Themes: Death

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Type: Villanelle

Background

  • Written by Dylan Thomas when his father was dying, and the poem is addressed to him
  • It is a vigorous, impassioned diatribe against the inevitability of death
  • The poet is encouraging his father to fight against death with all this strength
  • Describes valiant and praiseworthy behaviour of different kinds of outstanding men – “wise men”, “good men”, “grave men” and hopes his father will be one of these things

Form and Structure

  • The poetic form is villanelle (19 lines) – 5 groups of 3 lines (tercets) and a final quatrain
  • Rhyming scheme of the tercets are ABA and the quatrain is ABAA
  • Villanelle is to create emphasis with repetition – Thomas builds up rage and indignation
  • The pattern of villanelle is based on the idea of alternating night and day.
  • Thomas is a very passionate poem but is organised into villanelle structure – but doesn’t lose it meaning

Language and Imagery

  • The poem contains many contrasts – night/day, gentle/rage, dying/light, sang/grieved, etc
  • There is imagery of sunrise/sunset – darkness preoccupies Thomas (extended metaphor – day represents life, night the afterlife and the sunset represents the moment of death)
  • Other imagery – lightning, blazing meteors & other images of lights and fire to liven intensity and capture the readers’ attention
  • Paradox – the dying men who have gone blind can still “see” in a metaphorical sense
  • Alliteration – “blinding” “blaze” “blind” and “be”
  • Intensely personal poem – which is a source of its passion
  • First line – “Do not go gentle into that good night” – repeated four times
READ:
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night: Summary & Analysis

Themes

  • Morality – lamented with the necessity and inevitability of death (to rebel against fate)
  • Old Age – He urges the dying to fight their fate and hold on. Thomas argues wild, reckless, passionate behavior is wiser than to calmly accept fate.
  • Transience – wonders what people could’ve done in the world had they been here longer
  • Wisdom/Knowledge – wise people are pictured as being calm and collected, but this poem suggests is a determination to struggle – more dignified to fight than lie down & die
  • Family – spoken from a son to a dying father, the poem suggests the intensity and power of family bods. Also works a role reversal – it is a son giving the father advice.

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