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 by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914–1953); it has been described as his most famous work. Though first published in the journal Botteghe Oscure in 1951, the poem was written in 1947 while Thomas visited Florence with his family. Subsequent publication, along with other Thomas works, include In Country Sleep, And Other Poems (1952) and Collected Poems, 1934–1952 (Dent, 1952).
It has been suggested that the poem was written for Thomas's 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 shown below.
Use and references in other works
"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's death and first performed in 1954. It is the subject of a 1979 tone poem for wind ensemble by Elliot del Borgo, was set to orchestral music by John Cale for his 1989 album Words for the Dying, and is read in full by Iggy Pop as the ninth track on his 2019 album Free.
The poem or snippets from or references to it turn up from time to time in films: Norma Rae (1979, where it's recited by Beau Bridges' character); Back to School (1986, where Rodney Dangerfield's character recites it during his college evaluation); Independence Day (1996, where the American President vows to fight the invaders with "We will not go quietly into the night"); and Interstellar (2014, where the poem is used repeatedly by Michael Caine's character Professor John Brand, as well as by several other supporting characters, with leading actors Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway being sent into hypersleep with the final words "Do not go gentle into that good night.")
It's also sometimes referred to in other media: "Do not go gentle into that good night" was the inspiration for three paintings by Swansea-born painter and print-maker Ceri Richards, who drew them in 1954, 1956, and 1965 respectively. The first line is the title of a chapter set just before the 1778 Battle of Monmouth in Diana Gabaldon' book "Written in my Own Heart's Blood" (2014).. Lines from the poem appear in Doctor Who episodes ("The Shakespeare Code" (2007), where the Tenth Doctor quotes "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" to William Shakespeare (played by Dean Lennox Kelly), and "The Magician's Apprentice" (2015), where Jenna Coleman quotes the first line when she discovers the location of the Twelfth Doctor), and episodes of Mad Men (2009, "Out of Town") and Modern Family (2016, "Grab It"). George R. R. Martin’s first novel Dying of the Light is named after the third line, as is Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light.
"Do not go gentle into that good night" was featured as a voiceover by Iain Glen in a 2018 British television advertisement for the Ford Motor Company. The advertisement was subsequently banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for encouraging driving as a way to release anger.
- 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. doi:10.1017/S0040298200052360.
- "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.
- Petrusich, Amanda (29 August 2019). "The Survival of Iggy Pop". The New Yorker. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Ceri Richards: 'Do not go gentle into that good night' 1956". tate.org.uk/. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
- "The Magician's Apprentice: The Fact File". BBC. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
- Cheromcha, Kyle. "This Poetic Ford Mustang Ad Is Banned in Great Britain For Promoting 'Unsafe Driving'". The Drive. Retrieved 29 September 2020.