Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

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Poem #12
“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 that 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.

Dylan Thomas was a Welsh poet who died tragically young but left a powerful legacy of work. This poem, written to Thomas’s dying father, has a strict structure, but an unconventional message. Thomas encourages his father to rebel and struggle against death, what he calls the “dying of the light.” Although written for his father, Dylan Thomas himself ironically died the year after his father.

Poetry-Poem 12.1
© 2010: This lesson plan is the property of the Mensa Education & Research Foundation, www.mensafoundation.org. It is provided as a complimentary service to the public. Reproduction and distribution without modification are allowed. Images, links and linked content referenced herein are the property of the originating entities.

Taking it apart
“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.

Thomas sees life as a day – death is the closing of
that day, and the dying of the light is the sunset and
coming night. Notice the pairing of lines 1 & 3. Gentle
matches rage; good with dying; and night with light.
This is a mythological allusion to the gods who
could throw lightning bolts and have the skies
tremble at the sound of their voice. In this
stanza, Thomas says that even though men
accept that they are mortal and should die
(“Death is right”), he still encourages a rebellion
against it.

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,

Stanza 2 talks about how wise men approach
death. This stanza is about how “good” men do.
They see the things they did in life reflect like light
off of a 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.

Rather than being useless, it is the old, near
dead, “grave” men who can really see. “Gay” here
means “happy” or “carefree.”

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Notice the oxymorons here: “blinding sight”
and “blind eyes.” There is also a simile
comparing eyes that “blaze like meteors.”

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that 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.

From the general men discussed in the
previous stanzas, Thomas narrows to his
father in this stanza, pleading with him to fight
against death, pleading with him to still be
“fierce.” The lines that have been separated
throughout the poem come together in the
last couplet to reinforce the theme of the
poem.

Poetry-Poem 12.2
© 2010: This lesson plan is the...
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