A word as to the origin of this book and its plan of presentation.
Late-comer as I was to the poetry of Dylan Thomas, this present volume can make no claims to being the result of several years' study. Not till I was won to enthusiasm for some half a dozen of his poems, by a friend in 1949, could I say that the poet had meant much to me. Up to that time my casual objection to Thomas' verse had been the common one: that his meaning was too obscure and his style too obfuscated. To defend my hasty inquiry and retreat, I would tell myself that Coleridge, for his part, had observed that "To please me, a poem must be either music or sense; if it is neither, I confess I cannot interest myself in it."
This retort was all very well for giving the go-by to some of the poet's more indefatigable and forward admirers, but did not quite satisfy my own questioning. I knew that the scriptures of the critics contained other texts to off-set this one; Goethe, for example, having written that "Excellent work is unfathomable, approach it as you will", and again, that "All lyrical work must, as a whole, be perfectly intelligible, but in some particulars a little unintelligible."
These two statements seemed to me to provide a more liberal ground of approach to poetry we describe as 'difficult' than Coleridge's cursory dismissal. It is true that by Goethe's term 'unfathomable' I understood 'that which we cannot exhaust, that which we cannot come to the bottom of' rather than 'that which rebuts . . .