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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 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.

Dylan Thomas

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"Do not go gentle into that good night" is a villanelle written by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (19141953), considered to be one of his finest works. Originally published in the journal Botteghe Oscure in 1951,[1] it also appeared as part of his 1952 collection In Country Sleep and other poems. Written for his dying father, it is one of Thomas's most popular and accessible poems.[2] The poem has no title other than its first line, "Do not go gentle into that good night", a line which appears as a refrain throughout. The poem's other equally famous refrain is "Rage, rage against the dying of the light". The poem was the inspiration for three paintings by Swansea-born painter and print-maker Ceri Richards.[3]


Chapter Five:


A. The Chiasmic Poetic Structure Many commentators have noted the general "chiasmic" (X-shaped) structure of the Song of Songs and other biblical books and passages. This means that a poetic idea that is found before the center of the "chiasma" is repeated in a different form after the center. The chiasmic structure of the Song of Songs' poetry is illustrated in Figure 4 (the singers are indicated in parentheses). Analyzed in detail, the Song's chiasmic poetic structure, coupled with its parallel musical structure and the temporal progression of events within it, proves its unity of authorship and purpose. Yet the chiasmic structure is not a rigid framework. Theme J follows theme I (in the first half of the Song); but theme J' is found between theme K'(b) and K'(c), not immediately preceding theme I' as one might expect. Moreover, each

theme and its counterpart sometimes have alternating choral designations (e.g., B and B'), sometimes the same choral designation (e.g., A and A'), sometimes contrasting choral designations (e.g., F and F'). Some subthemes (such as L, L'(a), and L'(b); O and O') are inserted into the overall poetic structure in unexpected places. Poetic ideas that are found in paired themes (e.g., "blossoms, blossoming" in G and G') are found in other parts of the Song (e.g., theme I). Finally, the subject matter in each theme is not strictly parallel with that of its counterpart, even if the paired themes shares common poetic ideas. The melodic exposition of this poetic structure flows like a brook, winding through many banks from its spiritual wellspring to its joyous conclusion. While there are places where the melodic themes parallel the verbal themes they support (e.g., in themes L and L' and in many verses of themes K and K'), there is no strict application of a chiasmic structure to the melody as a whole. Certain one-verse melodic-verbal themes are found in unexpected places (Song 4:5 is found in theme K(c), while the musically parallel Song 7:4 is found in theme H'). Moreover, some paired poetic themes have contrasting rather than parallel melodic themes (e.g., themes A, B, C and A', B', C'). Finally, there is no strict parallelism of musical modes; the modality progresses from the serious "Greek Dorian" in theme A to the gracious "Greek Hypophrygian" in theme A', in tandem with the development and moods of the Lovers' relationship. Thus the melody of the Song of Songs verifies both the "chiasmic" and chronological structures of the verbal poetry. The few chronological "flashbacks" that do occur in the Song occur to shed light on a present event. B. The Poetic Imagery of the Song Many Western commentators and laymen have expressed surprise at the seemingly jarring verbal imagery used in the Song of Songs. What modern Western man would care to describe his bride in these terms? (...) Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep newly shorn, coming up from the washing; each one has its twin,

and not one of them is bereaved. (Song 4:1-2) Would a modern Western woman describe her husband with these words? His arms are rods of gold set with chrysolite. His body is like polished ivory, decorated with sapphires. His legs are pillars of marble set on bases of pure gold. (...) (Song 5:14-15a, NIV) These images come from a society (and a poetic way of thought) much different from our own. Much of our romantic poetry, even when it deals with themes from agriculture or of royal wealth, paint a "romanticized" view, detached from reality. Society in Ancient and Prophetic Israel Ancient Israel, even at its most prosperous (under Solomon as sole regent -- cf. Psalm 72), was an agrarian society, based on the laws of land and family inheritance God revealed to Israel. Even city and town dwellers had their own plot of land outside the city, or a family inheritance in the country.1 Though the Song of Songs is not a treatise on life in prophetic Israel, it does describe what romantic love and marriage were intended to be (and shall be under Messiah's rule). The physical context of that love is an agrarian society, in which technology and ecology strike a proper balance. Our stressful modern society makes it very difficult to reach the depth of love possible for King Solomon (whose reign is a direct type of the blessings of the Messianic Age) and his bride. It also makes impossible for most modern city-dwellers what was possible for Solomon and Shulamith: to enjoy the best of both city and farm life. The Basis of the Song's Verbal Imagery Many commentators of every school of thought have remarked on the differences between Western and Middle Eastern romantic poetry. The original melody brings out both the romantic and the spiritual tone of the images with which Solomon and Shulamith describe each

other. Solomon's romantic descriptions of Shulamith (in Song 4; 5:1; 6:4-7; 7:2-8a) evoke images from her everyday home life and from various rural locations elsewhere. They include goats, sheep, fawns and doves, spices, milk, honey, pomegranates, mountains, lions, leopards, wine, gardens and so on. Each image would have a particular sentimental attachment to her memory, and would be associated with her own femininity and self-concept. Thus Solomon's words would both reassure her of his love and arouse her interest in him as a lover. Shulamith's paean of praise for her husband in Song 5:10-16 uses a different set of images. Many of them are of items of great value and splendor (as well as of strength and utility): gold, marble, iron, ivory, jewels. Others are images of tenderness: doves, raven's feathers, lilies. Still others are images of physical desire: milk, spices, perfume, sweetness itself. Finally, the natural, masculine ruggedness of his appearance is compared to majestic Lebanon and its beautiful cedar trees. In praising Solomon thus, Shulamith used images associated with his masculinity and self-concept: his physical strength and royal ability to provide for her, combined with a tender regard for her needs and an irresistible desirability as well. Other images and symbols are used throughout the Song as the circumstances of the Lovers' relationship change. The melody underlines throughout -- nowhere more so than in the Lovers' most intimate moments -- the incomparable purity and spirituality of their love and desire for each other, as well as their deep, mutual respect. When Shulamith says of Solomon: This is my Lover and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem (Song 5:16) -the melody underlines the spiritual aspect of her love for him which her words alone do not convey. C. How "Love" Grows in the Song All of the above reinforces what the musical and poetic structures prove: the Song of Songs is in essentially chronological order (even if largely set apart from "mundane chronology"). Its references to "love" (whether dod or 'ahava) in its early verses cannot mean marital or purely erotic love (either by Solomon, Shulamith or the "maidens"); this "love" is too idealistic. In the Lovers' relationship, love ('ahava) begins with a spiritual idealism and a physical "chemistry" (dod) accompanying it. It grows into the Love that leads to marriage (as

underlined by the use of 'et - ha'ahava in Song 2:7 and parallel verses), and finally into the sexual relationship itself. Physical affection (dod) thus finds its full expression in marital Love -- not before. This is as God intended.2

1. Our modern, "post-industrial" society (for all its advantages) is divorced from creation and its most precious resources: land, ecology and agriculture. Most of us (including this author!), if forced out of our urban context, would be helpless to provide for even our basic needs. As one of this author's teachers once put it to his students: "We are but an extension cord away from the Stone Age." 2. Because "there is a spirit in man" (Job 32:8), marriage has a "spirituality" of its own, even for "natural-minded" people. How much more this can be true with the addition of the Holy Spirit, just as the Song gains from its rediscovered melody! Contents Previous Page Next Page Updated October 22, 2013 Music of the Bible