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Poetry - Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas was a twentieth-century Welsh poet and author. His poetry is known for its lyric (musical) voice. This poem, 'Do not go gentle into that good night', was written when the poet's father was dying. Sadly, Thomas died shortly after, at the young age of thirty-nine. Read the poem (out loud is best) and then see how well you can analyse it.

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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

  1. To whom is this poem addressed?
  2. In which stanza does the reader learn who is addressed by the poem?
    In the sixth stanza, we finally read the line:  'And you, my father, there on that sad height'
  3. 'The dying of the light' is a metaphor for...
    In this poem, 'the close of day', 'the dying of the light' and 'that good night' all mean death
  4. In the second stanza, what does the poet mean by 'wise men at their end know dark is right'?
    'Wise men' are associated with 'words'. In this context, 'knowing' the 'dark is right' reminds the reader of those people who use words to fight for what is right, while also reminding them of those who fight their side of an argument or case, trying to prove that it is right. Here, death is ultimately going to be 'right' in the sense of winning, although not in the sense of being just, or fair
  5. Wise men's words have 'no forked lightning'. Which other phrase emphasises the weak and temporary nature of human achievements?
    The achievements of good men, like those of the wise, are frail in the face of death. Interestingly, this view of the fleeting nature of human words and action is challenged by the survival of Thomas's own poetry, including this poem
  6. With which of the following sentences would the 'wild men' most likely agree?
    Caught up in their passionate enjoyment of life, 'wild men' are slow to realise the ultimate end of the journey - they don't spend their lives worrying about death, but they, like the others, refuse to go quietly
  7. In the fifth stanza, what is the significance of the word 'grave'?
    'Grave' means 'serious' - the serious men, like all the others, will soon be in the grave (they are 'near death'). This play on words is especially appropriate as we near the end of the poem
  8. 'Blind eyes could blaze like meteors' - what is the effect of this simile?
  9. In the extended metaphor of this poem, life is considered to be...
    The metaphor refers repeatedly to the sunset, the end of the day, the night. This is made explicit in the stanza about the wild men catching the sun in flight, only to see it fall to earth at the end of the day
  10. The repetition of consonant sounds in words is called 'consonance' (when this occurs at the beginnings of words, it is called 'alliteration'). This poem depends on consonance for its hard, harsh, angry effect. Which of the following lines is a good example of consonance being used for a harsh effect?
    'Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray' - while this line is also an example of consonance, it has a repeated 's' sound, which is much softer that the repeated 'g' sounds of 'rage, rage against the dying of the light'. 'And you, my father, there on that sad height' repeats the soft 'th' sound

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