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July 7, 2011 / blogaboutpoetry

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

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.


This is a heartbreaking poem by Thomas and contains a sentiment with which I think we can all relate. It takes the form of a villanelle (about which you can read here) which emphasises certain lines to really hammer the message in, to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” The final stanza suggests that Thomas is imploring his father to fight against death. What really breaks my heart is the clause “my father”, coupled with the personal pronoun “you”, which brings the poem from the intellectual to the personal and taps into our experiences with loved ones.

Some quick research reveals that there are readings of the poem that suggest a message of carpe diem (seize the day). I suppose this comes from the urging of the narrator to fight against the inevitability of death, perhaps by making the most of one’s life. Either way, you can take from this poem many meaningful ideas about life and death.

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