Sunday, August 7, 2016

Poetry Sunday: Do not go gentle into that good night

I have another birthday coming up in a couple of days. They seem to come more and more often now.

Facing onrushing time makes me think of one poem in particular. "Do not go gentle into that good night" was Dylan Thomas' ode to his father whose health was failing. It could also have been self-directed for Thomas had his own struggles, mainly alcohol related.

The poet is urging his reader (his father) to keep up the fight, to struggle to survive as long as he possibly can, even in the face of death and suffering. It is in many ways a paean to life, in all of its difficulties and frailties. Life is worth living, the poet says; it is worth fighting for. 

Do not go gentle into that good night

by Dylan Thomas1914 - 1953

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 the 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.

6 comments:

  1. Whoa, good one. The last time I read it I was considerably younger. Now it means something different. I am not dying but every year it gets closer, I know. So I will continue to rage, rage against the dying of the light!

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    1. It's interesting how poems - and other things - that we've known all of our lives change meaning as we get older, isn't it?

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  2. I thought of this poem often in the past year when my mother's health began to fail. On the one hand, there is a time when you wish for no more fighting and to accept the light peacefully. But until that time comes, I think it's important to continue to "burn" and "rage." I also like Tennyson's "Ulysses," whose aging hero is determined to "strive, to see, and not to yield." On a much lighter note, I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Dorothy!

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    1. Thank you, Rose, for the good wishes and for that thoughtful comment.

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