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Thursday, April 28, 2022

In My Craft Or Sullen Art- Critical Appreciation- Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas, a Welsh poet, composed the poem “In My Craft or Sullen Art” which appeared in a collection of poems in 1952. The poem presents the poet’s aesthetics and self-consciousness as a poet. The poem “In My Craft or Sullen Art” deals with the subject of poetry, audience and the poem itself. 

It is a remarkable lyric for its classical simplicity and it can be understood even by its title. Dylan Thomas has been described as “the originator of neo-romantic poetry in the 1940s, and the enemy of intellectualism in verse”. He was also influenced by the surrealist movement.

In My Craft Or Sullen Art by Dylan Thomas-Critical Appreciation
In My Craft Or Sullen Art by Dylan Thomas

Louis Cazamian remarks, “Nurtured on Joyce, the Bible, and Freud, Dylan Thomas derived his original strength from that three-fold source. Dylan Thomas composed strange poetry from his artistic handling of words and structural combinations. Dylan Thomas was fascinated by mythology, sex and pathology. His poetry has mesmeric force from which it is hard to escape. 

Dylan Thomas’s poetry does not show any social or political concerns but they are impressive in their charm and richness of language and emotion. The theme of much of his poetry is the unity of experience where the poet tries to project the ideas that the world we live in is not very different from us. Dylan Thomas is certainly an artist who calls his laborious work as craft. His pains and efforts make this craft a sullen art. His art is not appreciated and it is solitary and also unrewarding in worldly sense.


In My Craft Or Sullen Art

According to Dylan Thomas, the poetry is a difficult craft and due to this difficulty, it becomes ‘sullen’- resentful or out of sorts. Dylan Thomas says that the poetry as an art should be charming and full of magic. It is the poet who takes pains and efforts and so his poetry becomes a craft. In spite of his efforts and pains the poet is not appreciated and rewarded which he deserves. The poet says:

“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"

The poet composes and takes pains all the night while others are sleeping. He produces his poetry under the bright shining moon and is inspired in the presence of moon. His imagination starts working in the calm and quite moonlight. He takes pains for the lovers who are sleeping having their arms round each other with their joys and sorrows concentrated in each other. 

The poet does not work for worldly reward or for his ambition. He does not sing for name and fame or money. According to the poet, magic of poetry is not meant to be sold. It is not a thing to be bargained. Art should be kept away from trading; sanctity of art is significant and so it should not be violated. 

The poet works hard for the common wages of the lovers’ most secret heart, and for their love. His reward is something which the world cannot comprehend. The poetry which sings of the emotions, joys and sorrows of the lovers, might be unrewarding in the worldly sense but it is of great value to the poet. The primary source of inspiration is the moon; the poet gets inspired in the moonlit night. The poet says:

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.” 

The poet does not compose his poetry for a man who is proud and stands aloof. Although the poet’s efforts and pains remain insignificant and unwanted to the proud man, they are valuable and significant for the poet. The poet devotes his craft to the spindrift pages of modest and impermanent art. He does not compose the poetry for those who dwell in ‘ivory towers’ dead to the world of ordinary life, or for those dead men with towering reputation already honored by the nightingales and psalms of life and literature. 

The art of the poet remains needless, sullen and unrewarding. He leads a solitary life and doomed to a life of labour. Thus the fate of humanity is reflected in the poem which is embracing joys and sorrows all through the ages. 


Thus, Dylan Thomas has expressed the grief and pains of the poet and his work which not rewarded and appreciated by the world. Dylan Thomas is essentially a poet who thinks in images. Sometimes, his imagery heightens the effect of his poems but it also becomes difficult to the readers to comprehend it. 

Louis Cazamian remarks, “Dylan Thomas is a singer of an incomprehensible, dynamic and cruel world, but of one in which childhood innocence tends to a profoundly religious insight into the enigmas of birth, death, reproduction, the gracefulness of the young shoot, and the victory of the ever-gnawing worm.”     



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