Nov. 1, 2003

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

by Dylan Thomas

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Poem: "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," by Dylan Thomas, from Poems (New Directions).

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

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.

Literary and Historical Notes:

On this day in 1512, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel was opened at the Vatican. It took Michelangelo four years to complete the paintings that decorate the ceiling of the chapel. The paintings are of scenes from the Old Testament, including the famous center section, "The Creation of Adam." The chapel was opened with a Papal Mass celebrating All Souls' Day.

It's the birthday of Lee Smith, born in Grundy, Virginia (1944). She wrote Fancy Strut (1973), Black Mountain Breakdown (1981), The Devil's Dream (1992), and The Last Girls (2002). As a child, she spent time in her father's store, watching customers through a peephole in the ceiling. She would study their interactions and voices, and later use them in her stories. She said, "I discovered a down-home narrative voice that would allow me to write about these people without writing down to them."

It's the birthday of singer, songwriter, and actor Lyle Lovett, born in Klein, Texas (1957), which was founded by his great-great grandfather. He grew up on his family's horse ranch. He's known for mixing traditional country music with folk, big-band swing, and pop music. He got degrees at Texas A & M in German and journalism, and then went off to Germany to study. The entire time, he was also playing music at cafes and small festivals. In 1986, he released his self-titled debut album, and he's had a string of successful albums ever since. His most recent album, My Baby Don't Tolerate, was released in September.

It's the birthday of publisher Larry Flynt, born in Magoffin County, Kentucky (1942). He's the head of Larry Flynt Publications, which produces over twenty sex magazines, including Hustler. He's also been involved in several high-profile legal battles concerning the first amendment. Flynt said, "Majority rule only works if you're also considering individual rights. Because you can't have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper."

It's the birthday of American novelist and poet Stephen Crane, born in Newark, New Jersey (1871), the author of The Red Badge of Courage (1895). His first work was Maggie: Girl of the Streets (1893). It tells the story of a young girl so devastated by her bleak life in the slums that she kills herself. Crane published the book at his own expense under the pseudonym Johnston Smith. In order to afford the printing, he spent his entire fortune and sold the stocks he had inherited from his father. The publication cost 869 dollars, a high price for a run of only 1100 copies. Once it was printed, booksellers refused to sell it because of its harsh images and language. Crane gave away about 100 copies and then burned the rest to warm his house in the winter.

Crane was an adventure-seeker. While he was on his way to cover the Cuban Revolution, the ship he was on struck a sand bar and later sank. Crane escaped in a dinghy with the Captain, the cook, and the oiler. Adrift on the ocean, one of the lifeboats capsized, killing all the men in it. After two nights at sea, Crane and his companions tried to row to shore. Their boat also capsized, and they had to swim to shore on Daytona Beach. This experience provided the material for one of his most famous short stories, "The Open Boat" (1898).

The Red Badge of Courage (1895) tells the story of the Civil War through the eyes of an ordinary soldier. It's been called the first modern war novel, for its realistic depiction of the gruesomeness of warfare. Crane was a correspondent for the Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish-American War. After these experiences, he wrote a book of poetry called War is Kind (1898).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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