Do not go gentle into that good night
"Do not go gentle into that good night" is a poem in the form of a villanelle, and the most famous work of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914–1953). Though first published in the journal Botteghe Oscure in 1951, it was written in 1947 when Thomas was in Florence with his family. It was published, along with other stories previously written, as part of Thomas' In Country Sleep, And Other Poems of 1952. The poem was also included in Collected Poems, 1934–1952, first published by Dent in 1952.
It has been suggested that the poem was written for Thomas' dying father, although he did not die until just before Christmas 1952. It has no title other than its first line, "Do not go gentle into that good night", a line that appears as a refrain throughout the poem along with its other refrain, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light". The poem currently remains under copyright,[note 1] although the text is available online.
The villanelle consists of five stanzas of three lines (tercets) followed by a single stanza of four lines (a quatrain) for a total of nineteen lines. It is structured by two repeating rhymes and two refrains: the first line of the first stanza serves as the last line of the second and fourth stanzas, and the third line of the first stanza serves as the last line of the third and fifth stanzas. The rhyme-and-refrain pattern of Do not go gentle into that good night can be schematized as A1bA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1A2 where letters ("a" and "b") indicate the two rhyme sounds, upper case indicates a refrain ("A"), and superscript numerals (1 and 2) indicate Refrain 1 and Refrain 2. See scheme below.
Notable use in popular culture (selected list)
- "Do not go gentle into that good night" was used as the text for Igor Stravinsky's In Memoriam Dylan Thomas (Dirge-Canons and Song) for tenor and chamber ensemble (1954). The piece was written soon after Thomas' death and first performed in 1954.
- It was the inspiration for three paintings by Swansea-born painter and print-maker Ceri Richards, who drew them in 1954, 1956, and 1965 respectively.
- It is the subject of a 1979 tone poem for wind ensemble by Elliot del Borgo.
- In the movie "Back to School" (1986). Rodney Dangerfield recites the poem during his college evaluation.
- John Cale set the poem to orchestral music for his album Words for the Dying, released in 1989.
- In the 1996 film Independence Day, the President makes a rousing speech as he prepares to lead the attack against the alien invaders, adapting Thomas' line, saying, "We will not go quietly into the night."
- In a 2007 episode of Doctor Who, "The Shakespeare Code", The Doctor, played by David Tennant, quotes the third line of this poem, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light", to William Shakespeare, played by Dean Lennox Kelly. Shakespeare says, "I might use that." To which the Doctor replies, "You can't. It's someone else's." In a 2015 episode, "The Magician's Apprentice", Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman, quotes the first line of this poem when she discovers where the Doctor is and what he is up to.
- In Christopher Nolan's 2014 movie Interstellar, the poem is used repeatedly by Michael Caine's character Professor John Brand, as well as by several other supporting characters. In the same movie, leading actors Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway are sent into hypersleep with the final words "Do not go gentle into that good night." In the deluxe edition of the film's soundtrack, actors John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, Casey Affleck, Jessica Chastain, Matthew McConaughey, and Mackenzie Foy recite the poem with a soft vocal accompaniment scored by Hans Zimmer, the composer of the film's soundtrack.
- In a 2016 episode of Modern Family, "Grab It", the poem is partly recited by one of the characters as a part of a theatrical performance.
- In 2017, Irish broadcaster RTÉ Sport used the poem in a promotion for the World Cup qualifier second leg between Republic of Ireland and Denmark, with Brendan Gleeson reading it as footage of famous Irish sporting moments were shown.
- The poem was featured as a voiceover by Iain Glen in a 2018 television advert for the Ford Motor Company. The advert was subsequently banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for encouraging driving as a way to release anger.
- The poem is read in full by Iggy Pop as the ninth track on his 2019 album Free. He had previously recorded the poem at the request of an advertising agency, who wanted it for a commercial.
- COPYRIGHT: from The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp.
- "Dylan Thomas". Academy of American Poets.
He took his family to Italy, and while in Florence, he wrote In Country Sleep, And Other Poems (Dent, 1952), which includes his most famous poem, "Do not go gentle into that good night."
- Ferris, Paul (1989). Dylan Thomas, A Biography. New York: Paragon House. p. 283. ISBN 1-55778-215-6.
- "Collected Poems 1934-1952 by Thomas, Dylan". www.biblio.com.
- "Dylan Thomas: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night". BBC Wales. 6 November 2008. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
- * Thomas, David N. (2008). Fatal Neglect: Who Killed Dylan Thomas?. Seren. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-85411-480-8.
- "Do not go gentle into that good night | Academy of American Poets". Poets.org. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- Strand et al. 2001 p. 7
- "Poetic Form: Villanelle". poets.org. Academy of American Poets. Archived from the original on 13 October 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
- Keller, Hans (1955). "In Memoriam Dylan Thomas: Strawinsky's Schoenbergian Technique". Tempo (35): 13–20.
- "Ceri Richards: 'Do not go gentle into that good night' 1956". tate.org.uk/. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
- "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night", copyright 1979, Shawnee Press.
- Schaeffer, John (27 October 2015). "Five Songs For Dylan Thomas". NPR. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
- Mair, Jan (1998). "American rules, OK: Difference and otherness in 'Independence Day'". Futures. 30 (10): 981–991. doi:10.1016/s0016-3287(98)00100-1.
- "The Magician's Apprentice: The Fact File". BBC. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
- Wade, Chris (5 November 2014). ""Do not go gentle into that good night" in Interstellar, Back to School, and many other movies: the supercut (VIDEO)". Slate.
- on YouTube
- Cheromcha, Kyle. "This Poetic Ford Mustang Ad Is Banned in Great Britain For Promoting 'Unsafe Driving'". The Drive. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
- Petrusich, Amanda (29 August 2019). "The Survival of Iggy Pop". The New Yorker. Retrieved 19 September 2019.