Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go Gentle into that Good Night” and E.E. Cummings’ "Buffalo Bill's Defunct."
Category : Poems
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POEMS OF THE PAST
This paper will focus on poems of the past that have the theme of death and dying. Two poems written by two different authors will be used for discussion. These two poems are Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go Gentle into that Good Night” and E.E. Cummings’ "Buffalo Bill's Defunct." This paper will try to compare and contrast the points of views in each of the poem, their literary styles explained, and ideas will be presented as to how these poems can change ones view of life regarding death and dying.
The poem 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' written in 1951 for his ding father, shows Dylan Thomas's anger toward death. This is shown in the first three lines of the poem. It could be seen that the death of his father is a very sad and heart breaking experience for the author. Even without knowing the background of the poem, the content is very self-explanatory and readers can see that this poem is about fighting death. Thomas has written this poem in the first person, like he was talking to someone directly. We could gauge that this poem was written and intended, not for the general reader, but for his father. Therefore the poem is something very personal and reading it makes us feel like we knew the author personally and understands completely what he feels.
The author uses very strong, and powerful words in the poem such as "burn", "rage", and "rave”. In the poem, the author likened death to the "close of day", which suggests night. Here Thomas' is using another word to mean death, perhaps this could make him talk about death in an easier way, as he must have found it painful. In the first stanza of the poem Thomas is protesting death saying 'rage, rage against the dying of the light.' This could be interpreted as to fight death to stay alive until the very end. The author is writing this as if he was talking directly to his father. Here he mentioned the phrase ‘close of day’ which could mean death.
The second, third, fourth and fifth stanzas actually begin with a description of a certain type of person. The author used the words "wise men", "good men", "wild men", and "grave men". They say that these are all qualities Thomas admires in his father, and uses them to make a different point, and reason for fighting death.
The author ends the poem with another take on the title of the poem and this in effect reminds the reader of the true purpose of the poem:
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.
As we read the poem, you could imagine and picture in your mind what the author is trying to say in his poem. The author talks about light and dark, dark signifies death, evil and fear whereas light signifies light. Thomas uses it to describe death as similar to sleep. He likened what is happening to his father as that to sleep and therefore it perhaps made it less painful to write about. One could imagine thought provoking images that the author is trying to convey in his poem. Truly, imagery and emotion go hand in hand. As we read through the poem, we also seem to feel what the author felt when and why he wrote the poem.
E.E. Cummings’ poem “Buffalo Bill’s Defunct” is a very short poem yet very intriguing. This poem is very short, arranged in eleven short lines. In spite of its shortness, it presents in its words something deep to be solved. It is more like a puzzle rather than a poem. By the word defunct, the author means dead. Literally, the poem “Buffalo Bill’s defunct” talks about Buffalo Bill being dead. The author does not seem to convey any feelings to the fact that Buffalo Bill is dead. The poem does not present any feelings of happiness or sadness towards the death.
The author seems to be stating that even death can come upon Buffalo Bill with the "watersmooth-silver stallion" and being a "handsome man" and "blueeyed boy". This is so confusing and it could probably mean several things which only the author knows. Throughout most of the poem the author seems to praise Buffalo Bill. He described the horse which Buffalo Bill used to ride in lines 3, 4, and 5 as "a watersmooth-silver stallion." Then in line 6, "break onetwothreefourfive pigeons just like that" seems to mean that the author acknowledges Buffalo Bills excellent shooting. In line 8 he even called Buffalo Bill as "handsome." All these seem to point out that although the author does not feel anything towards Buffalo Bill’s death, he admired the person.
Buffalo Bill is not the only person mentioned in the poem, which again makes the poem more puzzling. "Jesus" is also mentioned and in fact the word is centered within the poem in Line 7. We could see here a contrast between the characters that the author used in the poem. This contrast is that Jesus is often associated with peace and love, on the contrary Buffalo Bill is known for his fights and wars. But in the poem, they are united in one thing and that is death.
The author seems to be using metaphor in this poem - using two very unlike “ideas” within the poem – Jesus and Buffalo Bill. There is a lot of talk about death in the poem and both the persons mentioned in the poem are already dead. Jesus is associated with death to some extent, and ‘mister death’ is an obvious example. Metaphor sets two unlike things side by side and makes us see the likeness between them. Perhaps the author would like to us to see the likeness between them as death.
All in all, E.E. Cummings’ “Buffalo Bill’s Defunct” does not seem to be about praising Buffalo Bill even if that could also be read in the poem. The main essence of the poem seems to be about death. Buffalo Bill’s death just seems to be what the author likes to write about.
Unmistakably, readers will be able to point out that both talk about thoughts on death and dying. Although they all have something in common, the authors use different styles in conveying their ideas and thoughts on death. Death and dying, as themes used in the poems, are being expressed like as things that is as normal as day and night. To struggle when one learns or approaches death is normal. Yet death itself is a normal part of life and people should not be afraid of it. The death of a loved one does bring sorrow to ones life, yet there is nothing one could do about it but accept and live on. However, death can happen in many ways, not only in the physical sense. One could be physically breathing and alive yet dead in a certain aspect.
E.E. Cummings. Buffalo Bill. Retrieved November 9, 2006, from:
Dylan Thomas. Do Not Go Gentle into the Good Night. Retrieved November 9, 2006,
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