Study Guide

The Force That through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower Stanza 4

By Dylan Thomas

Stanza 4

Lines 16-18

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.

  • As stanza 4 begins the mysterious force is personified again, this time with "lips." Yes, now the force has hands and lips. But this time, there's more. The mysterious force is named. We were right: it's "time."
  • This stanza gets a little tricky. To start with, "time" is sucking at the fountain head like a leech. Gross. The mention of leeches makes us think of blood. This is no accident since blood shows up in the very next line.
  • If we imagine time drinking from a fountain and doing kind of a sloppy job of it, some water is going to be dripping down and pooling on the ground. But instead of water, it is love that drips and gathers. And then it turns to blood. Lost? You should be.
  • Let's look at this another way.
  • Water is a life-giving element. Fountains usually supply water. But this fountain is supplying love. Love is another life-giving element. It energizes, it inspires, it leads to life through procreation. Blood is a life-sustaining element, too. So water, love, and blood are all connected in a way. They are all essential elements to life. The force—time—is sucking them up, drying them up.
  • Remember that stream the force dried up back in stanza 2 and the mountain spring that the force was sucking from? Those images represented youth and vitality, life, being drained by the force of time. The fountain head in stanza 4 also represents vitality and life (fountain of youth, fountain of life) and time is sucking it dry.
  • The rhyme between "fountain" in stanza 4 and "mountain" in stanza 2 makes the connection between these two stanzas (and thus stanza 4's connection to youth and vitality) even stronger.
  • The "her" in line 18 likely refers to time. It seems like time needs the blood, the love, the water to sooth her "sores." "Sores" echoes the time metaphor "wintry fever" from stanza 1. Someone might have sores if they were sick.
  • It seems like time relies on youth and vitality to feel better. Time must devour, drink up, dry up youth and vitality in order to feel well.

Lines 19-20

And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

  • Refrain. Refrain. Refrain. Now, the speaker can't tell the wind about time's ultimate power.
  • Thomas uses more personification, giving the wind the ability to hear. Shmoop doesn't imagine the wind is a very good listener, but that doesn't keep the speaker from wanting to explain how time is responsible for the universe.
  • The description "ticked a heaven round the stars" seems a little odd. "Ticked" makes sense, like a ticking watch. We are talking about time, after all. What better sound or word than "tick"? But Thomas goes out of his way to draw our attention to the empty space around the stars rather than the stars themselves. Why?
  • It could be because stars are concrete, tangible, knowable objects. Time, the force, is like that abstract, incomprehensible space between the stars. That's the real mystery—the universe that has no beginning and no ending. What else has no beginning and no ending? Time's up. The answer is time.
  • It seems that Thomas wants to equate time with the incomprehensible universe.