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Do not go gentle into that good night!

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Do not go gentle into that good night  by 
Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

The first poem that Dylan Thomas ever published, when he was only eighteen, was an early version of "And Death Shall Have No Dominion." The cycle of life and death formed a constant underlying theme throughout his poetry since that earliest effort. In "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," a moving plea to his dying father, death takes on a new and intensely personal meaning for Thomas.

David John Thomas was an important influence throughout his son Dylan's life. A grammar school English teacher, he had a deep love for language and literature which he passed on to his son. In a 1933 letter to a friend, Dylan Thomas describes the library he shared with his father in their home. His father's section held the classics, while his included modern poetry. It had, according to Thomas, everything needed in a library.

"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" was in all likelihood composed in 1945 when D. J. Thomas was seriously ill; however, it was not published until after his death on December 16, 1952. Thomas sent the poem to a friend, Princess Caetani, in the spring of 1951, telling her that the "only person I can't show the little enclosed poem to is, of course, my father who doesn't know he's dying." After his father's death, the poem was included in the collection In Country Sleep. Ironically Dylan Thomas himself died just a year later. The poem discusses various ways to approach death in old age. It advocates affirming life up until the last breath, rather than learning to accept death quietly.

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night Summary

Lines 1-3:
The first tercet introduces the poem's theme; it also introduces the two recurring refrains that end alternate stanzas. Although these two lines, the first and the third, both state Thomas's basic theme about resisting death, they contrast in several ways. Each of the predominant words in line one finds its opposite in line three. "Gentle" is paired with "rage," "good" with "dying," and "night" with "light." The tone of the two lines also is quite different. Line one is subdued; the verbs are deliberately simple, vague. Thomas uses the predicate adjective "gentle," making it describe the personality of the individual, rather than the more obvious choice "gently," an adverb which would only refer to the action of the verb. "Good night" when it refers to dying becomes a paradox for Thomas, meaning a good death. Although this line may be an exhortation to resist death, its entire tone is gentle. Compare this to the beginning of line 3 where "rage" is repeated twice. Here the poet urges a furious resistance to death.

The second line introduces Thomas's advice to those who near death. The idea of burning is frequently associated with the passion of youth; however, Thomas wants the elderly to cling as passionately to their lives as anyone would. The phrase "close of day" establishes a connection with the "good night" of the previous line, while the words "burn" and "rave" move the reader into the third line of the stanza.

Line 4:
The next four stanzas describe four different types of old men and examine their attitudes and feelings as they realize that death is approaching. The first type Thomas mentions are the wise men. They may be considered scholars or philosophers. Perhaps because of this, intellectually they accept the inevitability of death.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

picture by Momo

2009.04 Grouse Mountain , North Vancouver .

2008.08 Richmond,BC,Canada



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