poem on His Birthday also contains some fine descriptions of the scenery and wildlife of the Taf estuary: 'By the full tilt river and switchback sea/ Where the cormorants scud/In his house on stilts high among beaks/And palavers of birds'.

Thomas had great skill as a wordsmith and frequently used assonance and consonance in his poetry. However, like A.C. Swinburne, Thomas has sometimes been criticised for verbal dexterity at the expense of meaning.

 

His best poems include: Fern Hill, In My Craft or Sullen Art,  A Refusal to Mourn, the Death by Fire, of a Child in London and Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (written for his dying father).

The plaque in St. Martin's church is a replica of the one in 'Poets' Corner', Westminster Abbey, London

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

From Do not go gentle into that good night.

Dylan Thomas Boathouse at Laugharne

 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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