Dylan Thomas was a Welsh poet, who died at the age of 39 but he gained fame and good reputation before his death. He was also known as a roistering, drunken and doomed poet. It is, therefore, very difficult to categorize his work. No single category can define him as he uses too ambiguous themes in his poetry. A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London is a poem that he wrote in 1945, a line by line critical explanation and analysis of which proves his excellent poetic skills. The poem was added to the volume “Deaths and Entrances”. It is pertinent to mention here that said volume has also been remembered as the volume of war poems.
In the second world war the poet observed an air raid on London and instead of showing his condolences on the death of the child, he praised his heroism. However, as the poem was written on the death of a person; therefore, it was an elegy; an elegy is a song or poem in which a poet laments on someone’s death. It was famous among Greek people to sing elegos on the death of a near or dear ones. Elegos means a mourning song; however, it seems that the poet does not lament on the child’s death instead he says that his death was courageous.
From the style of the poem, it is obvious to us that it is an elegy as the poet has written it in a traditional style of an elegy. The poem is highly philosophical. It depicts the theme of macrocosm, which is a system through which humans were created.
Critical Analysis of Stanza I of A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London
The poem is based on the theory of macrocosm. Since the creation of the universe, no one knows how large it is. It was believed in the Greek era that the universe is a macrocosm and humans are its models, which they called microcosm. It means that humans are also created in a way through which the universe was created, hence, there is no difference between the two as both share the same system. Universe is full of darkness, which is the initialization of humans. Thus, the poet uses the word darkness as well as silence symbolically. It is a journey of every man; darkness to darkness and silence to silence. It is not only about humans but also about birds, beasts and flowers that share the same attributes.
Whether in the womb, in a shell (egg) or whatever the way is; life starts with darkness and silence and ends with the same. Critical analysis of ending lines of stanza-I of A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London shows these are also highly symbolic. “sea tumbling in harness” is a symbol that poet refers to the blood in the human body.
Let’s compare the universe with these initial lines of the poem. From the above mentioned definition of macrocosm, we believe that the universe is full of darkness and it is silent. It is also the case with the human body, which is also similar to the universe. It is, therefore, called microcosm as it is a smaller imitation of the universe.
First stanza of the poem illustrates the expert use of symbolism as “still hour” means day of judgment as well as the skillful combination of imaginative imagery of different objects.
It is the elaboration of the first stanza. The poet has said that the creation of man was from darkness and then he has to return to his destination. “And I must enter again the round” means to return to the same place from where humans came. Synagogue refers to the place of worship that Jews use, in which they pray together. Every person that comes into the world has to return to the same place where others are. The poet uses critical biblical metaphors and symbols in stanza-II of “A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London”, analysis of which makes it obvious that he believes that one day he has to wake up from sleep where every other person would be there with him.
Until now, we don’t know what is the link between the title of the poem and these philosophies but in the next stanza the readers will find a link between these.
The poet compares two different methods that everyone follows after the death of his fellowman. One is to “pray” and second is to wear “sackcloth” as a token of mourning. Fourth line of the stanza starts with “Shall ” which means that the poet definitely asks a question from his readers and that too with cynicism knowing that everybody shall prefer the second option. “Or sow my salt seed” is the futile exercise of mourning after the death of the child.
In this stanza readers acknowledge the reason behind writing this elegy. Although the poet talks only about the child yet he means to describe every person that died in World War-II. Dylan Thomas was a post war poet. World War-II deeply impacted his mind. Tears and emotions indeed ends the feelings of terror. Humans kill humans and then mourn their death, which does not make sense in the eyes of the poet. He is of the view that truth should be spoken. Everyone should be taunted due to this dreadful act of violence.
Poetry, written after the World War-II, was deeply influenced by the terror that was in the minds of people, hence, consciously or unconsciously it always portrayed a bad image of humanity. Line by Line Explanation and analysis of “A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London” depicts that the poet talks about intolerable critical behavior of humanity. In short, he considers it a blasphemous act to mourn, lament, sing a mourning son (elegy), bury the dead and forget him forever.
Critical Analysis of Stanza IV of A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London
He draws attention of the readers towards the worst incident of humanity i.e. World War-II that perished millions of people, blood of whom is still there in the river Thames”. Nonetheless, apparently, the poet talks only about the child as obvious from “died the dark veins of her mother”. The poet tries his best to explain what happened as the poem belongs to the literature of terror but he can’t do it completely because it is much difficult to illustrate emotions in words. “After the first death, there is no other” means that death is death no matter at what time it comes. It strengthens the belief of the poet in the afterlife.
All in all critical analysis of “A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London” reveals that the poem depicts a philosophy and portrays dreadful as well as religious images. The poet uses lots of metaphors, images and symbols in this poem. It follows the iambic pentameter. Although in the whole poem the poet shows refusal to mourn the death of the child by fire in London yet writing style analysis of the poem shows that it is an elegy and should be added to the lists of critical elegies.