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Monday, 11 June 2012

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Dylan Thomas 1914 - 1953

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.
The form of this poem is known as a vilanelle; a strict format with nineteen lines - five tercets (three lines) followed by a final quatrain of four lines. Notice that each stanza has the same ABA rhyming scheme.
The lines 'Do not go gentle into that good night' and 'Rage, rage against the dying of the light' have become iconic in their own right. The influence of this poem has become widespread since it's publication. It is an exhortation to resist the onset of death, written as his own father was dying. The poet gives the examples of how  'wise men', 'good men', 'wild men' and 'grave men' do not meekly accept the inevitable.
Television writers have borrowed deeply from the poem including Doctor Who, Northern Exposure, Mad Men and Family Guy. The poem's connotation with death and endings was used to effect in the final episodes of St. Elsewhere and Roseanne.
As well as taking his name from Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan was hugely influenced by his writing style and developed Thomas's themes of conflict in his own lyric writing.


David said...

Dear bazza,
This has to be one of my favourite poems. As you say, certain lines have become iconic, and one might say that Dylan himself is something of an icon. Thanks, bazza, for reminding me what a great poet he was.
Very Best Wishes,

klahanie said...

Hey bazza,
One of my favourites from Dylan Thomas. I'm glad you mentioned that was how Bob Dylan got his career name.
As usual, my friend, a most informative posting.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I do love this very sad poem. I think it pulls at everyone's heart as we all will experience the death of a loved one at some time.

bazza said...

David: It is sad that an early death is one of the best ways to become an icon!

bazza said...

Gary: Happy to oblige sir! One of the things I enjoy about writing this blog is the research into my favourite things, and then sharing it with appreciative people such as yourself.

bazza said...

SO,AC-M: A poem is sometimes the only way to articulate certain ideas and feelings. It's hard to imagine how the poet could have better expressed himself. As you suggest Arleen, we will all find resonance with this at sometime.

Dixie@dcrelief said...

Bazza: A teacher in my 8th grade year loved the world of Dylan Thomas. The exposure taught me a lot about life, the universe, and everything. Ironically, before classes began for each day, the school's principal played popular music; exposure to Bob Dylan occurred simultaneously. Your post contained a connection I've never known. Small world!

John said...

I think that I have learnt far more from reading your wonderful blog than I ever did at school! A truly informative and interesting post, for that I thank you.

bazza said...

Dixie: Another new photo? You seem to be going through some restless changes!
Bob Dylan, of course, had a huge number of influences on his early output and Thomas was one of many.
A good school teacher can really have a big input into one's life choices and preferences I think.

bazza said...

John: The feeling is entirely mutual, I assure you!

Anonymous said...

Hot from the desk of Sir Tom Eagerly:
I knew lots of poetry once Bazza. Most of it was filthy of course. I believe it was Dylan Thomas who said "An alcoholic is someone you don't like who drinks as much as you do."
Cheeky boy!

joanne said...

I only recently discovered Dylan Thomas' poetry and was so thrilled to click through and find this one here. The words are timeless and grip the heart no matter when you encounter them. I'm not surprised to find them here :)

joanne fox said...

Villanelles must be very difficult to write. With such a challenging structure I am amazed he got it to make sense, let alone achieving such a satisfying poem!

bazza said...

Sir Tom: Do you think he had you in mind?

bazza said...

Joanne: The best poetry is always timeless. Thank you for your kind words; it's always good to hear from you.

bazza said...

Joanne Fox: I don't know but maybe choosing a solid structure upon which to fit ones work may be easier in some ways. This form of the vilanelle is actually quite modern and different to the medieval form when is was likely to have been a shepherd's song.

Kelly said...

I like this poem. I think it inspires strength when facing the reality of death. Death of one's self. Of loved ones. And so on. He had a way with words and, more importantly, he was able to express and convey his thoughts and words with acute observation of human nature.

And now, I must prove myself to the box below that I am human. :)

Also: Have a great upcoming weekend, Bazza! The great and magnificent Kezza has had a tough week this week but was finally able to make it to your humble abode here. Glory be!

bazza said...

Kezza: I hope your week gets better for you. Thanks for taking the time to visit.
Sometimes a poem is the best way to express these kind of feelings. Sadly Dylan Thomas died himself a few years after his father, probably from alcohol poisoning.

Aliza Pershing Krepps said...

Definitely not 'feel good' poem without distinct line of story, but a very nice complex rhyme of a nightmare.

bazza said...

Aliza: I suppose you could say it's a 'feel bad' poem! It's not a narrative of course but more a snapshot of a particular time in the writer's life.

Susan Scheid said...

I do find it astonishing when a poet, as in this iconic poem, achieves so much emotional resonance in such a tightly constricted form. Hmm, do you suppose Bob Dylan ever tried his hand at a vilanelle?

bazza said...

Susan: Clever trick isn't it?
I don't think even the best song lyrics are actually poetry although Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan come near.
On the other hand, try singing 'Do Not Go Gently'...

Dixie@dcrelief said...

Restless changes, indeed, but happy!
Happy Father's Day, Bazza!

Mimi Lenox said...

I can always count on you to take me on a trip down memory lane.
Never forgotten.

bazza said...

Dixie: Hi, I've just returned from four wonderful days in Edinburgh, Scotland. I think I might have replied from my Blackberry but it doesn't show on the Blog. Anyway, to repeat, (as far as I can remember), thanks for the good wishes!

bazza said...

Hi Mimi: See my reply to Dixie above. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. You should know that I visit your lovely Blog (Mimi Writes...) very often even if I don't comment!