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Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle
into that good night

Easier questions to cut your teeth on!

Keith Tankard
Knowledge4Africa.com
Updated: 24 June 2012
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Dylan Thomas wrote this poem to encourage his father to fight illness and death, and not to give in. He lists several examples of how people could and should struggle against death.

Notice how each stanza ends either with "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" or "Do not go gentle into that good night".

The final stanza contains both exhortations. This repetition perhaps shows the poet's disappointment that his father appears to be accepting death.



ABOUT THE POET

Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea -- Wales -- in October 1914. His father was a schoolmaster, his mother a seamstress.

The poet spent much of his youth in Swansea where he often visited his aunt's dairy farm. It was these visits which inspired much of his poetry. "Fern Hill" records memories of those happy days.

Thomas was always a sickly child who tended to keep to himself. He was educated initially at a private school which he referred to as Mrs. Hole's "Dame School". Later he would attend the Swansea Grammar School where he published his first poem in the school's magazine.

He loved literature but ignored most of his other subjects, eventually dropping out of school at 16, thereupon becoming a reporter for a local newspaper. Later he would continue to work as a freelance journalist.

Most of his poems and short stories were written at his home at Cwmdonkin in Wales.

When World War II erupted, Thomas was essentially not fit to fight. Instead he worked for the Ministry of Information, producing propaganda movies. It was during this time, however, that he began to drink heavily.

He would later become famous for his poetry readings where his Welsh accent captivated audiences. He was particularly involved with the BBC and is now most remembered for his play-for-voices called Under Milk Wood.

Like Under Milk Wood, his poetry was renowned for its play on sounds and words, and for its quaint imagery and word order.

Thomas married a dancer, Caitlin MacNamara, and maintained a stormy relationship with her, where rumours of affairs on both sides were rife. They would have three children.

He would die in New York in November 1953 from an overindulgence in alcohol . He was then just 39 years of age.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
TEST YOURSELF!
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:



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.
  • What does the poet mean by "good night"? What language device is being used? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why should "Old age . . . burn and rave at close of day"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • When the poet repeats the words "rage, rage", what is he telling his father? (2)

[Need help?]




Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
  • In what way would wise men "know dark is right"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • "Because their words had forked no lightning" means:

    A. their words were electric;
    B. their words had achieved no major effect in anybody's life;
    C. their writings were often discussed over a good meal;
    D. wise men are often killed by lightning. (2)

[Need help?]




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.
  • Explain in your own words what "good men" are sorry about. (2)

[Need help?]




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.
  • Why should the wild man both catch and sing the sun in flight, and then grieve it?  (2)

[Need help?]




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.
  • The expression "Grave men, near death" is a wonderful play on words. Explain why. (4)

[Need help?]




And you, my father, there on the 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.
  • What does the poet mean when he speaks of his father as being "there on the sad height"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Explain the apparent contradiction in the words "curse, bless, me". What is such an apparent contradiction called? (4)

[Need help?]




What is the poet's overall advice to his father? (2)

[Need help?]




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