But These Things Also
But These Things Also
‘But these things also’ brings “to the centre of attention what has previously overlooked”, as Judy Kendall writes. Thomas explores his fascination with the unimportant in this poem and looks at the connection and merging together of Spring and Winter. Much like his other poetry, here, Thomas struggles to put his finger on precisely what he means. This is shown by his inability to separate and distinguish between the two seasons.
The poem begins with the first two lines focussing on Spring, however, by following this with two lines focussing on Winter, Thomas explodes our first expectations of usual ‘spring poetry’ of bright and beautiful images. Instead, he catches the limbo between the two seasons and we are presented with the idea of the grass being ‘long dead’ and ‘greyer now’. This pessimistic tone is not what one usually connotes with springtime, but with the cold and bleak winter. By putting the images of the two seasons so close together in this stanza, Thomas reinforces his presentation of their connection. The last line of the stanza, ‘than all the winter it was’, changes the natural syntax of the words.
The stress focuses of ‘it was’, emphasising what has past, which creates a sense of longing, introducing the idea that, like in ‘March’, Thomas is desperate to find ‘the key’ the last two lines of the first stanza finish with the words ‘now and ‘was’, bringing together images of the movement of time and emphasising the gap between the present and the past and importantly, Thomas’s focus on that gap.
The second stanza uses inscape to look at things, which are seemingly unimportant. These things show the remains of winter, therefore connecting the seasons further. Once again, Thomas alters the syntax of the words to create a more beautified image.’ The word ‘bleached’ would usually have a much more negative connotation of fading and perhaps even the loss of hope, however By placing the word at the end of the first line and after the word ‘little’ he takes away the harshness of the sound and makes it more delicate and gentle. As well as this, Tomas’s use of enjambment stresses the soft ‘L’ sounds in ‘the shell of the little snail’, which further emphasises the smoothness of the words. Following this, the sexural pause halfway along the second line, highlights the plosive sounds on the image of the ‘chip of flint’.
This draws our attention to the minute details, which Thomas considers and accentuates the signs that spring is not quite here yet. By observing nature in this much detail, we see how valuable Thomas considers it to be, it creates a sense that although these things are small and often overlooked, they are significant. The final image in this stanza is of the ‘purest white’ bird dung. At first it appears odd to be beautifying such a thing as bird dung, but by following it with the words ‘purest white’, Thomas introduces an idea of innocence and positivity, as well as a contrast with the previous image of something ‘greyer now’. This brief glimmer of hope however, is shattered in the next stanza.
In stanza three, the image of ‘white’ no longer has positive connotations, but it feels as if Thomas could be referring to the relationship between the colour white and death. This instantly darkens the tone and the notion of mistaking bird dung for violets presents the idea that Thomas is truly desperate for any indication of spring’s arrival. The following violent images of ‘winter’s ruins’ and ‘winter’s debts’ create an oppressive feeling which moves further from the previous idea of hope. Continuing the pattern of Thomas’s other poetry, the word ‘something’ appears ambiguous and vague, creating a sense that Thomas still isn’t quite clear on what it is we are paying ‘winter’s debts’ with.
The final stanza of ‘But these things also’ begins to fill us with hope once more. The ‘chattering’ birds create a sense of rising morale and the idea of keeping their ‘spirits up’ sounds optimistic. Despite this, when we eventually think that Thomas is going to make a definitive statement, ‘spring’s here’ he reintroduces the feeling of ambiguity with the words ‘winter’s not gone’. This leaves the poem with a sense of not knowing and uncertainty. This reminds us of Thomas’s tendency to never give absolutes and that he likes balancing a positive idea with a negative. This paradox leaves us with the idea that the winter is preventing the spring from arriving.
Throughout the poem, there is a regular rhythm, given by the Iambic Tetrameter, which is occasionally shortened to show the indecisive and unclear seasons. There is never a climax during this poem due to it all being one long sentence. Robert’s talks about Thomas’s use of enjambment and fluidity, which gives a sense of him thinking and working through his thoughts.