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Comparing Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night And When I Consider How My Light Is Spent

1188 words - 5 pages

Comparing Dylan Thomas's poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and John Milton's poem When I consider How My Light Is Spent

Dylan Thomas's poem "Do not go gentle into that good night" and John Milton's poem "When I consider how my light is spent" were written during times of trouble in their respective poet's life. Thomas was faced with losing his father to death; Milton was dealing with becoming completely blind at the age of forty-three. As each poet struggles to deal with the crisis occurring in his life, he makes a statement about the relationship between mankind and God, the reasons that God gives and then takes away certain gifts, and the proper way to live life. Thomas and Milton ended up with contrasting answers to these fundamental questions about life.

The poets' use of personal events in their lives as a topic and their use of the personal pronouns "I" and "my" resolve possible questions of voice in both poems. Because Thomas refers directly to "my father" (line 6) and Milton opens his poem with the line "When I consider how my light is spent" (1), the reader can, with some basic knowledge of the history of each poem, reasonably assume that the poet and the speaker are interchangeable. Both Thomas and Milton chose to share their private thoughts on intensely personal matters with the world through their poems. By drawing from their own experiences, the poets give these works a tone that resonates with the reader because he/she can connect the words of the poem with his/her own life.

Thomas and Milton present contrasting views of the relationship between mankind and God or the inevitable events of life. Thomas sees humans as having some degree of control; his father may not be able to live forever, but Thomas urges him not to accept his fate meekly. Thomas repeats words that suggest violent action such as "burn and rave" (2), "rage, rage" (3, 9, 15, 18) and "curse" (17) to emphasize that his father still holds some control of his life even as he is faced with death. Thomas's poem denounces quiet submission to the inevitable from its first line "Do not go gentle into that good night" (1) while Milton presents this acceptance as the only proper way to live. Although Milton begins his poem by questioning God's actions in his life, these questions are resolved through an imagined conversation with the personification of Patience who says "Who best/ Bear his mild yoke, they serve Him best" (10-11) and "They also serve who only stand and wait" (14). Milton's poem contradicts Thomas's by suggesting that to "go gentle into that good night" (1) is not only acceptable but also the proper way for humans to act.

Although Milton and Thomas draw very different conclusions about life as a whole, they share a strong sense of regret for lives wasted uselessly. Thomas brings this sentiment to his poem through his descriptions of other men; he uses "Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright/ Their frail deeds might have...

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