"A marvellously dense, evocative poem - Dylan Thomas at his dazzling best.

The central conceit is simple enough: the poet, walking in his beloved Welsh countryside, makes makes a present to his sweetheart of all the things he sees ("Some let me make you of the meadow's signs"). Only, since he is, after all, a poet, his gift takes the form of words - his "busy heart ... sheds the syllabic blood".

A second theme running through today's poem (and indeed, through much of Dylan Thomas' work) is the passage of time: the "crabbing sun" makes men old; the bare branches and "winter sticks"tell of seasons passing; the "shafted disk" (i.e., the sundial) does the same, but on a smaller scale..."

autumn-leaves-03

ESPECIALLY WHEN THE OCTOBER WIND

Especially when the October wind
With frosty fingers punishes my hair,
Caught by the crabbing sun I walk on fire
And cast a shadow crab upon the land,
By the sea's side, hearing the noise of birds,
Hearing the raven cough in winter sticks,
My busy heart who shudders as she talks
Sheds the syllabic blood and drains her words.

Shut, too, in a tower of words, I mark
On the horizon walking like the trees
The wordy shapes of women, and the rows
Of the star-gestured children in the park.
Some let me make you of the vowelled beeches,
Some of the oaken voices, from the roots
Of many a thorny shire tell you notes,
Some let me make you of the water's speeches.

Behind a pot of ferns the wagging clock
Tells me the hour's word, the neural meaning
Flies on the shafted disk, declaims the morning
And tells the windy weather in the cock.
Some let me make you of the meadow's signs;
The signal grass that tells me all I know
Breaks with the wormy winter through the eye.
Some let me tell you of the raven's sins.

Especially when the October wind
(Some let me make you of autumnal spells,
The spider-tongued, and the loud hill of Wales)
With fists of turnips punishes the land,
Some let me make you of the heartless words.
The heart is drained that, spelling in the scurry
Of chemic blood, warned of the coming fury.
By the sea's side hear the dark-vowelled birds.

Dylan Thomas