August 24 Dylan Thomas: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about risk. What does it mean to take a risk? Is it a leap of faith? An act of stupidity? Can a calculated risk be called an actual risk?

Some say that men accomplish more than woman in the business world because it’s a man’s world; some say it’s because women are trained from birth to stay close to the home and men are trained to go out and take risks. I can see boys racing out on their skate boards and chasing snakes and little girls staying home and playing with dolls and tea cups (and even when they venture out it’s in their little pink bicycle helmets staying within shouting distance of their homes). On the other hand, it can be more risky to be a woman in this dangerous world, on average we’re more physically frail, less aggressive, more prone to doubt and second guessing, more willing to put someone else’s needs before ours – risky indeed!

Traditionally, women have been placed safely in the home (behind its bars), but the home is where the risk is the highest. The heart is more open there, more comfortable, taking every easy step for granted. Insurance agencies will actually tell you that more risks are statistically in and around the home. So, what does this mean? Live your life never at ease and always looking over your shoulders for the next catastrophe to happen? Well, I suppose if you’re the type of person who wants to live his or her life that way, then the answer is clear. But for those of us who don’t, who seek a more contented form of life, there is an alternative way of seeing it.

The contentedness of home can be a trap in itself. Perhaps the real danger is seeing the world outside as only a threat. “The world offers itself to you,” writes Mary Oliver in her poem “Wild Geese” after writing that you do not have to be good or walk through searing deserts a penitent.

As a child growing up, I was awash in the 20th century dogma. “You are alone in this world,” it said. “No one will care if you live or die. It’s up to you to make your mark.” I was always running into the quote, “a vague sense of dissatisfaction and alienation.” I was often confused by this quote, because it came from those who had become the most successful in our society; they’d achieved the American Dream, but they were less happy for it, less fulfilled. It also made less sense to me, because we are not alone. We are surrounded by people who are always striving to understand us, striving to find a way to connect.

Perhaps that sense of alienation came from not following their heart, but going after something someone else prescribed for them (here, take this, it’ll make you happy). Perhaps the world was offering itself up to them, to explore, to discover, to connect and they simply did not recognizing it.

Do not go gently into that good night, means to get out there while you still can, be a part of it. Many people feel comfortable, self satisfied, that they’ve got it all figured out, that they know exactly how it all works. Lucky them, they’re ahead of even the theoretical physicists who still have yet to find those ultimate answers (that none of the rest of will understand). But as for me the world still has much to offer, much more to learn about.

This poem is a perfect example. It’s a villanelle. I’d known that the poem existed and had heard it many times before (as many have), but one look in the textbook revealed that there was something about it, I still did not know. Up until that point, I was bored with it, heard it all before, comfortable and self satisfied that I had learned everything about it that there was to know. But there was more.

The villanelle, I learned, is a late medieval form of poetry from the French Courts originally deriving from a loose form of ballad. Briefly, it’s a nineteen line poem made up of five tercets (a three line stanza) and one quatrain (a four line stanza). It has two refrains (a refrain is line that is repeated verbatim through out the poem like a chorus in a song); the first refrain is taken from the first line of the poem and the second refrain is taken from the third line of the poem. And it has two end rhymes. In this poem’s case the two rhymes are “ay” as in “day” and “ight” as in “night”. Those are the only two rhymes that you will find in this poem.

But as to the content, you can find so much more. I was at an outdoor concert the other day and saw this three legged dog hoping about just ecstatic to be alive and to charge forth. Then I read this article by this young man complaining that he couldn’t have a love life because he was missing a finger. Which one do you want to be? Or rather, which world do you want to live in? Do not let what is missing in your life hold you back, or enclose you in the safe walls of your house. Go forth and explore and laugh loudly and dance in front of strangers even if it looks awful, because the world offers itself to you, take the risk. And when you fail, fail big and feel satisfied that at least you followed your heart. It’s better than the vague sense of dissatisfaction you feel when look back and wonder what could have been.

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 wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green by,
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 the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with our fierce tears, I pray,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


About penneloppe

I like to write horror, dark fantasy and crime fiction. Sometimes, I'll write science fiction, but usually I like to write science fact. I also write screenplays and stage plays. My day job is office work. I live in Seattle and I have a cat.
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