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Dylan Thomas: Analysis of Was There A Time

Updated on July 2, 2009

This is an analysis of Dylan Thomas's, British Poet Laureate, Was There a Time. It uses a technique know as TPCASTT - title, paraphrase, connotations, attitude, shift, them, title. I also included a picture which really captures the theme of this wonderfully unique poem.


The title of Dylan Thomas's Poem, "Was There A Time" conjures up images of: Memories, The Past, Youth, and Nostalgia.

Was There A Time
Was there a time when dancers with their fiddles
In children's circuses could stay their troubles?
There was a time they could cry over books,
But time has set its maggot on their track.
Under the arc of the sky they are unsafe.
What's never known is safest in this life.
Under the skysigns they who have no arms
Have cleanest hands, and, as the heartless ghost
Alone's unhurt, so the blind man sees best.

Paraphrase
Was there a time when entertainers with their instruments
In children's circuses could handle the difficulties of life?
There was a time when they could show emotion over simpler things,
But time has decayed their innocence.
In this world they are not safe.
Not knowing is safest in this life.
Under the skysigns, they who can't do things
Are the most innocent, and as the heartless ghost
Alone's unhurt, so those who can't see the bad only see the good.

Connotations:

Alliteration:

  • "children's circuses could" line 2
  • "time they" line 3
  • "could cry" line 3
  • "time...their track" line 4
  • "blind...best" line 9

Consonance:

  • "dancers...fiddles" line 1
  • "children's circuses...troubles" line 2
  • "set...maggot" line 4

Rhetorical Question:

Was there a time when dancers with their fiddles in children's circuses
could stay their troubles?
The rhetorical question sets up the theme for the remainder of the poem.

Attitude of the author is one of nostalgia and cynicism.

Shift:
There is a shift after the third line of the poem. The first three lines of the poem have a nostalgic tone. Then, the tone shifts to a more cynical tone; Thomas talks about how the unknown is safest, and has the what you don't know can't hurt you attitude.

Theme:
Sometimes not knowing the horrors and troubles of life can be better than having to live through it; ignorance is bliss.

Title:
The title of the poem, Was There A Time, is referring to the innocence of youth and how time and "itsmaggot" causes the childhood innocence to be lost.

Critical Perspectives:

Biographical:
When Dylan was a young child he had poetry read to him and he
enjoyed the sound of the words, and it reminded him of all of the
beautiful sounds of the world, but then when he grew up he began
drinking and had troubles in his life. His childhood innocence was lost.

Readers Response:
How as you grow up you become less naïve and learn more about the harshness that the world can have, and sometimes wish you could go
back to the simpler times of your childhood.

Gender:
No specific gender is present in the poem. There is more of an age
difference than a gender difference. The young are innocent and
childlike and time decays it when they grow older.

Social Power:
Time has the power in this poem. Time decays the innocence of
children as time progresses and they get older.

This picture captures the theme of the poem. It shows how innocence can be lost and forgotten so easily, and it captures the somber mood of the poem.
This picture captures the theme of the poem. It shows how innocence can be lost and forgotten so easily, and it captures the somber mood of the poem.

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      tom jackson 5 years ago

      Thomas was not British Poet Laureate! - very far from it.

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