18 pages 36 minutes read

Dylan Thomas

All That I Owe the Fellows of the Grave

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1933

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Literary Devices


It is impossible to entirely separate a poem from its form. The idiosyncratic form—three stanzas, 30 lines of often interrupted syntax—looks extemporaneous. Each element, however, contributes to the poetic voice. A sense of thwarted (and prolonged) expectation comes from Thomas’s artful enjambment, when a sentence does not stop with punctuation at the end of a poetic line but carries into the next line. “All That I Owe” opens with enjambment:

All that I owe the fellows of the grave
And all the dead bequeath from pale estates
Lies in the fortuned bone […] (Lines 1-3)

The sentence ultimately takes four lines, the first two entirely without punctuation. Enjambment’s history dates to antiquity, but it found new life in the Romantic poets of whom Thomas was a Modern iteration. Traditionally, enjambment creates tension and momentum; when a line stops and the sentence breaks, the fullness of its meaning is suspended, creating a tension which is then released as the next line begins and completes the meaning. The use of enjambment in “All That I Owe” plays into the poem’s complex mood of agitated rumination—a psychological tenor that accentuates the interiority and introspection so characteristic of the Romantic imagination.