The Poet’s Battle – “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”

If you caught the Every Simpsons Ever Marathon on FXX, you might have seen the episode where Grandpa Simpson laments that “Death Stalks You at Every Turn.”   He then mistakes everyone from Maggie to the family dog for being the Grim Specter of Death.

It is something I try my best to not think about, but the sad reality of life is that it is limited.  If life went on forever, people would probably be a lot happier.  Haven’t accomplished your dreams yet?  Don’t worry, you have unlimited time.  Except, the truth is, you really don’t.  The epic struggle of chasing your dreams vs. finding any job that will pay the bills so you can survive is something we all face and can often lead to regrets at the end of life when the latter inevitably wins out.

Several years ago, I was the caretaker of a dying parent.  The experience left me with a negative view of our hospital system.  Once they declare an old person to be a goner, doctors tend to act like you’re wasting their time if you ask followup questions to the effect of “What if we try this?”  or “What if we try that?”  They say it delicately, but they essentially let you know that your loved one is old and this is what happens to old people so get over it.

Like the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon, death is a natural part of life and yet, I don’t know about you, but I’ll never get over it.  There are many parts of life that are difficult.  But then – sometimes I see a nice sight – like a river, or a mountain, or just a nice sunny day and it makes me sad that all that is great in the world is dangled in front of me and yet one day I’ll have to let it go.  Even worse, the complexities and difficulties of everyday life will probably keep me from experiencing most of what’s out there.

Here’s what one poet told his dying father:

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

BY:  DYLAN THOMAS

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at the 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 wavy 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 sand the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, the 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 the 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.

 

Ironically, Dylan Thomas died at the age of 39, only two years after his father died.  It has been said that the poet may have succumbed to alcohol poisoning.  I suppose one could argue that turning to alcohol to cope is the very definition of giving in to the dying of the light, though I don’t presume to know or understand what Thomas was going through.  In any event, it is good advice.  Life is limited but take care of yourself and try to stick around as long as you can anyway.  It always bugged me when doctors shrugged off questions about my mother.  I get that to them the questions were obviously answered by a “No, that’s not going to save her” – i.e. they were simple to the point that they felt bothered that they were even asked, but they need to be asked anyway.  Struggle against the dying of the light, because whether that struggle buys you five more minutes or five more years, you’re still in the light.

Don’t forget – this advice can be applied to anything.  Having a hard time at work?  Don’t give up, fight to do better.  Upset over some situation?  Don’t throw in the towel, try to fix the problem.  Whatever the light i.e. all that is good disappears, you’re in the dark and that’s it, so fight to have that goodness in your life for as long as you can.

What choice do you have?  The alternative is to be left in the dark.

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2 thoughts on “The Poet’s Battle – “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”

  1. […] If you’re one of the 3-5 regular readers of this blog not including my Aunt Gertrude, you might remember I provided some analysis of this poem earlier this year.  Check it out by clicking here. […]

  2. […] Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night […]

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