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Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

  • Date Submitted: 11/16/2015 05:04 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 64.3 
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Dylan Thomas's most famous poem is most known by its first line "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” this is one of the most famous examples 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 used this poem to address his dying father, lamenting his father's loss of health and strength, and begging 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 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 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. Long 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.

Finally, "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" is like an inspirational coach's speech. In the way that a coach encourages athletes to keep playing their hardest even when a loss is certain, the speaker of this poem...


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