Both poems, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ and ‘From Father to Son’, are written from the perspective of sons who are coping with the death of their fathers. The poets have very mixed feelings about their fathers as both poems contain positive and negative opinions towards their close relatives. However, Emyr Humphreys is reflecting the passing of his father whilst Dylan Thomas is urging his dying father to fight against the inevitability of death.
Although both poems are full of emotion, there’s a clear contrast of tone between the two writers. Dylan Thomas’s use of very vibrant and violent language such as ‘fierce tears’ and ‘rage, rage’ creates a sense of urgency and passion towards the passing of his father and the importance of achieving everything you are capable of by living life to the fullest.
The poet shows a constant strength of feeling throughout the poem in order to convey how important his father’s survival is to him and to express his opinions towards death. The emphasis of Emyr Humphrey’s poem is a sense of longing and regret as he contemplates the death of his father. Unlike Dylan Thomas, the poet conveys both sinister and pitiful tones in order highlight the bitter – sweet concept that’s created by the poet as his father dies before Humphreys can fully appreciate his love.
Thomas chose to write ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ as a villanelle which is a poem with 6 stanzas and 19-lines. The form has a rigid structure and began as a simple ballad where themes are often repeated to emphasise the key message. This allows Thomas to repeat certain phrases, words and rhythms such as ‘rage, rage’ in order to create a sense of urgency and passion.
Additionally, the poet chose a form with stanzas that are the same length which ensures the poem maintains a strong rhythm, until the last stanza which has four lines to help emphasise the key theme of Thomas struggling with the loss of his parent. Humphreys also writes stanzas, however, the length of them varies with the last stanza being the shortest. This represents the shortness of life and how the poet only had a brief amount of time to appreciate his father’s love ahead of his death. Additionally, the lines of the first stanza are very long as the poet is describing a memory of his father in great detail and wishes the audience to be able to see his memory as if it was one of their own.
The persona of the two poems contrast as Humphrey poem constantly uses pronouns such as ‘His’ and ‘Your father’ in order to create a feeling of distance between the poet and his father and the use of the technique effectively involves the reader by making us feel as if he could be talking about our own dad. However, Thomas uses personal pronouns in his last stanza such as ‘My father’ and ‘I pray’ in order express his feelings of great emotion and to make the reader aware of the massive impact that his father’s death had on him.
Also, Thomas uses a lot of imperative verbs such as ‘Do not’ and ‘Rage, rage against’ in order to create the belief that it’s possible to fight death. Thomas shows the intensity of emotions he feels about the possibility of losing his father through his use of vibrant language and symbolism. In the first two stanzas; light, dark and night are used as metaphors to represent life and death for example ‘the dying of the light’. A day represents a whole life time with ‘the close of day’ representing death. He uses several other techniques such as alliteration and similes to create a sense of passion and urgency throughout the poem.
In the 5th stanza, the alliteration of the hard b in ‘blinding sight, blind eyes could blaze’ creates a sense of judgment and anger towards his father’s failure to fight against death. He follows this line with a simile ‘blaze like meteors and be gay’ which further suggests that life is amazing and his father should live it to its fullest before he goes. Also, meteors are a spectacular sight but they pass very quickly which signifies how short and brilliant life can be.
Thomas begins and ends each stanza by repeating key words and phrases; for example, ‘Wise men, Good men, Wild men and Grave men’ and ‘dying of the light.’ By using the technique of repetition throughout his poem, Thomas highlights his main themes which are that he believes that every man should always fight against death, even though it is inevitable.
In contrast, Humphreys uses gentle and pitiful language such as ‘he is as tender as he ever was’ and uses the word ‘love’ throughout which creates a sense of longing and regret about his father’s death. Unlike Thomas’s intense tone, Humphreys creates a feeling of distance and regret through his use of language. For example, the commas before and after the word ‘hesitant’ implies that the father is unsure if his love will be excepted by his son as there isn’t any appreciation shared between the two.
Similarly, to Thomas, Humphreys also uses metaphors connected with light and dark such as ‘the wind that always blows in the outer darkness’ in order to suggest that fathers will always be the light in the darkness and will always be around for their sons. Whereas Thomas uses similes to create a sense of energy and anger, Humphreys uses the technique to get the audience to empathise with his own feelings of regret and his father’s feelings of hesitancy and defeat.
