The poem "Do not go into that good night" by Dylan Thomas does not have a title. Like most untitled villanelle poems, the poem is referred to by its first line in quotation marks. The poem has nineteen lines with five stanzas of tercets and a last stanza of the quatrain. Two repeating rhymes and two refrains structure it. The rhymes are placed alternating at the end of the lines in the stanzas which helps the reader visualize dark and light. The first rhymes are the day, they, bay, way, gay and pray while the second is, right, bright, flight, sight and height. The refrains in the poem are "do not go gentle into that night" and "rage, rage against the dying of the light" which are repeated in all stanzas. Many of the words in "do not go gentle into that night" give away the poem's theme of darkness and death. Therefore, the reader is prepared for revolt and rebel against meek acceptance of death (Aapone).
The poem is a persuasion of a son to his father whose setting is that of the poet sitting beside his father who is languishing on his death-bed. Dylan Thomas pleads to his father who had been active in his youth but has become weak with old age and unfortunately, blind. He motivates his father not to give in to "night" death. In the poem, he uses different analogies to show power and perseverance of different men who are inherently challenged but still manages to pull through. The poet sends a message to its readers asking them to cling to the edge of the mortal world.
The poem is easily understood by appreciating the main words and concepts applied throughout the poem. Good night implies a farewell which in this case is death while rave and rage are used to urge his father to fight on. In the first stanza, the poet uses a metaphor of sun. The sunrise symbolizes the birth of man while sunset is compared to death. The poet speaks of just like the sun, which is very hot and is burning even while it is setting down which is to revive his father not to slip to death passively (Aapone).
The poem identifies different people relevant in the 20th Century that marry with the theme of the poem which is rebelling against death. In the second stanza, Dylan talks of wise people and the use of their words. He outlines that they used they artistry or words as weapons that were capable of causing changes within the society. The metaphor emphasizes the effective. The men know that death is inevitable, but they are unwilling to die unless they have been heard. The wise men rebel death because they have not yet achieved their goals of using their words to churn the society and bring change. In the third stanza, Dylan Thomas mentions good men which is a metaphor used to compare to people in the world that strive to make the world a better place. The people he is speaking about are the saints, messengers of God just to name a few. They cling to life so to fulfill their life passion and purpose. He then mentions the wild man refers to men who have been conquerors and adventurers who tried to beat the sun but realized they were mortal. Lastly, the poet speaks of the grave men who are a reference to serious people who look into life from a spiritual and philosophical perspective. These people want to blaze like a gay meteor which is a metaphor for shooting star that means they rebel against death because they desire to see as much as possible (Aapone).
The first stanza of the poem is an urgent call; the following four strengthen the message while the last verse implores the message of defiance against death. The lyric "Do not go gentle into that goodnight" treats the subject of obsessions, and one which appeals to outsiders; its defining feature of repetition to prevent it from having a general tone by creating lyric poetry. Let us briefly analyze the relationship between form and content in this poem.
The poet addresses an unknown listener at the beginning of the poem asking him not to "go gentle into that good night". At first, the metaphor is confusing, but we later realize that Dylan Thomas is using the night as a metaphor for death while a day could be a man's lifetime and sunset his demise. The speaker argues old men to put up a fight that they should not just die peacefully. Here, the poet admits that clever people understand that, "traveling into the dark" is inevitable; after all, it's a natural process. Therefore, there is a continuation of the use of the metaphor of the night as death. In the second stanza, the lines are confusing, but if we untangle the syntax it makes sense and reads that: even though smart people know death is inevitable, they don't accept it and let themselves fade away because they may not have achieved everything they are capable. It is embedded in the fifth line where the speaker tells us that "their words had forked no lighting" which could mean that they have not made many marks in the world. The phrase, the bright electric current of the lightning bolts adds to the metaphors which suggest that living is more like being electrocuted than being basked in the sun ("Dylan Thomas? Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night").
As we read on into the poem, we realize that the images are twisted up to fit the form of the villanelle. In the seventh line he speaks of "good men" and on the ninth wall mentions "rage" he implies that good men fight death with all their might. He adds to an image of the "last wave" where he indicates that the new generation is like a wave and the death is like the breaking of the wave on the shore, the sea is like life, and the dancing waters in the oceans are like beautiful actions. He further says that their frail deeds could have danced in the green bay in the eighth line. We take it the metaphor green meant the life in the sea, that is, the plants of the sea. It brings out the sea as life and coming to the shore as death. He describes the action of the good men as frail which is not clear that what weakens this deeds, whether their personalities or the age. In the tenth line, Thomas describes another category of men who are the wild men. He says that they "caught and sang the sun in flight" where the sun represented the beauty in the mortal world while flight meant that life was fast moving leading to death. In the next stanza, he addresses the grave men who were metaphorically used to explain that this kind was severe or was almost dead. He, however, say that they see with a blinding sight which implies that besides these men being weak or blind, they still have the power to choose how they die.
In the last stanza, the speaker turns to speaking directly to his father. He describes the father's situation as "sad height." It could metaphorically mean that he is standing at the edge of the mortal world, where he gets to choose whether to jump over or walk back. Thomas begs his father to cry; his tears could either be a blessing or a curse. It would be a blessing and heroic if he recovered and a curse in the case of death. The poem ends with the refrains which are an emphasis that his father should rave and flight not to die ("Dylan Thomas? Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night").This poem is an inspirational talk that could be applied in different walks of life. Say for example on a person who is almost giving up in a competition; you could encourage them to go in and put up a fight. Possibly because, putting their soul and energy into it could be game-changing.
Aapone. "Dylan Thomas." Dylan Thomas, 17 Aug. 2016, www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/dylan-thomas.
Birtwhistle, John. "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night." BMJ supportive & palliative care 6.3 (2016): 381-382.
Dickenson, Donna, Malcolm Johnson, and Jeanne Samson Katz, eds. Death, dying and bereavement. Sage, 2000.
"Dylan Thomas? Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night." Genius, genius.com/Dylan-thomas-do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night-annotated.
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