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Essay/Term paper: Do not go gentle into that good night

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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This is a poem about the joy and sadness that comes with the flash of burning life

soon blown out with nothing more then a sigh. It focuses on the sadness as those we care

for go far too gently into that good night. Of those who left before their time. As this

poem was written specifically for Thomas"s dying father it is even more poignant in the

emotional weight the words convey.

This poem radiates with intensity, in particular, the verse beginning: "wild men

who caught and sang the sun in flight" is simply beautiful poetry. Addressed to the poet's

father as he approaches blindness and death. The relevant aspect of the relationship was

Thomas's profound respect for his father, tall and strong in Thomas"s passionate mind but

now tamed by illness and the passing of time. The acceptance of death and a peaceful rest

afterwards are pushed aside in favor of an ungentle rage so blind it almost mirrors the

vigor of childhood frustration at the nature of things we are powerless to change.

Further more, the poem speaks as much of the loss of love and the feelings of one

left behind as of death itself. The meaning of the poem stays shrouded in metaphors like

the references to night as "good". He acknowledged his father stood somewhere he had

not, and perhaps saw what he could not. Thomas was not ready to let go of such an

important part of his life even though his father was facing an irreversible course, and

Thomas"s grief was perhaps all the greater. His statement of this love and grief remain

touching. Perhaps the feelings of his fading father should have been more important than

his own rage. These emotion seem to run unchallenged throughout the poem even though

the style beckons structure and discipline within the theme of "night" and "light".

In the tercet"s Thomas gives examples of men who meet death differently yet

alike. The first are "wise men," perhaps philosophers. They know "dark is right" because

they know what to look for at the end of life. In spite of their wisdom, however, they "do

not go gentle" because their words "had forked no lightning." This phrase has the force of

a symbol suggesting that wise men had lacked the ultimate power of nature. Thomas

therefore seems to be saying that the wise men were not wise enough, that their words

created no ultimate linguistic reality but vague speculation of death as a good thing.

Subsequently, the good men of the third tercet permitted life to pass them by. The festive

imagery of "bright /Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay," evokes a wonder

world of joyful activities in contrast with the "frail deeds." Why, we wonder, do the good

men regret the past just as the last wave goes by?

As for the style it is most definitely an elevated style of poetic diction within a

villanelle format. The term originated in Italy (Italian villanella from villano: "peasant");

and later used in France to designate a short poem of popular character favored by poets

in the late 16th century. Five tercets are followed by a quatrain, with the first and last

line of the stanza repeated alternately as the last line of the subsequent stanzas and

gathered into a couplet at the end of the quatrain. The stanza is repeated for dramatic

effect and tone : " Rage, rage against the dying of the light". In this case this particular

stanza, gaining much of its impact from repetition and variation, paints a clear a definite

picture of the author"s strong emotions. And all this on only two rhymes. Thomas further

compounds his difficulty by having each line contain about the same amount of syllables.

The villanelle seems like a very regimented and difficult form; the effortless ease

with which Thomas makes it appear adds clarity to the complex emotions describes in the

poem. The rhetoric is never jumbled or ruff, and always profoundly moving; the images

are far reaching, yet terribly true; the complicated rhyme scheme simply adds to the many

dimensions of the poem.

In conclusion, the events surrounding Thomas at the time do not make up all the

character of this poem. As it is often the case, this work stands on it"s own. It either speak

to one, or not. But no matter what personal reasons inspired Thomas, the poem speaks to

our need to make our lives count against our inevitable deaths. Though the theme is

paradoxical, it declares to all: Live your life while you are actually dying. Do not accept

death passively. Live intensely and resist death passionately. All the beautifully

contrasting metaphors where Thomas"s way of gracefully asking his father not to leave

him alone, in the dark.


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