Comparing Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night and After a Time
Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" and Catherine Davis' "After a Time" demand comparison: Davis' poem was written in deliberate response to Thomas'. Davis assumes the reader's familiarity with "Do Not Go Gentle," which she uses to articulate her contrasting ideas. "After a Time," although it is a literary work in its own right, might even be thought of as serious parody--perhaps the greatest compliment one writer can pay another.
"Do Not Go Gentle in That Good Night" was written by a young man of thirty-eight who addresses it to his old and ailing father. It is interesting to note that the author himself had very little of his own self-destructive life left as he was composing this piece. Perhaps that is why he seems to have more insight into the subject of death than most people of his age. He advocates raging and fighting against it, not giving in and accepting it. "After a Time" was written by a woman of about the same age and is addressed to no one in particular. Davis has a different philosophy about death. She "answers" Thomas's poem and presents her differing views using the same poetic form--a villanelle. Evidently, she felt it necessary to present a contrasting point of view eight years after Thomas's death.
While "Do Not Go Gentle" protests and rages against death, Davis's poem suggests a quiet resignation and acquiescence. She seems to feel that raging against death is useless and profitless. She argues that we will eventually become tame, anyway, after the raging is done. At the risk of sounding sexist, I think it interesting that the man rages and the woman submits, as if the traditionally perceived differences between the behavior of men and women are reflected in the poems.
Thomas talks about different types of men and why they rage against death. "Wise men" desire immortality. They rage against death occurring before they've made their mark on history. "Good men" lament the frailty of their deeds. Given more time, they might have accomplished great things. "Wild men" regret their constant hedonistic pursuits. With more time they could prove their worth. "Grave men" are quite the opposite and regret they never took time for the pleasures in life. Now it is too late. They rage against death...