I’ll be sixty in a couple of weeks. And I always think of this poem as my birthday approaches.
Dylan Thomas started this poem in 1941 for his 27th birthday but it was published in 1944, so the opening line became ‘it was my thirtieth year to heaven’. Some things take a while. Thomas’ birthday is October 27. Mine is October 6 and this year I’ll be sixty
The poem is still in copyright so if the estate asks I’ll take it down, though had copyright terms not been extended from 50 to 70 years in 1996 – despite the fact that dead people can’t be encouraged to write new stuff by giving them more control over their work – it would have been out of copyright in 2003. So here it is:
POEM IN OCTOBER
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 webbed wall Myself to set foot That second In the still sleeping town and set forth. My birthday began with the water- Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name Above the farms and the white horses And I rose In a rainy autumn And walked abroad in shower of all my days High tide and the heron dived when I took the road Over the border And the gates Of the town closed as the town awoke. A springful of larks in a rolling Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling Blackbirds and the sun of October Summery On the hill's shoulder, Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly Come in the morning where I wandered and listened To the rain wringing Wind blow cold In the wood faraway under me. 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 But all the gardens Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud. There could I marvel My birthday Away but the weather turned around. It turned away from the blithe country And down the other air and the blue altered sky Streamed again a wonder of summer With apples Pears and red currants And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother Through the parables Of sunlight And the legends of the green chapels 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 the 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 singing birds. And there could I marvel my birthday Away but the weather turned around. And the true Joy of the long dead child sang burning In the sun. It was my thirtieth Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon Though the town below lay leaved with October blood. O may my heart's truth Still be sung On this high hill in a year's turning.
And I too hope my heart’s truth will still be sung in a year’s turning.
And here’s something as old as me…