The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower Analysis

Dylan Thomas

The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower” is a carefully sculptured poem of four stanzas and a coda, its twenty-two lines scrupulously crafted for maximum power and, to some extent, maximum puzzlement.

The poem, as the title echoing the first line suggests, is about a mysterious force, which the poet proceeds to define, qualify, and examine in a variety of ways. This force, presumably the force behind all nature and reality—maybe even a divine force—paradoxically combines life and death and links the poet—the “I” of the poem—to the universe.

Each stanza identifies the force in a slightly different way, defining a different aspect of its operation. The effect of the stanzas is cumulative and progressive; each definition qualifies and amplifies the last. Each stanza ends by establishing the poet’s relation to the force.

In the first stanza, the force is the “life” force or growth force that drives flowers through the soil into bloom. Death, however, is also a part of natural growth, and this same force destroys the roots of trees. After all, photosynthesis (one natural process) enables flowers to increase in size and bloom; worms, wind, or disease (other natural processes) can dramatically eat away at the roots of trees and cause them to topple suddenly. Simultaneously, the poet has linked the force of life/death to himself, for it both drives his youth and will eventually lead to his death. Nevertheless, the poet is unable to communicate with nature (“the crooked rose”)...

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Historical Context

(Poetry for Students)

Just as the poetry of Dylan Thomas is difficult to characterize as springing from any particular poetic movement, it is also problematic to...

(The entire section is 934 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The key devices in the poem are paradoxical metaphor, oxymoron, and pun—all interwoven. The central metaphor is that life and death are interlinked, inextricable, part and parcel of the same force. Thomas keeps this striking paradox constantly before the reader in a number of ways. For example, “fuse” and “flower” both appear in the poem’s first line, though the destructive fuse of military ordnance seems completely opposed to the beauty of nature’s flower. Yet, the “green fuse” is the stem of the plant through which, in Thomas’s image, the flower bursts into bloom. The paradoxical image is carried further in the verb “blasts,” for the destructive energy implicit in a fuse gives way to the demise of trees.

One form of paradox is oxymoron, a strategy Dylan Thomas employs repeatedly, yoking seemingly unlike qualities together in a single phrase that seems at first self-contradictory; “green” is young and growing, and “age” is old. Thus the phrase “green age” echoes the “green fuse” of the earlier line and suggests that though Thomas may be young, he is also aging: The force that is working in him to make his youthful exuberance (he was eighteen when he wrote this poem) is also the force that keeps adding years and experience that bring him ultimately to death.

A similar pattern to the paradox and oxymoron is that of punning, which occurs in a variety of forms. The near-rhymes characteristic of poetry are...

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Literary Style

(Poetry for Students)

"The Force That through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower" is made up of four stanzas, each with five lines, followed by an ending couplet....

(The entire section is 486 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Poetry for Students)

1934: The Dionne quintuplets were born.

1997: The McCaughey septuplets were born.

1998: Nkem...

(The entire section is 116 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Poetry for Students)

The Eisteddfod, a competition among poets, has been a Welsh tradition for over eight hundred years. Find out how it is celebrated in Wales...

(The entire section is 127 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Poetry for Students)

The Caedmon Collection of English Poetry, released in 1996, includes several poems by Dylan Thomas.

In 1995, Harper...

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What Do I Read Next?

(Poetry for Students)

A Reference Companion to Dylan Thomas, by James A. Davies, is an extremely helpful resource which includes a biography, discussion of...

(The entire section is 235 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Poetry for Students)

Jones, T. H., Dylan Thomas, London: Oliver and Boyd, 1966.

Maud, Ralph, in his Entrances to Dylan...

(The entire section is 284 words.)