"Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night" by Dylan Thomas - Villanelle

Villanelle’s are incredibly confusing and convoluted with a whole set of very specific rules. The first rule is that the entire poem must be done in 6 stanzas; the first 5 must be triplets and the last must be a quatrain making a rhyme scheme of aba aba aba aba aba abaa. This gives us a total of 19 lines. Two lines repeat throughout the poem. These two are usually the 1st and 3rd lines from the first stanza and are alternately repeated such that the 1st line becomes the last line in the second stanza, and the 3rd line becomes the last line in the third stanza. The last two lines of the poem are lines 1 and 3 respectively, making a rhymed couplet.

Dylan Thomas’ poem, “Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night” follows the rules of a Villanelle to a tee. His two repeated lines are “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” While Villanelles are usually light and simple, Thomas uses it for the exact opposite reasons. His poem is a cry against death as emphasized by his two repeated lines.

The two repeated lines share a common message, don’t give up. “Rage,” and fight against death or overwhelming odds. Even when the light is “dying” and hope is fading, “do not go gentle into” defeat. Keep fighting.

Stanza 1 sets up Thomas’ topic, the fight against death and overwhelming odds. Stanzas 2-5 are examples of “wild,” “good,” and “grave” men taking that advice and fighting against death. Finally, Thomas’s last stanza is a plea to the speaker’s father to fight against death like all the great men of past days. It makes me wonder if this situation has cropped up in Thomas’ life since he writes about it so passionately

Reading of the Poem


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