Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

sunrise on Nantucket

The previous post reminded me of this villanelle by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953). It takes a master to get unlimited life into  the limits of a formal poem. When it happens, the world is lit with a great and lasting work of art. They say Dylan Thomas was a drunk, and therefore entertaining in public performance when he toured America. The drinking must have been related not only to weakness in him but also to a need  he had to find cover for reading his brilliant poems aloud to fawning strangers. The drinking must have been a way out of polite talk around iced tea and cookies. The poems themselves rage with life.

There are different kinds of people in the world, all of them have their place and their disappointments. The father’s raging for the son means he’s giving him more of himself, blessing or curse, it doesn’t matter. See me, father. The sun seems to our eyes to sneak up and then quietly fade, but in itself the sun is a raging fire.

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.

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