A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London

by Dylan Thomas

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In "A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London," what does "the round Zion of the water bead" mean?

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This is a poem that above all challenges traditional notions of death and argues that rather than representing the extinguishing of our mortal bodies, death actually is a process of transformation and readoption into the cycle of life, albeit in a different form. This is centrally why the speaker is so adamant about his refusal to mourn the child of the title. In his words all of us as humans go through this inevitable process:

And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead

Whilst death therefore does signify an end in one sense, it also represents the diffusion of a single life into some kind of universal life, and this is what is indicated by this quote and the inevitability of entering "again" the "Zion of the water bead" and the "synagogue of the ear of corn." Such images are used to capture and convey the truth that our death, whilst it does indicate the end of our own life, returns our bodies into the dynamic cycle of life that we see in nature and which are full of examples of growing life. We exchange our own life for becoming part of the abundant and fecund life in nature in all of its fertility.

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