‘Do not go gentle’ by Dylan Thomas

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The poem “Do not go gentle” by Dylan Thomas was addressed to his father, who was going through all the hardships of old age and illnesses. Thomas Sr. was considered an overbearing and ambitious person. He had a degree and worked as a tutor, but in his later years went blind, and no one cared about him. His children, with the exception of Dylan, left him, as they remembered how cruel he was to them earlier.

In his poem “Do not go gentle” Dylan Thomas demonstrates a remarkable admiration at his father’s courage and achievements. Yet, the poet’s biographers suppose, that in this part the poem was inspired not by his father, or at least not only by his father. We can clearly notice parallels with another strong and forceful person who went blind in his later years, John Milton, the poet.

Lines of the poem can be heard in the Interstellar movie. The main message of the poem appears in the words brining all the parts of the text together: “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”. The fact that the poet defied death, defied the transience of life, can be seen in several works he wrote. For instance, the screenplay “The Doctor and The Devils” tells the story of an anatomist, who is trying to find his way to eternal life (in the form of eternal fame) autopsying more and more cadavers, provided by graverobbers. The doctor purchases cadavers in spite of the fact that those people were murdered (and, very likely, the purpose of the murders was to sell the bodies afterwards). So, the theme of death – and strive for eternal life – is close both to the poet and his admirers.

By repeating again and again: “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”, the poet inspires himself and his reader to tilt at windmills – struggle with the time and transience of life, with the human weakness in front of old age and helplessness, which accompanies it.

Dylan Thomas addresses his father (either biological or spiritual, whom we assume to be Milton) again and again throughout his work. Words are different, yet the meaning stays the same: the poet tells his father to defy death, to rage against it as long as he can.

The poet finishes his work with a stanza, which shows the essence of the poem’s message:

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Out of the numerous works Dylan Thomas managed to write in his rather short life, this poem is most often translated into other languages. Hardly a surprise, taking into consideration that even now, a hundred years later, the number of people who don’t want to come to terms with death, is hardly less than it was in the time of Thomas.

Reviewed by Katerina Sidoruk

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