Do Not Go Gently InTo That Good Night
“Do Not Go Gently InTo That Good Knight”, is one of the famous poem of Dylan Thomas. It was written in the year 1951, quiet late in his career. The poem reveals the personal experience of the poet. This poem is addressed to Dylan’s father. His father was a robust military man but in his old age, he became weak and blind. Dylan was disturbed by his father’s infirm condition and through the poem, he wants to arouse him to the fierce man he was before. In the poem he gives the example of wise man, good man, wild man and grave man to inspire his father not to give to death easily. The poem is written in the villanelle form. It is a French poetic form: a 19-line poem, originally French that uses only two rhymes and consists of five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain. The first and third lines of the first stanza are alternately repeated as a refrain that closes the following stanzas, and are joined as a final couplet of the quatrain. (Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.) Dylan had profound respect for his father’s uncompromising and independent nature. He could not accept his soft nature, now tamed by illness. Dylan contains his strong emotions (as he finds his father facing death) in the poem through the complex poetic form, villanelle.
The form of the poem is in contrast to the content in the poem. The form is controlled, strict, and regular and the content is a message to his ill father to fight death: “Rage, rage against the dying of the night”. The irony here lies in awakening a dying person to show violent anger against the impending death. The form includes some repetitions which help Dylan to develop the poem gradually the theme of the poem with the primary focus on the important message. The first line of the first stanza “Do Not Go Gently InTo That Good Knight” and the last line “Rage, rage against the dying of the night”, repeat alternatively in the consecutive four stanzas and join as the final couplet of the quatrain at the end. The repetitions add emphasis to the central theme of the poem i.e., the poet inspires his sick father not to surrender in face of death.
In the first stanza of the poem, the poet commands his old father not to accept defeat in face of death. Even when infirm and old, man should be energetic and complain in face of death. In the last line of the stanza the poet calls his father to show strong anger in front of death. In this stanza, ‘good night’, ‘close of day’ and ‘dying of light’ are links to death. In the next stanza, the poet gives the example of wise men. The poet tells his father that wise men know that death is the ultimate truth. Wise men know that death is inevitable and just because their wisdom has not ‘forked any lightening’; they do not willingly accept death. They show their anger and resist the pull of death. In this stanza, ‘forked any lightening’, may mean that their wisdom could not control all the phenomena of the world. Their intelligence could not explain all the mysteries of the world. The poet may mean that their wisdom is insignificant in front of this vast universe and its mechanism. In the third stanza, the poet gives the example of good men. He says that good men weeps over what their future activities might have achieved, however frail (feeble) they might have been ’dancing in the green bay’. The poet means to say here that the good men and their actions are small or insignificant in face of life and this world. They too storm and rave against death.
In the fourth stanza, the poet gives the example of wild men. The poet says that wild men who are full of life and song and who live an untamed life realize too late the temporal nature of their actions and mourn perhaps because it was their only focus as dusk approaches. Wild men who live life to the fullest realize too late the temporal nature of those activities. They regret that it was their only focus. They too struggle against death. In the fifth stanza, the poet gives the example of grave men. The poet says that grave men or serious men who near death because of some illness and also now blind realize that those eyes could also shine with joy and happiness. They understand too late that they could have enjoyed life more, also fight death. Finally in the last quatrain the poet address his father that he is at a ’sad height’ indicating his loneliness. He means to say that the path which his father will travel, he cannot travel along with him. He wants his father to curse him or bless his. Curse him because he has more days on this earth and so will live more and bless him for the life he will live so that he has a better life. He prays that his father should fight the death which is near and not give up so easily. In other words he wants his father to regain the fierce spirit of the military man he was and not to be soft and gentle in face of death.
Through out the poem, Dylan places small men against the vastness of the universe and shows the insignificance of their actions. The poet calls again and again to his father to rage against death but he and well as the readers realize that the rage of the dying man would be ineffective against the inevitable force of death.
The form of the poem is villanelle. This form was originally used for pastoral, simple and light verse. Figure of speech like metaphor, simile, paradox, personification and oxymoron are used in the poem. In the first stanza of the poem; ‘good night’, ‘closing of the day’, and ’dying of the light’ are metaphors. They stand for death. The line “Old age should burn and rave’ is a personification.Line eight “Their deeds might have danced in a green bay” employs personification as well as metaphor. ‘blinding sight’ is an oxymoron. The line “Blind eyes could blaze like meteors” is a simile. “Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray” is a paradox.
“Do Not Go Gently InTo That Good Night” is the best know poem of Dylan Thomas. It is also a touching poem containing the emotions of death and suffering. The images used by the poet are beautiful and yet extremely true and the language is simple but powerful.
“DYLAN THOMAS: DO NOT GO GENTLY INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT”
14 May 2007.16 May 2007 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/dylanthomas/bibliography/pages/do_not_go_gentle.shtml>
“Dylan Thomas ‘Do Not Go’ Analysis and Commentary by Linda Sue Grimes”
14 May 2007.16 may 2007 <http://poetry.suite101.com/article.cfm/dylan_thomas___do_not_go_gentle_>