In the first stanza of the poem, the fourth and fifth line “Tells with silence the last light breaking / And the still hour” (PoemHunter.com) speaks of the moment of death. Light is usually a word that represents life and birth, as well as the beginning of life itself. When one sees the breaking of the first light at dawn, it would be called a new day. The absence of light, which is darkness, is the representation of death or the end of all life. When death comes, the light of life vanishes. And what the fifth line calls the ‘still hour’ is the moment when all movement in life ceases to be.
The second stanza has a more religious imagery, making use of the words ‘Zion’ and ‘synagogue’. It also makes allusions of Biblical passages in a few lines. The image of ‘corn’ alludes to the parables. The phrase ‘ear of corn’ refers to the listening to these parables that preached these stories of inevitability (Rukhaya, “Poetry Analysis: A Refusalâ€¦”). The phrase ‘shadow of a sound’ pertains to the memory of one who has died. It is like remembering the voice of someone familiar in your mind, but that is just a memory unlike one being alive. The line that says ‘sow my salt of seed’ gives a metaphor on the futility of rebirth from death, since planting salt on soil reaps nothing at all and is left lifeless. The poet parodies the Valley of the Shadow of Death by the phrase ‘valley of sackcloth’ deteriorating the action of mourning as a ritual by itself that relegates the sacredness of the funeral and dead one in question (Rukhaya).
The third stanza speaks of the child in the title, wherein the child represents the tragedy of death, and is treated by the poet in a different sort of respect. When the author wrote, “I shall not murder” (PoemHunter.com), the term murder is actually his view of mourning. In respect to the author, we should see it on his perspective of the history that happened around him. World War 2 happened during his time, and Great Britain was almost constantly bombed by Nazi Germany. Many innocent lives were lost among men, women, and children. “What was another unknown child’s death to the city of London, 30,000 of whose citizens had perished by Nazi fire-bombing and over 1,350 V2 rocket attacks” (Lancashire, “Commentary by Ian Lancashire”)? For the poet, to mourn for the dead with all its rituals after such a horrific tragedy is murdering the memory of the dead. The death of a child is a symbol to honor the death of the innocent young by striving for change, not through rituals. And in the last stanza and last line of the poem, which tells that “After the first death, there is no other” (PoemHunter.com), the poet means the action of mourning is useless, for there is no further averting of the situation just because there is no death again (Rukhaya) because death is part of a cycle of life that we must learn to accept and respect.
In relation to the natural, we must learn to give our respect to how the way nature changes around us. Today, people complain about pollution or express sadness towards the extinction or approaching extinction of a life form in this planet. But regardless of such notions, they would not do anything about it, or show no respect to let nature go its own course. Many natural wonders and landscapes are either destroyed or damaged, and we view that as a tragedy; a tragedy that we are guilty and responsible for. We must learn to treat nature as a child, both in life and in death. In life, we cherish and celebrate its vitality. And when we set it on the cycle of death, we should learn to change our ways of destruction and strive for a positive change.
Out of all the poems that Dylan Thomas’ has written, After the Funeral is his only work that is created for an individual. Hence, the poem may have touched on his own experience with the deceased, but the natural aspect is not that much emphasized on, unlike his other works.
After the Funeral is considered as an elegy for the loss of Thomas’ beloved aunt, Ann Jones. The poem is an embodiment of his own mourning for the loss of a loved one, and his monumental tribute to a person whose life was very much dear to him. The poem describes his own way of grieving, and his own method of commemorating the dead, through the use of powerful and eternal words.
Thomas’ work After the Funeral is a fitting tribute for his dead aunt. In his other works, Fern Hill and the Peaches, he would fondly describe his summer vacation trips to his aunt’s farmhouse when he was still a child (poetryfoundation.org). From these earlier works of his, he has already depicted, even indirectly, how important Ann Jones is, even during his childhood days.
The first four lines of the poem describe the scenario during the funeral service of her aunt. The words mule praises, muffle- toed, tap tap (PoemHunter.com) from the first two lines is a description of those people who are present in the funeral, but not sincerely mourning or grieving. Tap tap, is a symbolism of how grateful these people are for being spared of death (Rukhaya, “Poetry Analysis: After the Funeral”). The fourth line is a description of Thomas’ observations of the funeral. The line says: “Grave’s foot, blinds down the lids, the teeth in black” (PoemHunter.com). The grave’s foot is a portrayal of the coffin, and the blinds down is the act of closing the casket which signifies the final parting of Thomas with his aunt.
Lines six to twelve depict the personal suffering that Thomas feels for his aunt. He grieves alone and vows to perpetually memorialize his aunt in a fitting manner. As explicitly said in line twelve: “I stand, for this memorial’s sake, alone” (PoemHunter.com). He vows to depict a high and loving image of his aunt when he said, “Whose hodded, fountain heart once fell in puddles, Round the parched worlds of Wales and drowned each sun” (line 14-15, PoemHunter.com). In these previously mentioned lines, he portrayed her as a kind hearted woman (fountain heart), generous and willing to give to everyone. Ann’s cheerful dispostion and warmth is infectuous as she drowns others with her own sunny character (Rukhaya).
Lines seventeen to thirty five basically puts out the message that despite Ann’s demise, she will not just be sculpted in her own tombstone, but she shall forever be sculpted in the heart and memory of those dear to her, specifically Thomas. The 35th line that reads: “And sculpted Ann is seventy years of stone” (PoemHunter.com) is a symbolism of the marriage of mortality with immortal art. Through the sculpture in her tombstone, she will forever be immortalized.
The death of Ann will not just affect Thomas for a certain amount of time, but it will continue haunting him until the end of time. Lines thirty six to forty is a testament to this: “Storm me forever over her grave until, The stuffed lung of the fox twitch and cry Love, And the strutting fern lay seeds on the black sill” (PoemHunter.com). This means that such loss shall forever scar him, for he will never stop grieving for her.
The poem is a gripping portrayal of how death affects people. In death, the living do not mourn just because a person is lost forever. People also mourn because they are left behind, living, having to go through the process of suffering everyday in this temporal life.