Friday, May 05, 2006

5.05.06b. About the Poem, Pt. 1

Early on I had promised more on the title poem, a little exegesis--or “extra-jesus” as we used to remember the term by in high school--so extra-jesus today on Thomas’s poem. Having Frank here and the in’s and out’s of every day might yield some ideas for later, but this afternoon my mind’s back on this.

Again:
“DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
(1952)


I don’t know how long I’ve known this poem; in fact, I can’t remember when I didn’t--but there must have been a time, just as there’s a time know when I feel like I “know” this poem far better than I would like, like I want to turn my eyes from it for a minute then return my gaze to see it gone. To not see the injunction in the title, “do not go gentle.” A place to start, at the beginning. What I see in the poem now--there’s that word that signifies so differently for me “now”--is that it relies on contradiction. In a sense we the reader simply passes over “that good night” as yet another euphemism for death. It’s so obvious, isn’t it? Why think about it? A minute’s thought, however, tells us (many of us? most of us? me, anyway) that there is nothing good about that night at all. It’s the one night nobody wants to go into. Granted there are cases, cases with real individuals which I gradually come to understand better each day, in which “that . . . night” might seem “good,” or better at least than what the now holds for them. Some relief, for some. The title’s injunction, which switches back and forth (from imperative to simple declarative) through the poem based on line breaks, “do not go gentle” creates the tension that builds through the repetitive form, this being the classic example of the villanelle. Tension: if it really were a “good night” why resist, why not go gentle, why not welcome it? The point: which I already made, it’s not a good night, to use the technical language of aesthetic theory I learned in grad school, it sucks ass.

To be continued. (Since the whole poem will take too long, I’ll put it up in installments.)

4 comments:

Quid Pro Quo said...

You're being rhetorical right? Just checking... It could mean that Thomas was just Achluophobic or nyctophobic. kidding.

Slarry said...

Dear Mr. Jones:
I am completely aware that this might be one of your least favorite singer / song writers, but as you know, she is my favorite. And good words can often be found in the least expected places. So, here is my song, my thoughts for you today-- as you steadily go on; raging, contemplating and pondering the haunting words of Dylan Thomas.
I love you, dear brother-- and as always, will continue to fight and rage and ponder with you, every step of the way. For you are in my heart.
Love, Sheri


It's all I hate but oh so tempting
Fills me up but leaves me empty
It's all regrets and second chances
What's the point of backward glances
That lead me nowhere
I can't go back there
Everything is so uncertain
All happening to you in a whirl
That's the beauty and the hurting
Of living in a maybe world
Who can stand all those should haves
They wake us up and make us feel bad
The famous road will stay untaken
All mistakes are worth making
Go back to sleep now
It all works out somehow
Everything is so uncertain
All happening to you in a whirl
That's the beauty and the hurting
Of living in a maybe world
I'm sorry for the rain that broke the dam that caused the flood
I'm sorry for the pain but that's the way it is because
Everything is so uncertain
All happening to you in a whirl
That's the beauty and the hurting
Of living in a maybe world
Everything is so uncertain
All the garbage baby and the pearls
That's the beauty and the hurting
Of living in a maybe world
----Mary Chapin Carpenter

[disenchanted princess] said...

the magic of poetry and the multitude of interpretations:

perhaps the 'good night' is indeed good, in it's own special time, place, and circumstance.

but, night can't come until the day is over, and your's isn't through yet baby. so, you will fight and rage and cause a commotion still, because it is all you can do. it's all any of us can do.

don't fear the night, but just know that you aren't ready for it.

[disenchanted princess] said...

hours later and i'm still thinking about this.

Don’t fear the night, for within it I believe there will be peace. Consider that Thomas isn’t even really writing about death, but rather life, and the need to live it fully. Perhaps it is a warning, to not squander life . . . life that should not be lived gently, but with fire and passion, rage and desire, conviction, intent, and action. but alas, what do i know. i have a degree in science . . .

“Each man is master of his own death, and all that we can do when the time comes is to help him die without fear of pain. “ – Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I have to believe that the night is good, because I’ve walked with someone whom I love dearly to the horizon at dusk. I wished her a good night, and sent her off with all my love. I let her go, even as I was terrified of how I was to live without her. You see, she was the master of her own death, as she was of her life, and she departed when her business was all settled. She was ready to go, and it was selfish to try to keep her any longer.

I will lend you all the strength I have, if it helps stave off the fear of death. Don’t be afraid my love, because you will not be alone. Remember the promise you made, that you will spit on the Wall of Death, and turn around to come back to me.