“This day winding down now / At God speeded summer’s end”
are the first two lines of Dylan Thomas’s “Prologue.”
William York Tindall points out how the “now” and “end” stand at the ends of the lines, giving these words “weight,” and he also notes the “sinister” sense that “God speeded” gives these lines, because it makes the passage of time seem like a goodbye.
Now is the end, so goodbye.
A sombre beginning for a poem.
Seasons come and go, and there is always a touch of melancholy in seeing the end of something you have enjoyed. So Thomas is just expressing a feeling we’ve all had at the end of a summer, probably more than one, at some time in our lives. Probably a summer long ago, perhaps when you were very young, and you thought it would never end. There’s melancholy in the thought of time past and gone.
“God speeded” is particularly fitting here because not only is it a goodbye and good luck to the summer, but it emphasises the speed with which time can seem to pass. That thing we always say when we say goodbye to a time fondly: Didn’t it go by fast?
And yes, we will wish summer good luck and success on its journey when it’s time for it to go, we will look forward to its triumphant return, and we wouldn’t want anything to happen to it on its way back around to us. For all the melancholy of summers past, there’s joy in the knowledge there’ll be another.
The seasons are something easily taken for granted. Poets like Thomas shock us into noticing and appreciating the passing of things, in this case by hinting that a summer is a thing that might have a mishap on its return journey. Is “shock” too strong a word? I certainly think Thomas has done all he can to make his farewell to summer here quite striking, just two lines into the poem.
(I’ve been reading William York Tindall’s A Reader’s Guide to Dylan Thomas.)