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Ballad Of The Long-Legged Bait Analysis

Author: poem of Dylan Thomas Type: poem Views: 2

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The bows glided down, and the coast

Blackened with birds took a last look

At his thrashing hair and whale-blue eye;

The trodden town rang its cobbles for luck.

Then good-bye to the fishermanned

Boat with its anchor free and fast

As a bird hooking over the sea,

High and dry by the top of the mast,

Whispered the affectionate sand

And the bulwarks of the dazzled quay.

For my sake sail, and never look back,

Said the looking land.

Sails drank the wind, and white as milk

He sped into the drinking dark;

The sun shipwrecked west on a pearl

And the moon swam out of its hulk.

Funnels and masts went by in a whirl.

Good-bye to the man on the sea-legged deck

To the gold gut that sings on his reel

To the bait that stalked out of the sack,

For we saw him throw to the swift flood

A girl alive with his hooks through her lips;

All the fishes were rayed in blood,

Said the dwindling ships.

Good-bye to chimneys and funnels,

Old wives that spin in the smoke,

He was blind to the eyes of candles

In the praying windows of waves

But heard his bait buck in the wake

And tussle in a shoal of loves.

Now cast down your rod, for the whole

Of the sea is hilly with whales,

She longs among horses and angels,

The rainbow-fish bend in her joys,

Floated the lost cathedral

Chimes of the rocked buoys.

Where the anchor rode like a gull

Miles over the moonstruck boat

A squall of birds bellowed and fell,

A cloud blew the rain from its throat;

He saw the storm smoke out to kill

With fuming bows and ram of ice,

Fire on starlight, rake Jesu's stream;

And nothing shone on the water's face

But the oil and bubble of the moon,

Plunging and piercing in his course

The lured fish under the foam

Witnessed with a kiss.

Whales in the wake like capes and Alps

Quaked the sick sea and snouted deep,

Deep the great bushed bait with raining lips

Slipped the fins of those humpbacked tons

And fled their love in a weaving dip.

Oh, Jericho was falling in their lungs!

She nipped and dived in the nick of love,

Spun on a spout like a long-legged ball

Till every beast blared down in a swerve

Till every turtle crushed from his shell

Till every bone in the rushing grave

Rose and crowed and fell!

Good luck to the hand on the rod,

There is thunder under its thumbs;

Gold gut is a lightning thread,

His fiery reel sings off its flames,

The whirled boat in the burn of his blood

Is crying from nets to knives,

Oh the shearwater birds and their boatsized brood

Oh the bulls of Biscay and their calves

Are making under the green, laid veil

The long-legged beautiful bait their wives.

Break the black news and paint on a sail

Huge weddings in the waves,

Over the wakeward-flashing spray

Over the gardens of the floor

Clash out the mounting dolphin's day,

My mast is a bell-spire,

Strike and smoothe, for my decks are drums,

Sing through the water-spoken prow

The octopus walking into her limbs

The polar eagle with his tread of snow.

From salt-lipped beak to the kick of the stern

Sing how the seal has kissed her dead!

The long, laid minute's bride drifts on

Old in her cruel bed.

Over the graveyard in the water

Mountains and galleries beneath

Nightingale and hyena

Rejoicing for that drifting death

Sing and howl through sand and anemone

Valley and sahara in a shell,

Oh all the wanting flesh his enemy

Thrown to the sea in the shell of a girl

Is old as water and plain as an eel;

Always good-bye to the long-legged bread

Scattered in the paths of his heels

For the salty birds fluttered and fed

And the tall grains foamed in their bills;

Always good-bye to the fires of the face,

For the crab-backed dead on the sea-bed rose

And scuttled over her eyes,

The blind, clawed stare is cold as sleet.

The tempter under the eyelid

Who shows to the selves asleep

Mast-high moon-white women naked

Walking in wishes and lovely for shame

Is dumb and gone with his flame of brides.

Susannah's drowned in the bearded stream

And no-one stirs at Sheba's side

But the hungry kings of the tides;

Sin who had a woman's shape

Sleeps till Silence blows on a cloud

And all the lifted waters walk and leap.

Lucifer that bird's dropping

Out of the sides of the north

Has melted away and is lost

Is always lost in her vaulted breath,

Venus lies star-struck in her wound

And the sensual ruins make

Seasons over the liquid world,

White springs in the dark.

Always good-bye, cried the voices through the shell,

Good-bye always, for the flesh is cast

And the fisherman winds his reel

With no more desire than a ghost.

Always good luck, praised the finned in the feather

Bird after dark and the laughing fish

As the sails drank up the hail of thunder

And the long-tailed lightning lit his catch.

The boat swims into the six-year weather,

A wind throws a shadow and it freezes fast.

See what the gold gut drags from under

Mountains and galleries to the crest!

See what clings to hair and skull

As the boat skims on with drinking wings!

The statues of great rain stand still,

And the flakes fall like hills.

Sing and strike his heavy haul

Toppling up the boatside in a snow of light!

His decks are drenched with miracles.

Oh miracle of fishes! The long dead bite!

Out of the urn a size of a man

Out of the room the weight of his trouble

Out of the house that holds a town

In the continent of a fossil

One by one in dust and shawl,

Dry as echoes and insect-faced,

His fathers cling to the hand of the girl

And the dead hand leads the past,

Leads them as children and as air

On to the blindly tossing tops;

The centuries throw back their hair

And the old men sing from newborn lips:

Time is bearing another son.

Kill Time! She turns in her pain!

The oak is felled in the acorn

And the hawk in the egg kills the wren.

He who blew the great fire in

And died on a hiss of flames

Or walked the earth in the evening

Counting the denials of the grains

Clings to her drifting hair, and climbs;

And he who taught their lips to sing

Weeps like the risen sun among

The liquid choirs of his tribes.

The rod bends low, divining land,

And through the sundered water crawls

A garden holding to her hand

With birds and animals

With men and women and waterfalls

Trees cool and dry in the whirlpool of ships

And stunned and still on the green, laid veil

Sand with legends in its virgin laps

And prophets loud on the burned dunes;

Insects and valleys hold her thighs hard,

Times and places grip her breast bone,

She is breaking with seasons and clouds;

Round her trailed wrist fresh water weaves,

with moving fish and rounded stones

Up and down the greater waves

A separate river breathes and runs;

Strike and sing his catch of fields

For the surge is sown with barley,

The cattle graze on the covered foam,

The hills have footed the waves away,

With wild sea fillies and soaking bridles

With salty colts and gales in their limbs

All the horses of his haul of miracles

Gallop through the arched, green farms,

Trot and gallop with gulls upon them

And thunderbolts in their manes.

O Rome and Sodom To-morrow and London

The country tide is cobbled with towns

And steeples pierce the cloud on her shoulder

And the streets that the fisherman combed

When his long-legged flesh was a wind on fire

And his loin was a hunting flame

Coil from the thoroughfares of her hair

And terribly lead him home alive

Lead her prodigal home to his terror,

The furious ox-killing house of love.

Down, down, down, under the ground,

Under the floating villages,

Turns the moon-chained and water-wound

Metropolis of fishes,

There is nothing left of the sea but its sound,

Under the earth the loud sea walks,

In deathbeds of orchards the boat dies down

And the bait is drowned among hayricks,

Land, land, land, nothing remains

Of the pacing, famous sea but its speech,

And into its talkative seven tombs

The anchor dives through the floors of a church.

Good-bye, good luck, struck the sun and the moon,

To the fisherman lost on the land.

He stands alone in the door of his home,

With his long-legged heart in his hand.


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