Dylan Thomas’ sensual poem “In the White Giant’s Thigh” is reminiscent of the work of poet D.H. Lawrence in that Thomas interestingly conflates the human body and nature in order to highlight the interconnected relationship between humans and the natural world. More specifically, Thomas does this through his potent imagery depicting barren women longing to conceive children and equating this imagery with their natural surroundings. Thomas defamiliarizes images of potency and fertility, and juxtaposes them with women “barren as boulders”:
“Through throats where many rivers meet, the curlews cry,
Under the conceiving moon, on the high chalk hill,
And there this night I walk in the white giant’s thigh
Where barren as boulders women lie longing still
To labour and love though they lay down long ago.”
Indeed, one image that is especially powerful is the image of the giant itself. According to Ralph Maude in [title], the giant is an important figure in the poem, and points to a historical basis that Thomas may have pulled from:
“The notes to collected poems… present a photograph of the ‘Mighty Giant of Cerne Abbas’, wielding a club (which could have supplied Thomas with ‘the cugelling [sic], hacked hill’) and an equally prominent male member” (158).
This phallic giant, thus, is an especially important figure in highlighting the desires of these barren women. Moreover, the giant is a life-giving force as well as a violent figure, with his phallic cudgel hacking the natural landscape.
The final line is provocative in that it pulls the poem together as a cohesive whole. Here, Thomas subverts the expectations of nature, and prominently displays the agency of humanity:
“Hale dead and deathless do the women of the hill
Love forever meridian through the courters’ trees
And the daughters of darkness flame like Fawkes fires still.”
The women are revolting against their nature; that is to say, they reject the fact that they are barren and still burn for a desire to conceive. Thomas’ brilliant use of the image of Guy Fawkes lends the end a revolutionary tone; the women rise against their nature.
Thomas’ poem examines the sensuality of the human form and its bond with nature, while also exalting the potency and violence, both literally and figuratively, of both.
I pulled my textual evidence from:
Dylan Thomas, The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas
Ralph Maud, Where Have the Old Words Got Me?: Explications of Dylan Thomas's Collected Poems