Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night


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 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 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.

The first time I heard this poem was in the recent film, ‘Interstellar’. The first and last line of the stanzas jumped out at me, but with all the stunning visuals and narrative in front of me, I could not really pay much attention to the words of this poem. It was only this evening that I realised just how beautiful and how emotionally powerful the sentiments in this poem are.

It exudes a quiet power that resonates with the themes of the film so hauntingly truly. A sense of stubbornness that characterises humanity in not wanting to let go, in wanting to hold on to life, to hope. The world as most know it may be coming to an end, and humanity has turned in upon itself and is threatened by the increasingly hostile living environments on earth in the future. Yet, there is a sense of quiet power and raw stubbornness that Cooper, both father and daughter embodies, that refuses to succumb to the majority of human thought – even when Michael Caine’s Professor Brand gave in to the fearful possibility that no one on earth will survive the blight.

In the same way, Dylan Thomas expounds on the quiet power that rages on despite one’s time close to being up. We run on human operated batteries, and one day God will say that we have come to end of our run. The persona begs his father to fight on, to hold on, to refuse death. I cannot decide if the final stanza reflects the poet’s belief that we should resist death to be greater than who we are, or if it is merely the persona’s emotions that compel him to beg his father to press on in a moment of grief.

It also echoes in the relationship between Cooper and Murphy as father and daughter. I particularly loved how the roles keep reversing itself – Murphy spends a large part of her waiting for her father to return, wondering if he is still alive, and yet it is Cooper to has to eventually watch his daughter die at the end of the narrative. As an anthem for the whole of humanity, “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

The quiet resistance speaks volumes about the inner strength of a person’s spirit. For all the setbacks and trials, both physical and non-physical in nature, Cooper did exhibit undeniable strength and resilience as a person, as a father, driven by love for his daughter, which in turn drives hope in finding a way to save humankind.

In the same way, this quiet resilience also reminds me of our late Reverend Lai. At one time, I remember him forcing himself to sit up straight on his hospital bed, despite his physical pain, to take a photograph with the cards two young teenagers had drawn for him. He held them up next to his face, smiled, and then heaved a sign of relief as he sank back into his bed, telling my mother that he wants to do so to encourage them, that he was well, and he appreciated their well-wishes. My heart ached to watch him at the side, because every day he lived out these little noble acts of love. It was not so much the success at the end of the road, but the spirit of victory that resounds in the poem, and in the film… and in the life of Reverend Lai.

I hope this quiet resilience sticks with us as well, and builds us up to become stronger and better than we are.

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