Themes and Meanings
The primary theme of this poem is the mysterious paradoxical “force,” puzzling in its unity of nature, life, and humans. It is a unity between nature and humans, between the individual poet and all other human beings. It is a unity that ties together all things living and dead and that culminates in love. The unity is also that of creation and destruction, however, and in that sense, it is sobering and painful. In addition, the unity is incommunicable. Growth and death, creation and destruction, the blooming of the merest flower, the tumbling of large trees, the law-abiding citizen, the hanging man, and the man who hangs him—all are bound into one by the poem with its complex pattern of interlocking paradoxes, oxymorons, and puns.
Thomas reiterates his comment of incommunicability at the end of each stanza and in the poem’s two-line coda: “And I am dumb to tell.” He is “dumb” because, in slang occasionally characteristic of Thomas’s love of play with language, it is stupid for him to talk to roses or to the veins in his own body or to the hanged man. He knows and the readers know these cannot hear and do not understand. He is also dumb in the literal sense, unable to speak, as a poet is constantly frustrated by words in trying to articulate feelings. So the deep, painful irony of the poem is that, though he is bound to the total physical universe, he is unable to express this unity, except by writing this poem, placing the “crooked...
(The entire section is 407 words.)