Hill By Dylan Thomas Essay, Research Paper
When reviewing the work of Dylan Thomas, one can see that he changes his style of language, such as using metaphors and imagery, to fit each poem accordingly. In the poems, “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,” and “Fern Hill,” which are the poems I will be looking at in this presentation, he uses different techniques and language to make each poem more effective to the reader. I have chosen these works because they are his most well known, I shall start off by reading the poem “Do Not Go Gentle…” even if it was written after Fern Hill, as it is the most famous of all his works.
“Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” is addressed to Thomas’ father, giving him advice on how he should die. The poem is a villanelle, which is a type of French pastoral lyric. It was not found in English literature until the late nineteenth century. It derives from peasant life, originally being a type of round sung. It progressed throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to its present form. For Dylan Thomas, its strictly disciplined rhyme scheme and verse format provided the framework through which he expresses “both a brilliant character analysis of his father and an ambivalent expression of his love towards him”(Magill 569 ).
In its standardized format, the poem consists of five tercets, having three lines, and a quatrain, having four lines, rhymed aba, aba, aba, aba, aba, abaa. In the first tercet, the first line “Do not go gentle into that good night” and the third line “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” alternate as a refrain to the following four verses. These two lines also become the last two lines of the concluding quatrain. This sets up a suitable framework for the four characteristic types, the four following verses, which are wise men, good men, wild men, and grave men. Thomas is then able to compare these men to his father in the concluding quatrain.
Dylan Thomas’ poetry is rich in imagery and metaphorical language. The opening line, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” contains an euphemistic metonymy for death. “That good night” is a word association for death, but is described as “good” in order to overcome the negative connotation usually attached with the idea of death. Also, the word “gentle” which is an adjective, is used instead of “gently,” the adverb which more commonly would be used. Thomas does both of these and is found describing the man and providing a tighter bond to the poem.
In the line, “Old age should burn and rave at close of day”, “old age” can be seen as personification, but can also be interpreted as metonymy for his father. “Burn and rave” are strong emotions Thomas feels his father should take against “the close of the day” which is a metaphor for death. In the second stanza, the phrase “dark is right” represents a concise acknowledgement of the intellectual recognition how death is unavoidable; however, the awareness that his father’s words had “forked no lightning” is a metaphor for the failure to influence the powerful and brilliant forces in society (Grolier 231).
In the next stanza, the line “Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay”, the poet is now using imagery with the waters, however it can also be a metaphorical representation of life due to the fact green is frequently representing the vital and fertile elements of human life. Therefore, frail deeds have failed to enter into the stream of life. Thomas is saying that although his father is a good man, he had never experienced fully the joys life has to offer.
Throughout the rest of the poem, Thomas uses metonymy, metaphors, and imagery to convey his idea about his father’s death. Thomas writes “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears.” Both the curse and the bless are metaphors. He feels the curse is the father’s rage which has been passed to Dylan Thomas in the form of insecurity about his own achievements. Thomas feels he has also been blessed by the genius the father provided for him, in the form of language.
In Thomas’ poem, “Fern Hill”, the speaker is a male adult who is recalling his childhood and its unavoidable end. The poem is composed of six nine-line stanzas, that rhyme. The rhymes are direct rhymes, but the majority are slant rhymes. It is in the pattern abcddabcd. The lines have flexible accentual rhythm. Lines one, two, six, and seven have six accents each; lines three, four, eight, and nine have three accents; and line five has four accents.
Thomas ties the poem together effectively with strong verbal formulas. The speaker or “I” is described as “young and easy,” “green and carefree,” “green and golden,” and “green and dying.” He also describes himself as happy in several different forms, such as when he is “happy as the grass was green.” His enemy, time, has verbal formulas such as “Time let me hail and climb/ Golden in the heydays of his eyes”
Thomas uses imagery, especially through colour. The colour is implied or explicit and portrays the colours of nature and things that grow. Green being the most widespread, with Gold as second. The colour images make the words on the paper come alive. ( The usage of green and gold so frequently is appropriate for a poem about childhood ripening into adulthood. )
Thomas uses alliteration throughout the poem. For example, in the second stanza, “green and golden,” the letter G, is the alliteration because it is used a number of times. Thomas also uses assonance, when he says “With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder” the O sound in come and cock is similar in both words.
Throughout this poem, Thomas uses imagery, verbal formals, alliteration, and assonance, to transmit his ideas of childhood. It is of a boy’s life in the Garden of Eden and is composed of repetitions of the cycles of nature. So to him, there seems to be no change in time; however from his adult point of view, time was toying with him, “Time let me hail and climb” and “Time let me play and be” and then he must leave his privileged land of childhood and face the world as an adult
Dylan Thomas had a way with words, poetic devices, and speech. Throughout his work, there is a motif of experiences that Dylan had lived through. Each poem in some way connects back to something he had experienced or felt. He expressed his story through his words. Thomas repeatedly blends his life into his work, however, his style, figurative language, and other techniques are altered for each poem. Thomas does this so that the poem’s idea or message compliment the poem’s language. He used vivid and energetic imagery to bring his poems alive. He uses words not only for their literal meaning, but also for the sound the word and the meaning that sound creates. It is said that the key to Thomas’ poetry is reading it aloud, slowly, and hitting every vowel and consonant, then go back to try to understand it. Thomas continually writes about very particular points in his life. However, he writes in a different way each time. He chooses a style for each poem so it has the most effect on the reader. Thomas stresses on sounds and double meanings with words and was greatly influenced the American society where he died in New York 1953.