"Autobiographies of great nations are written in three manuscripts – a book of deeds, a book of words, and a book of art.
Of the three, I would choose the latter as truest testimony." - Sir Kenneth Smith, Great Civilisations

"I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine." - Leo Tolstoy

I have never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think the pleasures of not writing are so
great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again. - John Updike

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour
is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it." - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dylan Thomas - Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night


Laocoön and his Sons, Greek, (Late Hellenistic), perhaps a copy,
between 200 BC and 20 AD, White marble, Vatican Museum
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night


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 grieve 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.

- Dylan Thomas, 1951


Anaylsis


Written for his dying father, it is one of Thomas's most popular and accessible poems. The poem has no title other than its first line, "Do not go gentle into that good night," a line which appears as a refrain throughout. The poem's other equally famous refrain is "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."


When Dylan Thomas was a little boy his father would read Shakespeare to him at bedtime. The boy loved the sound of the words, even if he was too young to understand the meaning. His father, David John Thomas, taught English at a grammar school in southern Wales but wanted to be a poet. He was bitterly disappointed with his station in life.

Many years later when the father lay on his deathbed, Dylan Thomas wrote a poem that captures the profound sense of empathy he felt for the dying old man. The poem, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” was written in 1951, only two years before the poet’s own untimely death at the age of 39. Despite the impossibility of escaping death, the anguished son implores his father to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

The poem is a beautiful example of the villanelle form, which features two rhymes and two alternating refrains in verse arranged into five tercets, or three-lined stanzas, and a concluding quatrain in which the two refrains are brought together as a couplet at the very end. You can hear Thomas’s famous 1952 recital of the poem above.


Dylan Thomas's most famous poem, known by its first line "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," is also the most famous example of the poetic form known as the villanelle. Yet, the poem's true importance lies not in its fame, but in the raw power of the emotions underlying it. Thomas uses the poem to address his dying father, lamenting his father's loss of health and strength, and encouraging him to cling to life. The urgency of the speaker's tone has kept the poem among the world's most-read works in English for more than half a century.

Dylan Thomas was an introverted, passionate, lyrical writer (lyrical = a kind of poem or work that expresses personal feelings) who felt disconnected from the major literary movement of his day – the high modernism of T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens. Thomas was born in Wales in the year that World War I began, 1914, and his reactions to the events of the two World Wars strongly influenced his writing. His first book of poetry made him instantly famous at the age of twenty. Thomas embraced fame in much the same way that another passionate poet, Lord Byron, had done two hundred years earlier – by adopting wild rock-star behavior and intense displays of feeling, especially in his public poetry readings.

Thomas was also known to be a heavy drinker. Sadly, only two years after writing "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" about his father's approaching death, Thomas himself died, probably from alcohol poisoning and abuse, although the exact details of his death are controversial. His premature death at the age of 39 is reminiscent of the early death of another Romantic poet, John Keats. Like Keats, Thomas died before he fully expressed his literary potential; but, also like Keats, he left behind a few enduring works that promise to last through the ages.

Poetic Form

Wikipedia - Villanelle Form

The villanelle consists of five stanzas of three lines (tercets) followed by a single stanza of four lines (a quatrain) for a total of nineteen lines. It is structured by two repeating rhymes and two refrains: the first line of the first stanza serves as the last line of the second and fourth stanzas, and the third line of the first stanza serves as the last line of the third and fifth stanzas. The rhyme-and-refrain pattern of the villanelle can be schematized as A1bA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1A2 where letters ("a" and "b") indicate the two rhyme sounds, upper case indicates a refrain ("A"), and superscript numerals (1 and 2) indicate Refrain 1 and Refrain 2.

The pattern is below set against "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas:


The villanelle has no established meter, although most 19th-century villanelles have used trimeter or tetrameter and most 20th-century villanelles have used pentameter. Slight alteration of the refrain line is permissible.



Poem Recital by Dylan Thomas




A Brief  Introduction Dylan Thomas
& Poem Recital by Anthony Hopkins




Elegy, Poem Recital by Richard Burton



Elegy
by Dylan Thomas


This poem was left unfinished at Dylan Thomas' death.
The first seventeen lines were untouched,
but the rest was reconstructed/edited from
Thomas' manuscript by his friend Vernon Watkins.


Too proud to die; broken and blind he died
The darkest way, and did not turn away,
A cold kind man brave in his narrow pride

On that darkest day, Oh, forever may
He lie lightly, at last, on the last, crossed
Hill, under the grass, in love, and there grow

Young among the long flocks, and never lie lost
Or still all the numberless days of his death, though
Above all he longed for his mother's breast

Which was rest and dust, and in the kind ground
The darkest justice of death, blind and unblessed.
Let him find no rest but be fathered and found,

I prayed in the crouching room, by his blind bed,
In the muted house, one minute before
Noon, and night, and light. the rivers of the dead

Veined his poor hand I held, and I saw
Through his unseeing eyes to the roots of the sea.
(An old tormented man three-quarters blind,

I am not too proud to cry that He and he
Will never never go out of my mind.
All his bones crying, and poor in all but pain,

Being innocent, he dreaded that he died
Hating his God, but what he was was plain:
An old kind man brave in his burning pride.

The sticks of the house were his; his books he owned.
Even as a baby he had never cried;
Nor did he now, save to his secret wound.

Out of his eyes I saw the last light glide.
Here among the liught of the lording sky
An old man is with me where I go

Walking in the meadows of his son's eye
On whom a world of ills came down like snow.
He cried as he died, fearing at last the spheres'

Last sound, the world going out without a breath:
Too proud to cry, too frail to check the tears,
And caught between two nights, blindness and death.

O deepest wound of all that he should die
On that darkest day. oh, he could hide
The tears out of his eyes, too proud to cry.

Until I die he will not leave my side.)


- Dylan Thomas, 1953



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