The Hand That Signed the Paper

By Dylan Thomas 1914–1953 Dylan Thomas
The hand that signed the paper felled a city;   
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,   
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;   
These five kings did a king to death.

The mighty hand leads to a sloping shoulder,   
The finger joints are cramped with chalk;   
A goose’s quill has put an end to murder   
That put an end to talk.

The hand that signed the treaty bred a fever,   
And famine grew, and locusts came;
Great is the hand that holds dominion over   
Man by a scribbled name.

The five kings count the dead but do not soften   
The crusted wound nor stroke the brow;   
A hand rules pity as a hand rules heaven;   
Hands have no tears to flow.

Dylan Thomas, “The Hand That Signed the Paper” from The Poems of Dylan Thomas. Used by permission of David Higham Associates, London as agents for the Trustees of the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas.

Source: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas (1957)

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Poet Dylan Thomas 1914–1953

POET’S REGION Wales

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects History & Politics, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Dylan  Thomas

Biography

The work of Dylan Thomas has occasioned much critical commentary, although critics share no consensus on how bright his star shines in the galaxy of modern poetry. In fact, it is a curious phenomenon that so many critics seem obsessed with deciding once and for all whether Thomas's poems belong side by side with those of T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden, or whether they are—in the words of a reputable critic quoted by Henry Treece in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT History & Politics, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION Wales

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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