Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"

Essay by johnjjp March 2004

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The purpose of this essay is to analyze one of the more popular and well known poems written by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night." The poem relates to the shortness of life and the inevitability of death that should not be easily accepted, which was a common theme for Dylan Thomas. This is ironic given the poet's early death from a drunken binge in New York City while he was visiting the United States as part of a tour in which he recited his poems to adoring fans.

Thomas' powerful message is contained in the form of a villanelle. The villanelle is a highly structured poem which makes use of a great deal of repetition in its standard nineteen lines. The first five stanzas are tercets while the sixth and last stanza is a quatrain. The first and last lines of the opening stanza are repeated throughout the poem.

The opening stanza's first line is also the last line of the second and fourth stanzas while it is the next to last line of the final stanza. The opening stanza's last line is also the last line of the third, fifth, and sixth stanzas.

A villanelle also uses a standard rhyme scheme. The first and third line of each stanza rhyme, as does the last line of the final stanza, with a keyword (in the case of this poem, the keyword is "night"). The second line of each stanza rhymes with a second keyword (in this case, "day"). Thus, Thomas expertly focuses on the poem's main theme of life and death (day and night). He uses enjambment where possible to downplay the end rhymes and thus give his poem a more natural, conversational tone.

In the first stanza of...