ENG125: Introduction to Literature
October 9, 2012
Death is an aspect of life that everyone becomes acquainted with sooner or later. Two poems that deal with the concept of death that I actually enjoyed reading and will compare to each others are “Death be not proud” and “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” These poems seem to have contradictory message about death, yet at the same time have similar attitudes toward it.” Death Be Not Proud” sees death as an opponent; however, one sees it as an adversary that is already defeated while the other sees it as an enemy that must be defeated. In “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” poet Dylan Thomas uses nighttime as a metaphor for death, and anguishes over his father’s willing acceptance of it. This poem is one of the most famous villanelles every written in the English language. Villanelles are 19 lines long, consisting of five stanzas of three lines each and concluding with a four line stanza. Villanelles uses only two rhymes, while repeating two lines throughout the poem, which then appear together at the conclusion of the last stanza. The two lines repeated in this work are “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” and “Do not go gentle into that good night.” The poet begins by proposing that the elderly should not easily accept their demise (“go gentle”), that they should fight it with vigor and intensity (“Old age should burn and rave at the close of day”). The choice of the words “burn” and “rave” suggest an uncontrolled, irrational response to imminent death, the incoherent expenditure of useless energy directed at a hopeless goal. Yet for the author, this seemingly senseless display is preferable to docile submission to the “close of day”. The son is seeing his father slowly wither before him, and he mourns the loss of vibrancy in the old man. Thomas knows that death is unavoidable, even “good”, but he does not concede that meekness must precede it. Thomas refuses this concession because the subject is his father, and he cannot bear to see his once strong parent as impotent and shriveling in his final months. At the end of the first stanza he urges his father to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”, again choosing a word (“rage”) that evokes an image of furious, even violent intensity. In the phrases “the close of day” and “the dying of the light”, Thomas shows us the extinguishing of the sun’s light and the approach of darkness as a metaphor for death, in that it is both natural and inevitable. Thomas encourages his father to resist death by providing examples of four different types of men who “rage” against this inevitable end. The four examples are a broad cross section of men that one might find worthy of emulating, and Thomas hopes that his father will emulate their vain resistance to finality.In the second stanza, Thomas points to “wise men” that know that death (“dark”) is the natural end of life (“right”). And because the light of their great words had no impact on even a single bolt of lightning (“their words had forked no lightning”), they “Do not go gentle into that good night”. The “wise” like everyone else must die, but here they do battle right up to the very end, so as to allow themselves more opportunities for greatness.He then points to “good men” that, having seen their final great moment disappear into the past (“the last wave by”), and knowing that their good deeds came to naught, when they might have shone brightly, as if they were rays of sunlight reflected by countless ripples on the green bay (“might have danced in a green bay”), still “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”In the fourth stanza he provides the example of the “wild men” that lived life full of mirth and vivacity (“who caught and sang the sun in flight”) only to discover “too late” how their lives were, in fact, full of grief (“And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way”), still...
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