Dylan Thomas’s Villanelle, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Dylan Thomas’s poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, is clearly a villanelle in the traditional sense: it fulfills all the requirements of the classic French verse form. It consists of six stanzas – five tercets and a quatrain, with the first stanza providing the main idea or message of the poem, and the following four stanzas giving examples in support of the main idea, and the sixth stanza concluding the poem by giving a more specific statement regarding the main idea.
In Thomas’s poem, in the first stanza he posits his main idea by urging the reader to not give in to the frailty of the human body – to death – rather, the reader should fight it despite its inevitability. In the second to the fifth stanza, he shows men who are determined to go on living even in the face of death.
In the second stanza, he shows that even wise men who know that death is the ultimate, still they do not accept death easily because “their words had forked no lightning”, which could be read as because their work is not yet finished, their message have not yet been carried out; in the third stanza he talks of good men who still want to do more before their time has come, thus “crying how bright their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay”; in the fourth, of “wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight”, or the passionate free spirits who live life to the extremes, who learn that the day they die also comes to them but nonetheless choose to continue living as spiritedly; and in the fifth, of grave men who are facing death, and courageously looks at it in the eye even though their eyesight has gone, showing their resolve that they are determined to live and cling on to life. In the sixth stanza, Thomas concludes his poem by addressing the persona’s father directly (which is then revealed as the receiver of the message), urging the father to not surrender to death, to “curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray”. Fierce tears to show the struggle against death; and for the persona, it is both a curse and a blessing because of the reality that the father is going to die soon, but his dignity remains intact, even if the father dies it will be not without a fight.
As the villanelle requires, Thomas’s stanzas comply with the aba rhyme scheme, with the last stanza ending with abaa, since the villanelle requires that the first and third line of the first stanza should be the last two lines of the last stanza respectively. Further, the first line of the first stanza is to be the third line of the second and the fourth stanzas, and the third line of the first stanza as the third line of the third and fifth stanzas. Thus, in Thomas’s poem, he ends his lines with: night/day/light; night/they/night; bright/bay/night; flight/way/night; sight/gay/light; height/pray/night/light), ensuring that he abides by the aba abaa rhyming and repetition scheme. Thomas’s poem fits the villanelle mold perfectly, and more than that, it is important to note that Thomas succeeded in reinventing the closed form as well.
Whereas the traditional villanelle depicted pastoral scenes and was generally considered as dealing with light verse, Dylan made excellent use of the limits that the villanelle imposed to his advantage: by securing his main argument with the villanelle’s key lines “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”, with the first stating what the reader should not do – in this case, accept death willingly – and then instructing the reader with what to do – put up a fight against the inevitability of death – he makes his point succinct and felt throughout the poem with the repetition of the lines. He used night and light as effective metaphors for death and life. Thomas worked the restrictions of the villanelle to deliver a strong commentary on a universal human existential anguish – that man should preserve his dignity as a human being by not giving in to the human body’s limitation – death, and should instead continue living pursuing life and passion.Sample Essay of BuyEssay.org