Oct. 27, 2000

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

by Dylan Thomas

Broadcast date: FRIDAY, 27 October 2000

Poem: "And Death Shall Have No Dominion," by Dylan Thomas, from The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas (New Directions).

And Death Shall have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
they shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall no break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

It's the birthday of Chinese-American memoirist and novelist Maxine Hong Kingston, born in Stockton, California (1940), the daughter of Chinese immigrants who ran laundries. The Cantonese dialect was spoken at home, and Kingston grew up listening to her mother's stories about China, which she adapted for her first book, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Childhood Among Ghosts (1976).

It's the birthday of British comic and actor John (Marwood) Cleese, born in Weston-Super-Mare, England (1939). He entered Downing College, Cambridge, with the intention of studying law, but while he was there he joined the Footlights Society, a drama club known for its satirical skits and revues. There he met several of the actors who later join him in forming the comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus, whose first program for the BBC aired in October 1969. Cleese considers himself primarily a writer, but he is also a skilled comic performer, often getting every inch of physical comedy out of his six-foot five-inch frame, as in Monty Python's famous Ministry of Silly Walks sketch. He wrote and starred in the situation comedy Fawlty Towers, in which Cleese played the seething, pompous and generally incompetent hotel owner Basil Fawlty.

It's the birthday of American poet Sylvia Plath, born in Boston (1932). Plath studied at Smith College, where she excelled academically but suffered from mental illness which led to a suicide attempt in the summer after her junior year. After psychotherapy and shock treatments, she returned to graduate with highest honors and receive a Fulbright fellowship to study at Cambridge. In England, she met and married the young British poet, Ted Hughes. Her first volume of poetry, The Colossus and Other Poems, was published when she was twenty-eight, and in the same year she began working on her novel, The Bell Jar, about a young woman's recovery from mental illness. For a while, her life was productive and happy. But in 1962, Plath learned that her husband was having an affair. The following winter was bitterly cold, and life with two small children in a London flat was unbearable for Plath. Her depression returned, and on February 11, 1963, she committed suicide.

It's the birthday of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, born in Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales (1914). Thomas married at the age of twenty-two, and with a wife and three children to support, he took a job writing radio scripts for the BBC. In 1952 and 1953, he toured widely in the United States, lecturing and reading poetry in his hypnotic Welsh brogue, all the while drinking heavily. In early November 1953, he collapsed outside the White Horse Tavern in New York City and died several days later. Dylan Thomas is best known for his Collected Poems (1952), for his radio play Under Milk Wood (1953), and for A Child's Christmas in Wales

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