The following academic paper highlights the up-to-date issues and questions of Dylan Thomas Poems Do Not Go Gentle. This sample provides just some ideas on how this topic can be analyzed and discussed.
The two poems are both based on the death of the writers’ fathers. Each poet’s experience and view of death is very different however. In examining and comparing both poems I will state the differences and similarities that emerge.
Looking first at the titles, Dylan Thomas’s is dynamic and sends a message to his father.
The title could be seen as a plea. It gives the impression that Dylan is helpless in the face of his father’s death and that he has resorted to pleading to him. In contrast Curtis’s title tells us where the poem is set and acts as a quick preview. We can tell from the title that Curtis is returning to the headland so he has obviously been there before and has past memories.
The fact that the poets build their contents on the death of their fathers causes a similarity in their emotions. However their views of their fathers’ are very different. Thomas wrote the poem when his father was facing death and openly shows his rage due to the frustration and sadness of losing his father. He believes his father should “rave” and struggle to try and fight death, “Old age should rave and burn at close of day “. Dylan Thomas’s frustration is brought on him by the fact that he wants his father to show the same fighting determination as he does, but instead his father has accepted death and does not desire to display such rage to try and survive, “Though wise men at their end, know dark is right”.
Dylan also shows a fearful respect of his father, “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears.” We know that Dylan wanted to be a poet and to try and make his father proud of his work. This could explain why Dylan is so desperate for his father to fight death. He obviously loves him and maybe still wants to make his father proud of his poetry skills.
In contrast, Curtis wrote his elegy after his father’s death. However it is an usual elegy in that he does not show much sorrow following his father’s death. Curtis’s poem is based on the day of the funeral. Unlike Dylan, he has accepted and comes to terms with the fact of death in his poem. He realises he has lost his father but does not want to romanticise the death, “It would be easy to construct a myth.” Curtis represents an angel as heaven and ogres as hell. He makes it clear he does not agree in religious beliefs about an afterlife, “There seems no point in angels or ogres.” He then goes on to say that “The dead goes where we send them” , telling us that he believes the dead go where we wish them to go in our minds, because there is no way of proving where they truly go.
Both poems have themes of death. Dylan Thomas focuses on the period of life leading to death. He believes there is no afterlife, because he refers to death as the “good night”. This is another reason why he is so determined to push his father to fight death ; he believes that nothing follows death and that life is everything. Curtis on the other hand is much more agnostic in that he believes the “soul” to live on. This could explain why Curtis does not show as much as sorrow as Thomas because he thinks there is more to his father’s life after death while Thomas thinks death is the final stage.
The two writers are affected differently by the death of their fathers. The agnostic Curtis accepts death as natural stage of life, but he believes in the idea of how the “soul” of a person lives on after death. Curtis has the idea of “The dead go where we send them”, and shows that he feels that if a person is remembered they live on. On the other hand the atheist Dylan Thomas does not accept death, because he knows that if his father dies, he will be truly lost and will not live on. His father accepts his death unlike his son, something that causes Dylan’s rage as he watches him give in easily to death. He is also too clouded by his emotions to show his true reaction to his father not acting in the way he wishes him to. He pleads to his father to make an effort to fight death, “Do not go gentle onto that good night.”
Both writers show the rejection of the idea of Christian views of afterlife. For Thomas it is essential that a person does not live a life worrying about death because if they think that life goes on in heaven or hell they might not live life to the fullest. He believes life should be lived, enjoyed and experienced to the full because when death comes it is over for good. Thomas says how it is too late for a person to wait for death to learn that there is no afterlife, “And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way”. Curtis has a total lack of faith for the funeral ritual and associated beliefs about the afterlife. However, because his mother does have these views, he compromises and goes along with the ritual so as not to disappoint her. He doubts though that his father is still living in the ashes after he has been cremated, “What we’re told are your ashes”, confirming his lack of faith.
