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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The Oneness of Humanity

Despite death’s grim reality, “All That I Owe” navigates the reader toward a resilience and a transcendent sense of shared humanity. The poet was sounding this optimistic sense of universal oneness at the very time Europe split into warring factions and girded up for catastrophe. Unlike poets drawn to the idea that some radiant soul animates the material universe, Thomas resists such a supernatural overlay and instead invests his faith in the body’s coaxing “itches” (Line 15); the pulsing heart that sends the blood through the veins like “senna stirs along the ravaged roots” (Line 4); and the sturdy architecture of the bones. That shared corporeality binds all generations—that is the heritage, the fortune. Do not forget, the poem’s speaker counsels himself, the “scarlet trove” (Line 28) of the heart and how that treasure binds each and all. He recognizes these others as his family, his fathers, his sisters, his brothers. He is the sun, they are his sky.

The Power of Flesh and Blood

The speaker wholly embraces incarnate reality, responding passionately to the “telling senses” (Line 15). As though anticipating the popular misconceptions of his poetry as bawdy or even obscene, Thomas refuses to soften his exaltation of the flesh through