13 April 2010

A Sad Clown

"Clown in the Moon"
by Dylan Thomas

My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.

I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.

So... this poem’s narrator is the “man in the moon,” whom Thomas evidently thinks of as a clown. While that could be a hint about coming humor, upon further reading. you discover that this is a sad clown. Boo.

Here, I think, Thomas builds on the common idea that clowns, by painting on a fake smile, are merely covering up grief and depression inside of them. If so, he is deliberately popping the bubble of a childhood story. Many kids grow up thinking that the moon laughs, but Thomas is suggesting that it actually cries.

(Thomas does like popping bubbles, I must admit, so this explanation of the poem is entirely possible. He’s not a very happy person.)

In any case, the clown offers us a unique view of the earth. From his perspective earth is a place of legend, existing more in dreams than in reality. (Just like outer space can seem like a legend or dream to us.)

But as we know, the earth is neither as fragile nor as lovely as the man in the moon thinks. He cries over nothing, and he wastes his time daydreaming (night-dreaming?) about it. Perhaps Thomas is hinting that if something looks too beautiful to be true, well... it probably isn’t. Like magic roses and laughing moons.


Oh pooh, Thomas. The silver moon declares the glory of God, and rose petals sing of His handiwork. The earth is the Lord's, and ultimately, it's not going to crumble-- it's going to be redeemed, purified, and made into a paradise of joy.

So fie on your modernist gloom.

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