In case you missed it, there was a theme this week, which was somewhat hard to make explicit, but which should be clear in retrospect.
(Poem #38) 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.
While Thomas has written a number of extraordinarily beautiful and lyrical poems, this is probably his best known, and certainly my favourite. It is hard to believe that anyone could approach so timeworn a theme with such breathtaking intensity and freshenss - in particular, the verse beginning 'wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight' is IMHO Thomas at the top of his not inconsiderable form. Another thing to note is that the villanelle (of which more later) is an extraordinarily difficult and constraining form; the effortless ease with which Thomas makes it appear to be the natural form for this poem is incredible. <Thomas> Martin was kind enough to tell me in advance that he was running this, my other favourite poem (the first, in case you don't remember, was Coleridge's Kubla Khan - Minstrels Poem #30). And though I'll never forgive him for pre-empting me :-) I can at least derive some small consolation from being able to add my own comments. Having said that, though, I must confess that I can think of no comments that could possibly do justice to this magnificent poem. If ever a writer approached perfection in lyrical and emotional intensity, this is it. The rhetoric is never forced, always clear and ringing, and always profoundly moving; the images are shimmeringly beautiful, yet terribly true; the language is simple but potent; the metre and complicated rhyme scheme simply add to the magic. All in all, sheer genius. thomas. </Thomas> Background Info: written May 1951. published in 'In Country Sleep', 1952. "Addressed to the poet's father as he approached blindness and death. The relevant aspect of the relationship was Thomas's profound respect for his father's uncompromising independence of mind, now tamed by illness. In the face of strong emotion, the poet sets himself the task of mastering it in the difficult form of the villanelle. Five tercets are followed by a quatrain, with the first and last line of the stanza repeated alternately as the last line of the subsequent stanzas and gathered into a couplet at the end of the quatrain. And all this on only two rhymes. Thomas further compounds his difficulty by having each line contain 10 syllables". from Dylan Thomas: Selected Poems edited by Walford Davies, JM Dent & Sons Ltd, London, 1974 pp 131-32 On Villanelles: villanelle rustic song in Italy, where the term originated (Italian villanella from villano: "peasant"); the term was used in France to designate a short poem of popular character favoured by poets in the late 16th century. Du Bellay's "Vanneur de Blé" and Philippe Desportes' "Rozette" are examples of this early type, unrestricted in form. Jean Passerat (died 1602) left several villanelles, one so popular that it set the pattern for later poets and, accidentally, imposed a rigorous and somewhat monotonous form: seven-syllable lines using two rhymes, distributed in (normally) five tercets and a final quatrain with line repetitions. The villanelle was revived in the 19th century by Philoxène Boyer and J. Boulmier. Leconte de Lisle and, later, Maurice Rollinat also wrote villanelles. In England, the villanelle was cultivated by W.E. Henley, Austin Dobson, Andrew Lang, and Edmund Gosse. Villanelles in English include Henley's "A Dainty Thing's the Villanelle," which itself describes the form, and Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night." -- E.B. And on a more amusing note: The Art of the Villanelle Attend this line, which you'll have heard repeated in this villanelle until you're sick of every word -- a repetition as absurd as any babbled cries in hell. Attend this line, which you'll have heard re-echoed like a mocking bird, returning like a carousel, until you're sick of every word. (And then the rhymes! Would not a third with "ell" and "erd" have worked as well?) Attend this line, which you'll have heard until your vision's gotten blurred, until your ears ring like a bell, until you're sick of every word each time the line is disinterred! You'll whisper in a padded cell, "Attend this line, which you'll have heard..." until you're sick of every word. -- Peter Schaeffer, <[broken link] http://homepages.packet.net/schaeff/dpress/artvil.html> m.