The Hand That Signed The Paper

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 pat the brow; 
A hand rules pity as a hand rules heaven; 
Hands have no tears to flow. 

Recording reproduced by kind permission of the BBC, read by the author for an October 1938 broadcast from The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2022) used by permission of David Higham Associates.

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