Original poem reprinted online here: "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas
Originally read: October 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: Dylan Thomas
This is not the only thing to know about this poem. I know this poem is used as the "best" example of a villanelle, but the one thing to try to figure out as a reader is why? Why this form? Why the repetition?
So based on the first stanza, "Do not go gentle into that good night. / Old age should burn and rave at close of day; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light" the refrain lines are, "Do not go gentle into that good night" which is a request from the speaker, and "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" which is more of a command made by the speaker to the subject.
Each stanza thereafter talks about different types of "men" in the second stanza, "Though wise men at their end know dark is night / Because their words had forked no lightning they / Do not go gentle into that good night." The knowledge that men have to go, even though there's more to write or say.
"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." Yes, this could reference a war, but any war could suffice here. What these lines address is more of pride. The want of actions to mean something more than "frail" -- this is where the rage comes in. Rage is the motivation to go further.
"Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight," A reference to Icarus and Daedalus perhaps, or maybe something more modern like pilots -- in either case, "And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, / Do not go gentle into that good night." The big question is what does the "way" refer to? Logically, I think it's the sun; however, since the sun is a metaphor based on "flight" the image could refer to age or time or anything mentioned above.
"Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight," Post Oedipus? Tiresias, "Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay / Rage, rage against the dying of the light" Instilling life in the near dead -- even for that second could still do a lot -- create a lot.
And you, my father, there on that sad height
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
The main subject appears in the last stanza like a volta. The father here feels like the culmination of all the men stated above: wise, good, wild, and grave, and the speaker is trying to prod the father to react. But in the end, it is the speaker that reacts. The speaker prays.