Theme of death in the poetry of Dylan Thomas W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot.
Prepared by: Ifte Khairul Alam
Departent of English
Stamford University Bangladesh
All I know about death Can be said in one breath:
It‘s tall and it‘s short And it shouldn‘t ought. (Dylan Thomas, 1937, Lycett 169)
Death has been and always will be an interesting and compelling topic among poets and authors alike. Death sheds a mysterious vale over life and is often avoided or dreaded within people causing diversity among the reactions of modern poetry and thought. Mortality can be treated as a crisis, a destination, with significance or without, as well as (sadly) by some as a goal. Death provides a wide spectrum of ideas that can be expanded upon with dignity or as a magnanimous ideal. The poets that I have read and pondered deliver an array of insight on the topic; from its grotesqueness to its humbleness. They approach or meditate upon death with disgust as well as with nonchalance. Overall I think that although the poets each dissect and interpret our inevitable encounter in variation they all would agree in its mystery and finality.
Death is a prevalent theme in the poetry of W.B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas’s poetry. Each of them has examined death from varied angles. One’s perception doesn’t resemble with others. Eliot views death as a process to reach God. Moreover, he expresses his torment to observe the spiritual death of the modern people. On the other hand, Yeats exalts death in his poetry. In many of his poems, he recollects the memories of the heroes who laid down their life for the independence of Ireland. Besides, he cherished the notion that death will immortalize him. Yeats had a personal theory on art that art is superior to nature. Nature is changeable but art is artificial and it is unchangeable and ceaseless. Indeed, he wished to be immortal through his works. Dylan Thomas was highly affected by the thought of death and his poems reflect that thought. Majority of his poems are concern with death. Thomas knew that death is the end of life but he couldn’t accept it. In other words, he was an escapist.
Now I am going to discuss elaborately the demonstration of death respectively in the poetry of T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas and W. B. Yeats.
It is mentioned earlier that to Eliot death is a mode to make connection with God. In his early life Eliot was a cynic. He used to lead an amorous and immoral way of life and he didn’t have firm belief in Christian religion. In the third phase of his poetic career he shows his pessimistic attitude towards the modern society and men. ‘Sweeney among the Nightingale’ is a classic example of Eliot’s pessimism. In this poem death denotes the lost of religious, social, and moral values and decays of society. Sweeney is the central character of the poem. He is a beast like man who devotes his life to fulfill his sensuous pleasure. He is found in a brothel enclosed by two prostitutes who are engaged to entertain him. However, he suspects to be murdered by these harlots and avoids them. Indeed, Sweeney is depicted as the representative of modern men and his actions reflect modern men’s life. Modern men are very much materialistic and they are busy with the worldly affairs. The purpose of sex is procreation but Sweeney visits brothel in order to fulfill his carnal desire. In addition, a prostitute is a threat to the marital bond. In other words, a prostitute symbolizes the distortion of religious and social values. In a nutshell, Eliot portrays the death of spirituality and distortion of social and religious values. At the fourth phase of his poetic career Eliot wrote religious poems. He joined the Anglican Church of England and regained his religious belief. In...
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