Curtis and Thomas both use imagery to emphasise certain aspects in their poems. Curtis uses the headline and coastline as a setting. He shows the mood through the weather. He uses “long summer of rain” to give the impression of a depressed and dull mood. Thomas uses the weather also along with natural aspects as imagery. He uses the word “lightning” to demonstrate his ferocity and raging emotions. He also uses images of the sea; “wave by”, “green bay” helps express the wavy difficulty has to put up with to grieve his father’s death and shows his difficulty in trying to get his father to fight death.
There are differences in rhyming patterns in both poems. Dylan Thomas shows a compact verses because he uses two rhyming patterns of an A, B, A system. Thomas uses a villanelle with the rhyming pattern. In the first verse he uses the first (A) “night”, (B) “day”, (A) “light”, while in the second verse he uses (A) “right”, (B) “they”, (A) “night”. He uses rhetorical language in his poem to create a dominant and strong poetic side, “Old age should rave and burn at close of day.” Thomas writes his poem in a traditional Welsh poetic style, as he repeats lines in the poem. For example he repeats, “rage, rage against the dying of the light” on four occasions in separate verses. On the other hand Tony writes his poem in a more descriptive realistic English poetic style, “Not in the sea-says my mother-he was never a man for the sea”. Tony creates the poem as a story as he writes in free verse.
As Dylan shows emotions of rage, grief and helplessness and as he writes the poem when watching his father give in to death, causes “Do not go gentle,” to be quite overblown. It is obvious that Dylan finds it hard to accept that his father is ready to die. Tony Curtis has a calmer view on his death and accepts death as the final stage of life. The first lines of Tony’s poem dismiss the views and beliefs in Dylan’s poem, “There seems no point in angles or ogres. Now I have no need for the cartoons of guilt and shame. The dead go where we send them.”
Both poems share the mood of bitterness. Dylan’s bitter emotion again comes from his rage at his father not fighting death and giving up. He also feels bitter that his father will die and will not be able to say whether on not he accepts him as a successful writer and a worthy son, “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears I pray.” The bitter Curtis is shown by his black humour. He refers to his father’s ashes as “stuff” as he speaks in a mocking tone, this also shows his bitter non-belief in his father’s spiritual remains, “The stuff shakes and falls free; dust, ash on the stones.”
Both writers’ show their defiance in their poems. Dylan Thomas shows defiance against his father’s inevitable death; we see this as he pleads to his father not to give in to death, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Tony Cutis is defiant to the Christian beliefs of death and to the ritual of cremation, “what we’re told are your ashes.”
The clear difference in moods in the two poems is the way both poets react to the death of their fathers. Death confuses Thomas; this causes his “rage against the dying of the light.” Curtis shows his confusion against the rituals of death and religion.
Dylan Thomas’s poem goes along with the traditional Welsh aspects and he writes with a Welsh poetic style. His poetry is very musical unlike Tony Curtis’s, this allows “Do not go gentle…” to be changed into a song, for example a Welsh musician named Keith Allen changed the poem into a song along with a dramatic piano tune. Thomas repeats the line, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Such repetition of dominant lines in a poem is a common Welsh writing style. However Tony Curtis writes, “Return to the headland” in a traditional descriptive realistic English writing style, “I step off the path to the slope pf rocks and two rabbits break for cover.”
The two poems are both very powerful in different ways. “Do not go gentle into that good night” shows a very depressed perspective of death while “Return to the headland” shows a calmer view. However I empathise and agree more with Dylan Thomas’s view of death, even though I have not experienced what he did. I believe I would react much like he did, because death is a very disturbing event and causes a mixture of emotions, such as helplessness, depression, anger and confusion. I am also disturbed by the coldness of feelings that Curtis expressed and think he should have been more respectful of his father’s death. However, I do agree with his rejection of the Christian belief of death and afterlife, the idea that the dead go where we send them and his cynical views of funeral rituals that have to be observed so as not to upset others.
In conclusion it is obvious that both poets reacted to death differently. Dylan Thomas does not accept death and believes it can be fought of whilst Curtis sees it as a normal part of life and deals with it calmly. Thomas cannot express his true emotions to his father so he decides to show his feelings in a poem. Curtis’s belief that “the dead go where we send them,” is true ; if we remember a loved one they shall live on within us.