Dylan Thomas’s villanelle “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” is addressed to his aged father. The poem is remarkable in a number of ways, most notably in that contrary to most common poetic treatments of the inevitability of death, which argue for serenity or celebrate the peace that death provides, this poem urges resistance and rage in the face of death. It justifies that unusual attitude by describing the rage and resistance to death of four kinds of men, all of whom can summon up the image of a complete and satisfying life that is denied to them by death.
First body paragraph
The first tercet of the intricately rhymed villanelle opens with an arresting line. The adjective gentle appears where we would expect the adverb gently. The strange diction suggests that gentle may describe both the going (i.e., gently dying) and the person (i.e., gentleman) who confronts death. Further, the speaker characterizes “night,” here clearly a figure for death, as “good.” Yet in the next line, the speaker urge that the aged should violently resist death, characterized as the “close of day” and “the dying of the light.” In effect, the first three lines argue that however good death may be, the aged should refuse to die gently, should passionately rave and rage against death.
The second body paragraph describes the second tercet.
The third body paragraph: the “good men”
The fourth body paragraph: the “wild men”
The fifth body paragraph: the “grave men”
The speaker then calls upon his aged father to join these men raging against death. Only in this final stanza do we discover that the entire poem is addressed to the speaker’s father and that, despite the generalized statements about old age and the focus upon types of men, the poem is a personal lyric. The edge of death becomes a “sad height,” the summit of wisdom and experience old age attains includes the sad knowledge of life’s failure to satisfy the vision we all pursue. The depth and complexity of the speaker’s sadness is startlingly given the second line when he calls upon his father to both curse nd bless him. These opposites richly suggest several related possibilities.
Death be not Proud and Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Death is an aspect of life that everyone becomes acquainted with sooner
or later. From my own experiences I am more familiar with death than I
could ever want to be. Poetry is something that is very difficult for
me to follow, but when it deals with concept that I am familiar with,
then I am able to associate with the soul of the writer. Two poems that
deal with the concept of death that I actually enjoyed reading and will
compare to each other are “Death be not proud” by Dylan Thomas and “Do
Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas.
Firstly, in “Death be not proud,” Donne tells Death that it is not
anything special. That Death is a low being that deals with the pitiful
aspects of life: war, disease, and murder. Donne says that Death is
nothing more than an aspect of life, just an event of the moment, “one
short sleep past, we wake eternally.” Donne goes on to explain that we
all will go through this door while on the way to another existence.
In comparison, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Thomas is a
battle cry against death. To fight against it until the last breath of
life is gone. That to give up life is the coward’s way. To his father,
who is dying from a protracted illness, Dylan says to show his love,
that it is all right to cry even though he has never seen his father
show the weakness of crying, just so long as he continues to fight
against the coming end.
In both poems, the writers are against Death; however Donne writes of
Death as a weak entity that has no real power, because after we die, we
will never have to face the worry of Death. Thomas, however, writes as
if he doesn’t believe in any kind of hereafter. An example of this is
the repeated cry “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” These are
two very different beliefs for an ineludible fact of life.
Death is something that I have faced and will eventually succumb to;