Dylan Thomas Recites ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ and Other Poems

When Dylan Thomas was a lit­tle boy his father would read Shake­speare to him at bed­time. The boy loved the sound of the words, even if he was too young to under­stand the mean­ing. His father, David John Thomas, taught Eng­lish at a gram­mar school in south­ern Wales but want­ed to be a poet. He was bit­ter­ly dis­ap­point­ed with his sta­tion in life.

Many years lat­er when the father lay on his deathbed, Dylan Thomas wrote a poem that cap­tures the pro­found sense of empa­thy he felt for the dying old man. The poem, “Do Not Go Gen­tle into That Good Night,” was writ­ten in 1951, only two years before the poet­’s own untime­ly death at the age of 39. Despite the impos­si­bil­i­ty of escap­ing death, the anguished son implores his father to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

The poem is a beau­ti­ful exam­ple of the vil­lanelle form, which fea­tures two rhymes and two alter­nat­ing refrains in verse arranged into five ter­cets, or three-lined stan­zas, and a con­clud­ing qua­train in which the two refrains are brought togeth­er as a cou­plet at the very end. You can hear Thomas’s famous 1952 recital of the poem above. To see the poem’s struc­ture and read along as you lis­ten, click here to open the text in a new win­dow.

And to hear more of Thomas recit­ing his own works you can vis­it Harper­Au­dio, where you will find a trea­sure trove of record­ings from a num­ber of writ­ers, includ­ing these from Thomas:

  • Part 1: “No Sun Shines,” “The Hand that Signed the Paper,” “Should Lanterns Shine,” “And Death Shall Have No Domin­ion,” and the first verse of “Alter­wise by Owl Light.”
  • Part 2: “Poem in Octo­ber,” “This Side of the Truth,” Love in the Asy­lum,” and “The Hunch­back in the Park.”
  • Part 3: “Do Not Go Gen­tle into That Good Night,” “On the Mar­riage of a Vir­gin,” “In My Craft or Sullen Art,” and “Cer­e­mo­ny After a Fire Raid.”

All poems have been added to our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Antho­ny Hop­kins Reads ‘Do Not Go Gen­tle into That Good Night’

Lis­ten­ing to Famous Poets Read­ing Their Own Work

Robert Frost Recites ‘Stop­ping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’

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