Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Carpe Diem's Distillation #9, Dylan M. Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night"

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Another episode of Carpe Diem's Distillation is brought to you. For this episode I followed a suggestion given by Björn Rudberg in his comment on our last Distillation episode with the beautiful poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae.
First I had to find out something about the poet who's poem I am gonna use for this Distillation and which poetry-form the poem was ... not of any importance, but I like to bring the posts with some background to you all.

For this episode of Carpe Diem's Distillation I have chosen (suggested by Björn) for a villanelle, a poetry-form were I am not familiar with. So I will give a short desciption of the villanelle.

A villanelle (also known as villanesque) is a nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines.
Who is our poet for this episode of CD Distillation? It's Dylan M. Thomas and here is some background about him: 
Dylan M. Thomas (1914-1953)
Dylan Marlais Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953) was a Welsh poet and writer whose works include the poems "Do not go gentle into that good night" and "And death shall have no dominion", the "play for voices", Under Milk Wood, and stories and radio broadcasts such as A Child's Christmas in Wales and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. He became popular in his lifetime and remained so after his premature death in New York. In his later life he acquired a reputation, which he encouraged, as a "roistering, drunken and doomed poet".
Thomas was born in Swansea, Wales, in 1914. An undistinguished pupil, he left school at 16, becoming a journalist for a short time. Although many of his works appeared in print while he was still a teenager, it was the publication of "Light breaks where no sun shines", in 1934, that caught the attention of the literary world. While living in London, Thomas met Caitlin MacNamara, whom he married in 1937. Their relationship was defined by alcoholism and was mutually destructive. In the early part of his marriage, Thomas and his family lived hand-to-mouth, settling in the Welsh fishing village of Laugharne.
Although Thomas was appreciated as a popular poet in his lifetime, he found earning a living as a writer difficult, which resulted in his augmenting his income with reading tours and broadcasts. His radio recordings for the BBC during the latter half of the 1940s brought him to the public's attention and he was used by the Corporation as a populist voice of the literary scene. In the 1950s, Thomas travelled to America, where his readings brought him a level of fame, though his erratic behaviour and drinking worsened. His time in America cemented Thomas' legend, where he recorded to vinyl works such as A Child's Christmas in Wales. During his fourth trip to New York in 1953, Thomas became gravely ill and fell into a coma from which he did not recover. Thomas died on 9 November 1953 and his body was returned to Wales where he was buried at the village churchyard in Laugharne.
Dylan Thomas's grave in Laugharne
Here is his "Do not go gentle into that good night", a villanelle ... The goal is to distil a haiku from the villanelle by Dylan Thomas and share that haiku with us all here at our haiku-community Carpe Diem Haiku Kai.
Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953
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.

A wonderful villanelle ... not an easy to understand one by the way, maybe that's because English isn't my maiden language. As I did some research on this poem I discovered that Dylan Thomas this poem composed for his dying father.
Ceri Richards, a painter, created three paintings based on this poem ... here is one of the paintings. 
Credits: Do not go gentle into that good night - oil on canvas by Ceri Richards
And now ... I have to distil a haiku from this poem ... well ... I will give it a try. It will not be an easy task I think, but I just have to do it ofcourse ...

his broken eyes
have lost their sparkling light -
tears on my face

darkness falls
a blanket of clouds and tears -
cry of a Raven

as the day ends
no more dancing in the green bay
eyes closed forever

© Chèvrefeuille

I don't really know if I have succeeded my own challenge here, it was really a difficult one to distil this time ... so good luck with this distillation ... just have fun, be inspired and share your distilled haiku with us all.

This Distillation-episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until July 10th at noon (CET). Just have fun ... !


  1. FYI my Mother-in-law was formidable, had strong opinions and lived independently until her 90th year. I only really got to know her the last ten... In her last year she pretty much was in a full care facility and had the daily paper until she chose to cancel a month before she passed. I think she wanted to 'slip away' quietly, without fuss - she told one of the hospice caregivers she was ready. Thank you for seeing depth in so few words. ~Jules

  2. Ah.. yes it's a wonderful poem -- The reading he made is great too.. really great poetry...