Matthew Adams Penny Jacobs English 112
June 10, 2018
Explication of “Do not go gentle into that good Night”
The poem “Do not go gentle into that good Night” by Dylan Thomas is written to his father. This poem is an ode to old men at the end of their lives whom he suggests fighting against death for as long as they can. “Do not go gentle into that good Night” is written in villanelle, a deviation of iambic pentameter, which has nineteen lines dived into five three-line stanzas. Villanelles are required to have an intricate rhyme scheme, the lines rhymed are “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” from the end of stanza 1,3,5,6 and “Do not go gentle into that good night” from stanza 2 and 4.
The poems themes include mortality, old age, wisdom and knowledge and family. “Do not go gentle into that good Night” be moans the certain death of all humans and suggest that everyone fight against the inevitable, especially his father. Normally as people age, they near closer to their death. “Do not go gentle into that good Night” was originally written because Thomas’s father was nearing his death.
The first line can be interpreted as a command, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” instructing his father to not give up easily. The “good night” is a metaphor and a pun, paraphrased as a “good death”. The second line is used to bring together the first and third line. “Close of day”, along with being a metaphor, creates a connection with the “good night” in line one, while “burn” and “rave” connects to the third line of the poem. It as materializes old age as an object that can be burned and not an obstacle to fighting death. Line three again is also a command to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” “Dying of the light” is also a metaphor here. The tone for the first is gentle while the tone of the third is defiant. Stanzas 2 through 5 urges the audience, his father, to “rage against the dying of the light” exemplifying what “wise”, “good”, “wild”, and “grave” men do when facing death. Thomas uses these men to stress the message every kind of man must go out fighting death while at the same time reminding the audience of its imminent arrival. In the second stanza the first line is an example of Thomas’ reminder to the audience that death is undeniable, “Though wise men at their end know dark is right”, paraphrased “even the wise know that death is final”, still they are commanded to not go “gentle” into the “night”.