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“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Thomas and “The Flea” by Donne Essay

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021

Introduction

If we choose to imagine poetry as art using a metaphoric image that is so characteristic of it, poetry may be presented as treasury of magic words and expressions. These treasures include various stylistic figures of speech: symbols, metaphors, epithets, etc. Poets are endowed with the talent of depicting life with the help of the beauty of poetic form. Thus, the present work is aimed at the analysis of two poems by outstanding authors, Dylan Thomas and John Donne. The choice of the definite poem is determined by the eloquent symbolism of both of them, the analysis of the symbolism of the works with its relation to the themes of poetry promises nontrivial results. Consequently, the work is aimed at the analysis of the interconnection of the way of expression of the themes and content of the poems with the form and figurative language of the poetry.

Main Body

First of all, the setting and the speakers of the poems should be analyzed and contrasted as their comparison will create the basis for analysis. The speaker of the poem “The Flea” is a young man who is trying to persuade his beloved woman into having intimate relations with him. Thus, the speaker’s monologue is aimed at the young woman who remains silent in the course of the poem. The reader gets to know about her responses and reaction only through the speaker’s commentaries. Thus, the reader gets the impression of being a secret unnoticed witness of the intimate situation between two young people.

The situation described in the second poem, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”, is also very personal and concerns two people as well. However, if the first situation suggests future pleasure and enjoyment, along with the appearance of new relationship, the second suggests pain and grief of the loss of the near and dear person. The speaker is talking to his elderly father, who used to be strong in the past, but now is old and exhausted and is at death’s door. The speaker himself is, probably, a young man as well; it may even be assumed that this may be one and the same person speaking to different people in opposite situations.

On the whole, even the settings of both poems resemble each other, the dying old man is lying on the bed that is his deathbed, and his son is beside him trying to make him live and struggle against death. The action in “The Flea” also takes place in bedroom, where the young man is trying to make his lady yield to his eloquent persuasion. Both speakers are very emotionally involved and eager to get positive reaction and continuation of relationship with the father and beloved woman.

As for the sound, meter, and accent in the poems, it is worth mentioning that they play significant role in both poems. The special accent in the Thomas’s poem is on such words as “do not”, “rage”, “you”. This emphasis creates the impression of lively emotional speech of a desperate son who is on the edge understanding the futility of his attempts to keep his father alive. The meter of the poem is employed to convey the emotions of the speaker. The rhyme of the poem is based on two words only: “day” and “night”, which represent the struggle of life and death. “The Flea” can be characterized by the expression of intense emotions and persuasion as well, but the accent is not so intense here, it is typical of the words that convey the major part of meaning: “flea”, “sin”, “marriage”. The rhyme in the poem is regular, every two subsequent lines rhyme with each other; the last three lines of each stanza also rhyme. Thus, sound and meter create the impression of a real monologue with its aim of the change of behavior of the interlocutor.

The structures of the poems carry additional meaningful information that may be useful for the disclosure of their themes. “The Flea” consists of three stanzas, and each stanza presents different attitude towards “the flea”, one more “character” of the poem. In the first stanza the flea is introduced by the speaker as a very tiny creature of such minor importance as the act the woman is refusing to have with him. Further, the second stanza presents diametrically opposite attitudes towards the flea. The insect is exalted to the level of “marriage bed”, “marriage temple” (Donne 59). Still, the last stanza again suggests another interpretation of the flea and its death as absolutely unimportant thing that will never change anything in this world. The structure of the poem enables the reader to follow the flow of the speaker’s thoughts and his logically grounded persuasion. The last stanza, mainly two last lines of it, reveals the theme of the poem: the intimate intercourse will never change anything, it is as unimportant as the life of a flea, if the woman yields to the man, she will be no worse than after the killing of the flea.

The poem “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” is villanelle, “an intricate French form, nineteen lines in length, using two rhymed lines as refrains – and just two rhyme sounds throughout the poem” (Drury 131). The poetic form chosen by Thomas may sound a bit artificial, but it is also moving and convincing. One more reason for the choice of villanelle may be the author’s desire to show bitter irony of futility of persuading a dying man to live. The poem is built as the constant repetition of the argument: “Do not go gentle into that good night” and each stanza supports the argument by a new proof describing the way different people struggle against death. The final stanza is addressed to the father directly, thus, it reveals the theme of the poem directly: the man should be brave and he should never surrender, even if death is near. The difference between the structures of the analyzed poems is that the theme of “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” may be observed throughout the poem, but “The Flea” reveals the main argument only in the end.

As for the imagery of the poems, it is evident that both of them are rich in stylistic devices and expressive means. The common feature of the texts that bursts upon the eye is the usage of symbols. The symbols mentioned by Thomas are “day”, “night”, “light” (317). These symbols are universally recognized, in comparison with the symbol of “flea” created by Donne. The intentional usage of the new symbol is aimed at the creation of ironic effect built upon the flea’s insignificance and the pompous image of a flea created by the speaker.

Conclusion

Drawing a conclusion, it should be stated that both poems are the evidence of literary talent of both poets. Both of them offer important and interesting themes that become revealed throughout the poem. Though the themes and the ways of their expressions differ, we have shown that the poems share some common features: they concern relationship between people and are based on the major human values: love and life. The symbolism of the poetry is one more common feature of the works, though the symbols differ by nature. The poems also prove that structure is very important for a poetic work as it conveys important information.

Works Cited

Donne, John, and A.J. Smith. The Complete English Poems. NY: Penguin Classics, 1986.

Drury, John. Creating Poetry. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 2006.

Thomas, Dylan. “Do Not Go gentle into That Good Nigh”. In Tiempo, Edilberto K., Bernard, Miguel A., and Edith L. Tiempo. Introduction to Literature Revised Ed. Red Bookstore, Inc: 317.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Thomas and “The Flea” by Donne." November 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night-by-thomas-and-the-flea-by-donne/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Thomas and “The Flea” by Donne'. 25 November.

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