Death has been one of the most common topics for poetry throughout literary history. Dylan Thomas, an early twentieth century poet, also tackled this difficult idea with his poem, "Do not go gentle into that good night." By utilizing contrast and comparisions, this villanelle serves as an exploration and attempted explanation both for the reader and Thomas.
"Do not go gentle into that good night" is arranged in the villanelle format; consisting of nineteen lines that form five tercets and a quatrain, the first and third lines of the first tercet are alternately repeated "as a refrain closing the succeeding stanzas" and meet as the final couplet in the quatrain. ("Villanelle" 1) Thomas chose to discuss a new view on dying with each tercet. The first tercet is an introduction to the poem, explaining Thomas' idea that, rather than mourn the thought of death, a man should "affirm life and existence" ("Do not
" 51). This is very clear in the second line, "Old age should burn and rave at close of day" (DiYanni 691), stating that the excitement of life should not fade but grow with age ("Do not
The second stanza begins the four stanza-long inspection of Thomas' first idea. Each stanza is dedicated to a specific type of "dying man." The first villanelle in this series describes "wise men" as being knowledgeable enough to understand death is inevitable. However, Thomas finds fault in these men, as "their words have forked no lightening..." (DiYanni 691), or, have ideas that may not have materialized or lay unfinished, and therefore are not ready for their passing ("Do not
" 52). This is especially evident in the second line, which, unlike any other line in the poem, ends abruptly with the word "they" and suddenly leads into the refrain, instead of including punctuation or a complete line ("Do not
The next stanza defines good, moral men as "crying" and raging against "the dying of the light" (DiYanni 691) as their calm lives have left no mark on the...
Cited: Galens, David, Ed. "Dylan Thomas 1914-1953." Poetry Criticism. Vol. 52. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 2004. 207-338.
Napierkowski, Marie and Mary K. Ruby, Ed. "Do not go gentle into that good night." Poetry For Students. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998. 49-60.
Thomas, Dylan. "Do not go gentle into that good night." Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Robert DiYanni, Ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2000. 691.
--. "Villanelle." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition- Online. 2006. Houghton Mifflin Company. 10 Apr 2006. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=villanelle.
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