Monday, October 28, 2013

"Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas: Translation, Summary, and Analysis

Title: "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night"
Author: Dylan Thomas
Published: 1952
Theme(s): A celebration of the human spirit

Poem in a nutshell: "Don't go down without a fight!"

Braveheart battle scene

Original Text
Modern English Translation
Do not go gentle into that good night, (a)
Old age should burn and rave close at day; (b)
Rage, rage against the dying of the light (a)
Don’t give in without a fight,
Old people on their deathbed should resist,
Fight, fight against death.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,(a)
Because their words had forked no lightning they(b)
Do not got go gentle into that good night. (a)
Though wise men know that death is inevitable,
Because their life’s work have not left the significant impact that they desired, they do not accept death.
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.
Good men, as they approach death, lament at how great their deeds could have been if they had lived longer, and thus they resist death.
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.
Adventurous, bold men, who captured the world around them only to later realize that the world they loved was slowly dissolving, they fight against the concept of death.
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,
Serious men, dying, realize that even old, blind men have a say in how they die, so they refuse to submit complacently to death.
And you, my father, there on the sad height, (a)
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.(b)
Do not go gentle into that good night. (a)
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (a)
And you, my father, on the brink of death,
Cry now, passionately, for it will be both a blessing and a curse to me, and I beg you do not submit to death--fight, fight against it.

Note about the author of the poem:

Dylan Thomas wrote this poem in May 1951 during his father's last days, who was suffering for a painful and prolonged illness.


In essence, the speaker of the poem suggests that people, at the end of their days, should resist death as much as they possibly can. Even though death is an inevitable part of life, the speaker even goes so far as to argue that old people should leave this world like a warrior, battling against death and furious that they must die. For, even if death is inevitable, people still have a say in how they die: with dignity and defiance.

  • Stanza One:
    • The speaker states that everyone should resist death and that old people should go out of this world kicking and screaming.
  • Stanza Two:
    • The speaker gets into specifics. He argues that even though the cleverest of men know the simple truth that death is imminent, they will resist the notion, wanting to live a little longer in order to complete their research and impart their knowledge. (They want to know that their life's work had a significant impact, that it had meaning).
  • Stanza Three:
    • Good men will resist death, reasoning that if they had more time on Earth, they could do bigger, better deeds.
  • Stanza Four:
    • Bold men, who had many adventures in life, will resist death by nature. They are not ready to give up their life of epic discovery.
  • Stanza Five:
    • Old men--serious, blind, and near death--will not submit willingly to death, knowing that, even on their death bed, they have the power to decide how they can die.
  • Stanza Six: 
    • The speaker, an extension of Thomas, begs his father not to give into to death--to keep fighting and go out like a warrior: defiant, heroic, and dignified.


  • Dylan Thomas's poem is a villanelle:
    • Villanelle was a form of Italian part-song, originating from Naples in the 16th century.
    • In poetry, it is a 19 line poem consisting of five tercets (five stanzas of three lines) and one quatrain (one stanza of four lines), with the first and third lines of the opening tercet recurring alternatively at the end of the other tercets and with both repeated at the close of the concluding quatrain. 
      • So, we see that the the lines "Do not go gentle into that good night" (the first line of the first tercet) and "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" (seen as the last line of the first tercet) are repeated throughout the poem. (**See above for the pattern).
  • The poem has a distinct form and rhyme scheme:
    • Villanelle
    • aba (for the five tercets) , abaa (for the last quatrain) **see poem above
  • Imagery:
    • Stanza two has imagery of failure.
    • Stanzas three and four's imagery suggest that humans are fallible.
    • Stanza five and six, as previously stated above, indicate that there may not be much choice in death, but there is the choice to fight and there is something innately heroic about facing death with a sense of dignity.

For more information on this poem, please visit the following links:

Schmoop has a wealth of information on the poem and clearly presents the reasons why "Do Not Go Gentle" is a prime example of a villanelle!

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