‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Night’ was written by Dylan Thomas in 1945, when his father D. J Thomas was seriously ill. The poem was published in his collection, In Country Sleep, after his father’s death. The poem is a protest against the idea of accepting death quietly. It discusses the various ways to approach death in old age and advocates struggling against death until the last breath.
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The first stanza begins the poet requesting his father not to be soft on death. He asks his father not to accept death quietly but to fight against it with great force and passion. The word ‘good night’ in the first line refer to a ‘good death’ and the poet encourages his father to resist death in a gentle way. The use of the word ‘rage’ in line shows the poet exhorting his father to imply a forceful resistance to death.
The second stanza describes the attitude and feelings of wise men who realize that death is approaching. These wise men can be identified with philosophers and scholars. As these wise men know that death is inevitable, they do not accept death passively. Scholars are known and measured by their words. They are not concerned if their words fail to affect people. They know they still have a long way to go, their many words are still left unspoken or unwritten and their goals have not been yet accomplished. Therefore, they hold on to life till the very end to achieve their goals.
In the third stanza, the poet describes how the good men face death. ‘Good’ here refers to moralists or men who live an upright life. Dylan Thomas believes that true goodness is composed of fighting the inevitability of death with all your might and force.
‘Last wave’ can be interpreted this way. The recent generation of men is termed as the ‘last wave.’ These generation of men are about to die in the similar manner like the ocean waves crashing against each other.
‘Crying’ has two meanings. It can either simply mean speaking out or it can mean in the literal sense, weeping or mourning.
The ‘bay’ is green as it is brimming with life, plants, seaweeds and algae.
In the fourth stanza, the poet describes the reactions of wild men towards death. These men are too much in action their whole life and they forget to realize that they are mortal. They waste their lives in adventures and excitements. They do not give in because they hold on these adventures to perhaps correct some of their mistakes. The ‘wild men’ can be a reference to the poets who captures the beauty of nature and sings the ‘sun in flight.’ These men feel they cannot be happy when their total output was an elegy.
The fifth stanza is about the attitude of grave men. The word ‘grave’ here has two meaning, seriousness and death. These men realize that even though they are weak and losing their sight, they can still use their strength to fight against death. Metaphorically speaking, though their eyes are going blind, they can see with an overwhelming certainty or ‘blinding sight.’ The ‘blinding sight’ here signifies Dylan’s father who had lost his sight. They believed that instead of getting snuffed like candles, they can ‘blaze like meteors.’
Therefore, these men know they are going to die and so they see the world with twinkle in their eyes, wanting to see as much as they can before leaving the world.
The final stanza is about the poet addressing his father. The ‘sad height’ refers to his closeness to death. The poet asks his father to bless him or curse but to cry with a lot of passion that is to fight fiercely against death. He pleads him not to give in to death but to fight against with all your might.
Form and Structure:
‘Do Not Go Gentle Into The Night’ is structured in a Villanelle. A villanelle is a fixed form of fixed verse form of French origin. The word has been derived from the Italian word, villan meaning peasant. So it is considered to have come from the sixteenth century peasant songs. The form of the villanelle indicates that it descended from a choral dance song; it has a refrain and self-improvised lyrics in each stanza.
Sound and Sense:
‘Do Not Go Gentle Into The Night’ has iambic pentameter as the kind of meter. The vocabulary contains seven times as many monosyllables as polysyllables
The poem, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into The Night’ has the following symbolisms-
* ‘Night’ in the poem symbolizes death
* ‘Burn and rave’ are frequently associated with the passion of youth; here the poet wants the elderly to sing passionately.
* ‘Close of day’ symbolizes approaching death
* ‘blaze like meteors’ symbolize living life with full intensity.
* ‘Sad height’ symbolizes closeness to death
* ‘Gentle’ is used as an adjective and it refers to the personality of the poet’s father.
The examples of alliteration are as follows-
*Do not go gentle into that good night
*Rage, rage against the dying of the light
*..blinding sight/ Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay
‘Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay’ is an example of fine simile in the poem, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into The Night’
An oxymoron is a paradox in which two terms of ordinary usage are contraries and conjoined.
‘Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray’ is an example of oxymoron in the poem. The poet is asking his father to ‘bless’ as well as ‘curse’ him.
The poem has the use of parallelism by describing the actions of three different kind of men, ‘wise men’, ‘good men’, ‘wild men’ and ‘grave men.’ The speaker wants his father to have the qualities of these men.
The poet has used a number of contrasts in ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into The Night’ to highlight its theme. They are as follows-
*gentle and rage
*night and day
*light and dark
*blind and sight
*grave and grey
*curse and bless
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