I was not up at 4 am, and I won’t be watching highlights of the royal wedding. The only reason I even know what Kate Middleton looks like is that I was strapped into a dentist’s chair on Tuesday morning, staring blankly at one of those screens that are everywhere nowadays, when her face came on and her name appeared in the crawl. She is lovely indeed, but Dylan Thomas had it right.
His great poem “A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London” laments the banality of our common response to life’s great mysteries.
Written in 1945, at the end of the worst war in history, when so many had died in London alone, from the horror of the Blitz, the poem refuses to join the chorus of weeping over the fiery death of a single child.
After 26 years of marriage, I swear that marriage is as much a mystery to me as death. Let’s catch up with the Prince and his Lady 26 years from now and see how they’re doing. Then we can celebrate and maybe even watch the late news.
Never until the mankind making
Bird beast and flower
Fathering and all-humbling darkness
Tells with silence the last light breaking
And the still hour
Is come of the sea tumbling in harness
And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn
Shall I let pray the shadow of a sound
Or sow my salt seed
In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn
The majesty and burning of the child’s death.
I will not murder
The mankind of her going with some grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.
Deep with the first dead lies London’s daughter,
Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.
After the first death, there is no other.