This Bread I Break by Dylan Thomas: Summary and Critical Analysis

The speaker in the poem 'This Bread I Break' by Dylan Thomas is eating bread and drinking wine. When he thinks seriously he finds that the bread he is eating now was in the form of oat in the past and the wine in the form of grape in a foreign country. But man during the day and wind at night felled the oat and the grape. In the summer the juice of which the wine is made was filled with the grapes and these grapes had made the vines beautiful.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Similarly, oat in the bread was happily dancing in the wind. But man destroyed the nature and natural products by destroying the oat and the grapes. Now the speaker feels that, like oat and grape, he is also part of nature and therefore he assumes to be the food himself. And he addresses other diner and says that the flesh (bread) he is breaking and the blood (wine) he is drinking were oat and grape sometime in the past. It makes the speaker feel lonely and sad. And the speaker reminds the diner that he is drinking the former’s wine and eating the former’s bread.

The poem "This Bread I Break" is a poem with multiple meanings. On a simple level, the poem is about nature: it is nature’s voice reminding human beings that they are consuming and spoiling her. But, at a deeper level, it echoes the voice of Jesus Christ reminding his followers to remember his sacrifice and his path of salvation. We can also interpret the poem as the voice of the poet, the creative artist or the intellectual telling us that we are consuming, enjoying and destroying the product of their toil and struggle. In every way, the poem tells us that we depend on different sources for life: for food, for ideas, for spirituality, for living as aesthetic, intellectual and social beings. The poem is also striking in its style, its music and word game.

The voice in the poem sounds like the voice of nature. It says that we drink its wine and snap its bread. We destroy the plants and crops to derive our foods. The nature’s essences of sun, wind, rain and soil and turned into the life and blood of the grape vine and the oat plant. But we “lay the crops low” and “break the grapes joy.” This should make us at least thankful towards the nature. We can’t help spoiling the food we have to eat. But we could love and preserve the nature by realizing her value in our lives. We are biological beings and a part of the eco-system. We are intelligent enough to thank whatever benefits us.

At the level of its religious and spiritual meaning, the poem is more interesting. The title echoes Jesus Christ’s speech which he gave to his disciples during the Last Supper. He had told them that part of the bread he was sharing with them would become flesh in his body. He was going to sacrifice it the next day for the salvation of human beings. Similarly, he was also drinking a part of the wine which would become blood in his body and would be spilt for the welfare of human beings. The poem, therefore, reminds us of Christ’s advice to remember him every time they ate or drank and to follow his path of spiritual life and salvation.

The poem can also be taken as the voice of the poet himself, also representing the artist and intellectual. “This” bread is “this” poem or the artistic commodity that we consume as aesthetic beings. We don’t live only by the food. We are able to contemplate our situation, express our feelings and share them with others in the form of poetry, music, painting, or literature and culture as a whole. Those who create them put themselves into their creations. We consume their sweat and blood. We make “desolation in their veins”. Their sorrow or suffering becomes our joy. So, as aesthetic and intellectual beings, we must remember them as we remember the nature of Jesus Christ.

The poem is written in rhythmic lines. The first, second and fourth lines contain four feet, usually iambic. The third line of each stanza is only a diameter line with irregular and thumping rhythm. The variations of meters and the balancing of pattern are remarkable. The rhyme is also unusual. The first, third and fourth lines end with ‘t’ sound in the first stanza. The second and fifth lines end with the sound ‘i’. This kind of rhyming with a single sound, called pararhyming, is repeated in the second and third stanzas also. The symbolism in the poem is strikingly rich. The classic simplicity of diction and the musicality are also as remarkable as its richness in meaning.

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Shrestha, Roma. "This Bread I Break by Dylan Thomas: Summary and Critical Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 4 Nov. 2013,