The simile ‘Cold and worn like a tramp at the end of a journey’ suggest that Humphreys father’s life has been such a journey that he looks beaten and battered by the end of it. It also highlights how life can be a thrilling or dreadful roller coaster. Like Thomas, Humphrey uses alliteration throughout stanza 2 and 3 by repeating the words ‘Him’ and ‘He’. The use of the technique slows the pace of the poem and the impersonal nouns highlights the difficult relationship between Humphreys and his father. Finally, Humphreys also uses metaphors to signify death. The metaphor ‘He is gone, leaving on your fingers’ implies the poet has dirty fingers as the guilt of him not loving his father is stained on his hands and highlights the fact that the poet is longing for his father’s touch.
Both poems contain images of light, dark, cold and warmth. Dylan Thomas uses energetic and vibrant images to show how passionate he is about living life to the full and to describe his frustration at the though that his father may not have done this. For example, in stanza 2 he creates a dramatic scene by writing ‘Because their words had forked no lightening’ to highlight that we shouldn’t accept death if we haven’t achieved everything we are capable of.
The poem contains many settings of life, for example, ‘the sun if flight’ and ‘sad height’ in the last stanza which suggests his father is standing at the top of a mountain before he descends to death. He also uses the evocative image of a ‘green bay’ when describing how good men have failed to get their ‘frail deeds’ noticed, which creates a sense of humility. His use of the colour green suggest envy towards men who are determined to make the most of life before death and wishes his father would to the same.
Humphreys uses imagery about ‘winter’ in order to highlight the bad times and difficulties of his father’s life. He also uses the word ‘wounds’ literally and metaphorically to emphasize the hardships his father endured during the war and the physical scares he has received from battle. Humphreys first description of his father is surprising and contrasting: ‘He is as tender as he ever was and as poor, his overcoat buttoned to the throat’. The loving description at the beginning of the line quickly changes into a harsh image of a father struggling through the winter winds.
The image of the coat being buttoned up suggests that the father needs protection against his son. Humphreys emphasizes the unpleasantness of his feelings towards his father’s death through the line ‘hesitant of the cold touch of death’. The way he personifies death here and the juxtaposition of using the word ‘cold’ before touch highlights how awful death is as touch is usually warm.
Thomas uses a rigid rhyming structure in his poem with the 1st and 3rd lines of each stanza having the same line, for example ‘night’ and ‘light’, and the second lines of each stanza also rhyme all the way through the poem: ‘bay, way and pray’. The last stanza ends with a rhyming couplet which brings the poem to an emphatic end ‘Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light’.
All of this gives the poem a relentless rhythm and shows both his anger and his passion by convening the desperation of his message. By contrast to this, Humphreys poem is written in prose and has no particular rhyming pattern. The first stanza has very long sentences and has a conversational style. This gives a reality to the poem, whereas Dylan Thomas’s poem has a more dramatic effect on the reader.
Dylan Thomas creates a very hard, judgemental tone throughout his poem by using key words, for example ‘rave’, ‘rage’, ‘blaze and ‘fierce tears’. He also creates the feeling of the importance of life and its preciousness by emphasizing the key theme of the poem which is his belief that a man should achieve everything that’s capable of him before he goes: ‘Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, and learn, too late, they grieved it on its way’.
He also creates a tone of frustration and despair with his father in the last stanza with his choice of words and use of commas: ‘Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray’. This creates a grim and threatening tone like a warning towards all men as he urges them to embrace life. By contrast, the tone in from ‘Father to son’ is instantly set by it’s title as the line suggests a different relationship between Humphreys and his father as it suggest the father is passing a gift of some sort to his son. Unlike Thomas, the tone he creates is one of sorrow and regret as he repeats words such as ‘love’, ‘tender’ and ’embrace’ throughout the poem. His descriptive language also suggests that he feels pity towards his father as he describes him to be a ‘poor’ man who looks like a battered ‘tramp’.
Unlike Thomas, Humphrey portrays an uncertainty between the father and the son in his poem as the dad comes towards his child with ‘hesitance’ which suggests he unsure whether his love for his son will be returned. However, the tone of the last stanza is one of longing for his father’s love: ‘before you can touch him, he is gone’ which leaves the reader aware of the poet’s regret towards the fact he didn’t fully appreciate his father when he was living.
To conclude, both poems talk about the relationships with their fathers in very different ways. In my opinion, Dylan Thomas is furious with his father because of his lack of effort towards his attempt of defeating death. However, Emyr Humphreys is furious with himself for taking his father’s love for granted and because of the difficult relationship that existed between the two as he will never be able to repay his love and solve his shameful sin, which leaves him with a burning feeling of regret. This is evidence when the poet writes the line ‘He is gone’ as it implies an immense feeling of loss. In contrast, Dylan Thomas shows anger and frustration about his father’s demise however, he is also urging all men including himself to celebrate life and to defy death until the very end.