Rebellion Against Death
“Do not go gentle into that good night” may be considered Dylan Thomass most recognizable and popular poems. First published in Botteghe Oscure in 1951, the poem later appeared as part of the collection called “In Country Sleep.” Written for Thomass dying father, the poem explores the theme of death and the resistance thereof.
Written as a villanelle in which only two sounds are rhymed, such as night/light and day/they, and containing nineteen lines, the poem rhymes the first and third lines, alternating the third line of each successive stanza and closes with a couplet. The villanelle was first utilized in English language poetry in the 19th century and draws upon French poetic models.
Rife with undertones of rebellion, the opening line of “Do not go gentle into that good night” sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Thomas urges his father, and the men referenced in the poem to fight against death, which is considered inevitable. Thomas encourages the fight against death stating “old age should burn and rave at close of day” and to not yield so easily (Thomas, 213). Thomas further describes “wise men” who “at their end know dark is right” also fight against death and “do not go gentle into that good night.” Thomas continues to describe “good men,” “wild men,” and “grave men,” and regardless of what they did or did not accomplish in life, points out they “rage against the dying of the light” and fight death to the very end.
“Do not go gentle into that good night” also exemplifies Thomass fears of death and of losing his father.
While he describes how men of various backgrounds should fight death and aim to cling on to their lives, Thomas appears fearful of his father losing his battle against “the dying of the light.” Thomas appears to plead with his father, urging him to “curse” and “bless” him with his “fierce tears;” Thomass contradicting use of cursing and blessing may make reference to the alleviation of pain and suffering brought on by death as well as the grief that death inflicts on the surviving members of a loved ones family. Though Thomas knows that death is a welcome relief to a suffering man, he cannot but be envious of death and wish to prolong the suffering of a dying man so that he may spend more time with him. These issues may point to Thomass unpreparedness and his inability to deal with death at a personal level.
Reference has been made to Thomas drawing upon themes of death as seen in John Donnes poetry. For example, Donnes poem “A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning” appears to have inspired Thomas and begins, “As virtuous men pass mildly away,/And whisper to their souls to go,/Whilst some of their sad friends do say/The breath goes now, and some say, No” (Donne, 1075). The opening stanza of “A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning” parallels the.