As it is World Poetry day! I thought I would share one my favourite poems. I’ll be honest I do have countless to choose from, I have always loved poetry, it still amazes me how just a few well thought out lines can say something so immeasurable. I chose a Dylan Thomas poem to share. I was tempted to choose ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’ however, there is something about ‘The Hand that Signed the Paper’ that says more to me personally.
I’ll leave you with the poem, which hopefully you will enjoy as much as I do! And a little bit of my more detailed analysis below…
‘The Hand that Signed the Paper’ by Dylan Thomas
The hand that signed the paper felled a city;
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;
These five kings did a king to death.
The mighty hand leads to a sloping shoulder,
The fingers’ joints are cramped with chalk;
A goose’s quill has put an end to murder
That put an end to talk.
The hand that signed the treaty bred a fever,
And famine grew, and locusts came;
Great is the hand that holds dominion over
Man by a scribbled name.
The five kings count the dead but do not soften
The crusted wounds nor pat the brow;
A hand rules pity as a hand rules heaven;
Hands have no tears to flow.
The poem deals with the concept of war in that just a few men have so much power over the lives of others ‘Great is the hand that holds dominion over/Man by a scribbled name’. What I think Thomas manages to successfully illustrate in this poem is the emotional distance in war between the instigators and the people who are forced to fight on their behalf. He uses personification to stress the absence of feeling in the politics of war and the neglect of human emotion particularly in the final line of the poem ’Hands have no tears to flow.’. A particularly poignant part of the poem is the way in which Thomas equates the power of the hand, to the power of God ’And hand rules pity as a hand rules heaven;’. But specifically he seems to compare it to the power of the merciless God of the Old Testament, especially with his reference to the plagues that God visited on Egypt ’And famine grew, and locusts came;’. He uses language which is purposefully negative in order to make a statement about the politics and morality of war. For example his choice of the word murder in ‘A goose’s quill has put an end to murder’ instead of death, puts an emphasis on his view of the hand being complicit in the death of so many. These negative connotations are accentuated by the use of the half rhyme of ‘brow’ with ‘flow’ which unsettles a reader.
It does not matter which particular war he may be writing about because he writes the brutal truth about every war.
‘Never part without loving words to think of during your absence. it may be that you will not meet again in this life’ – Jean Paul Richter