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The lovely gift of the gab lost

Sunday, 25 May, 2014

In George Orwell’s novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, the protagonist Gordon Comstock struggles in vain to complete an epic poem describing a day in London: “It was too big for him, that was the truth. It had never really progressed, it had simply fallen apart into a series of fragments.” What Comstock battles is a phenomenon called “poet’s block”, a much less famous torment than its cousin, “writer’s block”. When Dylan Thomas found himself unable to compose, he created the image of “The lovely gift of the gab” that “bangs back on a blind shaft”. The combination invokes the image of a once-rich vein of language in a Welsh mine that is now empty of inspiration.

On No Work of Words

On no work of words now for three lean months in the
bloody
Belly of the rich year and the big purse of my body
I bitterly take to task my poverty and craft:

To take to give is all, return what is hungrily given
Puffing the pounds of manna up through the dew to heaven,
The lovely gift of the gab bangs back on a blind shaft.

To lift to leave from treasures of man is pleasing death
That will rake at last all currencies of the marked breath
And count the taken, forsaken mysteries in a bad dark.

To surrender now is to pay the expensive ogre twice.
Ancient woods of my blood, dash down to the nut of the seas
If I take to burn or return this world which is each man’s
work.

Dylan Thomas (1914 — 1953)


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