Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) has a style that is very easy to recognise. It is the clarity of his prose that stands out a mile. It is this that says to the reader – this is a Dylan Thomas poem. The words that he uses are ordinary enough. There are not any exotic or difficult words. Thomas just knows how to use the common language in a very precise and effective way; so effective, in fact, it blows the reader away in a storm of amazement.
Although Dylan’s prose is very clear, his poem ‘Light breaks where no sun shines’; is not easy or straightforward to understand. The poem appears as a storm of images which attempt to overwhelm the reader.
The experience of the images is immediate; it feels fresh and interesting. In line 4 for example: “broken ghosts with glow-worms in their heads”. This is an interesting image by itself, but more interesting if the reader considers it is one that represents being human.
The poem is about experience of being alive. It is more than likely that the title itself is biblical reference; in the Revelations section of the bible, where there is a city in which the light does not go out, the light comes from God’s glory and not from the sun (and moon). But in his poem the light where no sun shines would seem to refer to the thing that is within a person that makes them a conscious sentient being with emotions. Dylan is talking about the soul, or at very least, the thing that lights up the body with thoughts and feelings.
An important part of being alive for Dylan is sex. The second stanza is about sex, be it from the male point of view. The candle and seed clearly used refer to sex and the male organ and sperm. It also worth noting that the candle appears in the revelations text also – as something no longer needed in God’s new city of light.
The poem seen as a whole is a journey through the day. The reader can assume that a parallel is being drawn here to the journey through life – from birth to death. As the day dawns (getting close to death) towards the end of the poem, the person on the journey pauses and draws a halt, no longer wanting to go on.
“Above the waste allotments the dawn halts.”
Dylan’s attitude to death is known from another more famous poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’.
Dylan’s poem is a powerful one exploring life, death and sex. It is a personal view of what it is to be alive and human. The poem is at once spiritual and at the same time very earthy and to do with the body.