Dylan Thomas was one of the eminent writers of the twentieth century. He believed that writing was a kind of self-discovery. This belief of his was even reflected in his writings and his works remained distinctly personal, having metaphorical language, aesthetic imageries and psychological details. His writings were not only personal but had worldly themes like birth, death, love and religion.
‘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 poet gives example of four types of men- the wise, the good, the wild and the grave to persuade his father to rebel against the ‘dying of light’ and the ‘closing of day.’
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.
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. 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.
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. Though the poem is addressed to a particular person, it has an universal theme.
The poet conveys to the elderly people who are nearing death should not be discouraged by old age and their approaching death. The poet encourages them to live every moment of their life and fight against death. They should not mutely accept whatever comes their way. He wants the elderly to cling passionately to their lives.