Poem – A Winter’s Tale – Dylan Thomas

It is a winter’s tale 

That the snow blind twilight ferries over the lakes 

And floating fields from the farm in the cup of the vales,

Gliding windless through the hand folded flakes, 

The pale breath of cattle at the stealthy sail, 
And the stars falling cold, 

And the smell of hay in the snow, and the far owl 

Warning among the folds, and the frozen hold 

Flocked with the sheep white smoke of the farm house cowl 

In the river wended vales where the tale was told. 
Once when the world turned old 

On a star of faith pure as the drifting bread, 

As the food and flames of the snow, a man unrolled 

The scrolls of fire that burned in his heart and head, 

Torn and alone in a farm house in a fold 
Of fields. And burning then 

In his firelit island ringed by the winged snow 

And the dung hills white as wool and the hen 

Roosts sleeping chill till the flame of the cock crow 

Combs through the mantled yards and the morning men 
Stumble out with their spades, 

The cattle stirring, the mousing cat stepping shy, 

The puffed birds hopping and hunting, the milkmaids 

Gentle in their clogs over the fallen sky, 

And all the woken farm at its white trades, 
He knelt, he wept, he prayed, 

By the spit and the black pot in the log bright light 

And the cup and the cut bread in the dancing shade, 

In the muffled house, in the quick of night, 

At the point of love, forsaken and afraid. 
He knelt on the cold stones, 

He wept form the crest of grief, he prayed to the veiled sky 

May his hunger go howling on bare white bones 

Past the statues of the stables and the sky roofed sties 

And the duck pond glass and the blinding byres alone 
Into the home of prayers 

And fires where he should prowl down the cloud 

Of his snow blind love and rush in the white lairs. 

His naked need struck him howling and bowed 

Though no sound flowed down the hand folded air 
But only the wind strung 

Hunger of birds in the fields of the bread of water, tossed 

In high corn and the harvest melting on their tongues. 

And his nameless need bound him burning and lost 

When cold as snow he should run the wended vales among 
The rivers mouthed in night, 

And drown in the drifts of his need, and lie curled caught 

In the always desiring centre of the white 

Inhuman cradle and the bride bed forever sought 

By the believer lost and the hurled outcast of light. 
Deliver him, he cried, 

By losing him all in love, and cast his need 

Alone and naked in the engulfing bride, 

Never to flourish in the fields of the white seed 

Or flower under the time dying flesh astride. 
Listen. The minstrels sing 

In the departed villages. The nightingale, 

Dust in the buried wood, flies on the grains of her wings

And spells on the winds of the dead his winter’s tale. 

The voice of the dust of water from the withered spring 
Is telling. The wizened 

Stream with bells and baying water bounds. The dew rings 

On the gristed leaves and the long gone glistening 

Parish of snow. The carved mouths in the rock are wind swept strings. 

Time sings through the intricately dead snow drop. Listen. 
It was a hand or sound 

In the long ago land that glided the dark door wide 

And there outside on the bread of the ground 

A she bird rose and rayed like a burning bride. 

A she bird dawned, and her breast with snow and scarlet downed. 
Look. And the dancers move 

On the departed, snow bushed green, wanton in moon light 

As a dust of pigeons. Exulting, the grave hooved 

Horses, centaur dead, turn and tread the drenched white 

Paddocks in the farms of birds. The dead oak walks for love. 
The carved limbs in the rock 

Leap, as to trumpets. Calligraphy of the old 

Leaves is dancing. Lines of age on the stones weave in a flock. 

And the harp shaped voice of the water’s dust plucks in a fold 

Of fields. For love, the long ago she bird rises. Look. 
And the wild wings were raised 

Above her folded head, and the soft feathered voice 

Was flying through the house as though the she bird praised 

And all the elements of the slow fall rejoiced 

That a man knelt alone in the cup of the vales, 
In the mantle and calm, 

By the spit and the black pot in the log bright light. 

And the sky of birds in the plumed voice charmed 

Him up and he ran like a wind after the kindling flight 

Past the blind barns and byres of the windless farm. 
In the poles of the year 

When black birds died like priests in the cloaked hedge row 

And over the cloth of counties the far hills rode near, 

Under the one leaved trees ran a scarecrow of snow 

And fast through the drifts of the thickets antlered like deer, 
Rags and prayers down the knee- 

Deep hillocks and loud on the numbed lakes, 

All night lost and long wading in the wake of the she- 

Bird through the times and lands and tribes of the slow flakes. 

Listen and look where she sails the goose plucked sea,
The sky, the bird, the bride, 

The cloud, the need, the planted stars, the joy beyond 

The fields of seed and the time dying flesh astride, 

The heavens, the heaven, the grave, the burning font. 

In the far ago land the door of his death glided wide, 
And the bird descended. 

On a bread white hill over the cupped farm 

And the lakes and floating fields and the river wended 

Vales where he prayed to come to the last harm 

And the home of prayers and fires, the tale ended. 
The dancing perishes 

On the white, no longer growing green, and, minstrel dead, 

The singing breaks in the snow shoed villages of wishes 

That once cut the figures of birds on the deep bread 

And over the glazed lakes skated the shapes of fishes 
Flying. The rite is shorn 

Of nightingale and centaur dead horse. The springs wither 

Back. Lines of age sleep on the stones till trumpeting dawn. 

Exultation lies down. Time buries the spring weather 

That belled and bounded with the fossil and the dew reborn. 
For the bird lay bedded 

In a choir of wings, as though she slept or died, 

And the wings glided wide and he was hymned and wedded, 

And through the thighs of the engulfing bride, 

The woman breasted and the heaven headed 
Bird, he was brought low, 

Burning in the bride bed of love, in the whirl- 

Pool at the wanting centre, in the folds 

Of paradise, in the spun bud of the world. 

And she rose with him flowering in her melting snow.

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