Friday, September 21, 2012

I Wish I'd Written This

In My Craft or Sullen Art
By DylanThomas (1914-1953)

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

Of course you will know the poet — but perhaps not the poem. It’s less famous than some of his others. It’s my favourite piece of ars poetica (poems about writing poetry).

For most of my life ‘the still night’ was my time for writing poetry too, with the moon shining through the window, after a day of either paid employment or active motherhood. Nowadays I have more freedom to write at other times of day, but I’m still a night owl by inclination.

I also relate very much to what he says about the reasons we write — the compulsion to labour late into the night at our craft, striving to make art, even if it’s ‘sullen’ and hard won, even if those we want to reach pay no attention.

Dylan Thomas was a troubled man who died far too young, but his poems were indeed art, and not so darned sullen at that, at least from the reader's point of view! I think he was a poetic genius.

There are more of his poems here. My other great favourite is Fern Hill, a lyrical evocation of carefree childhood. And don’t miss Richard Burton’s reading of his play, Under Milkwood. It would probably be good to have the text to look at whilst listening, because we’re not used to such intense language. You can download it as a free pdf at this link.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Dylan Thomas is up there in my favourite poets list. Perennial.

  2. Great choice, Rosemary. I had not read this poem before, and it is lyrically beautiful, with its nightingales and lovers with their arms wrapped round their sorrows.

  3. Thank you as I have never heard of him. I'll flip on over to Fern Hill.

  4. I enjoyed both the poem and your comments on the poem, Rosemary. I haven't looked at Dylan Thomas in a long time; time to consider him again! Thank you.

  5. Thank you Rosemary! I found his voice enchanting~

  6. I do adore Dylan Thomas. Thanks for featuring him this week, Rosemary!

  7. This was a beautiful poem. I liked the Fern Hill poem as well--quite a voice! Thank you Rosemary

  8. It's lovely to help people discover new delights in poetry! Or revisit those already discovered. :) And in the proces of doing this for all of you, I first have to do it for myself - bonus!

  9. Wow! A poem I may have read once long ago when I performed 6 parts in Under Milkwood and learned to roll the sounds and imagery off my tongue--but I didn't remember this poem and so I am happy to be reintroduced. Your other favorite (In My Craft or Sullen Art) is one of mine, too, sad as it is. It feels uplifting until the thought hits that to write for those who will not read is an odd sort of gifting as well as a lovely tribute to lovers. How could he write something as amazing as Under Milkwood and still not know his own worth!


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