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In this essay, I am going to compare the poems ‘Remember’ by poet Christina Rossetti and poet Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’. The poem ‘Remember’ reflects poet Rossetti’s life towards the end, when she was slowly dying of cancer. She knew she was inevitably going to die, just as the narrator does in ‘Remember’. Poet Dylan Thomas wrote the poem ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ when his father was gravely ill in 1952.
He chose to write about what he thought his father should do about facing death. Already, we can see that these two poems share a similar theme – death. Other similarities, such as types of imagery, tone, mood and relationships will be explained in the next few paragraphs.
However, while they share the same theme, the poems present death in a diametrically opposite way. Rossetti wants her audience to accept the death of a person (sub-theme: accepting death). While Thomas wants his audience to feel the pain of losing someone, therefore wanting dying people to stay alive as long as possible.
In ‘Remember’, the dying narrator talks to her lover/companion about accepting her death and moving on after she has gone away (as shown as in the quote,”…when I’m gone away…”). The poem thus portrays death as something inevitable which cannot be fought against. Whereas in ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ (sub-theme: fighting death) the narrator is urging his dying father to fight death (as shown as in the quote, “…rage, rage against the dying of the light,”).
The phrase ‘dying of the light’ is used to personify the death of a person. The word ‘rage’ tells us to get furious against death and prevent the ‘dying of the light’ from happening (fighting to stay alive). The repetition of ‘rage’ also emphasises how important it is in the fight against death.
Another similarity found in the two poems is the tone and mood of the poem. The tones of both poems are persuasive, urging the audience into doing something about a looming death. Rossetti persuades her audience to accept the death of a person (“…forget and smile”) while ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ argues to preserve life and stay alive. This is shown in the phrase, “old age should burn…”. The ‘old age’ personifies a person close to death. What Thomas is trying to say is that dying people should burn with rage and defiance towards death, persuading his audience to fight death instead of calmly accepting it, unlike what Rossetti has suggested. This shows how different the two poems’ purposes are.
Repetition is another technique used by both the poets use to show different perspectives of death. Repetition is used throughout the two poems, in the form of their titles. ‘Remember’ repeats its title five times, exemplifying this poem’s sub-theme, which is living with memories of the person who is no more. The repetition emphasises how important it is to the poet that her lover remembers her after she dies, but at the same time, lets her die peacefully. In comparison, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ repeats it’s title four times, exemplifying this poem’s sub-theme, which is fighting death (‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ telling us simply not to die without a fight). The repetition is a constant reminder of the sub-theme, about how imperative it is to fight death.
A key similarity is the imagery used in both poems, primarily through euphemism and personified metaphors. Rossetti’s poem uses the phrase “gone away…” to signify death whereas ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ uses the phrase “good night…” to show death, as if to sleep forever on a good night (as if death is greater than the night and is taking over it). The poets also use personification/metaphors to express death. Rossetti says,”…silent land”, a personified metaphor for afterlife, suggesting heaven, hell, or just the grave. Thomas says,”…dying of the light” – a metaphor for the death of a person, softening the harshness of death. Both the poets have used euphemism to show the affection for the other characters in the poems (narrators are talking to loved ones/family). And though they soften the blow of death, Rossetti does so to make it easier for the narrator’s lover to accept death whereas Thomas does it to make it easier for the narrator’s father to fight it.
Both the narrators really care about the person they are speaking to and talk gently to them, reflecting their loving relationship which is a similarity between the poems. Rossetti’s characters are lovers, as shown in the quote, “You tell me of our future that you planned,” telling us that the narrator and companion were very much in love and were planning to marry and have a future together – a romantic relationship. Thomas’ characters are more of family, a son talking to his father (“And you, my father…”). This phrase has a personal pronoun, showing us the narrator knows the person he is talking to, the next two words proving this. The next phrase, “Do not go gentle into that good night…” says that the narrator’s father should not give up to death. Both again show affection and care for the other character and want what they think is best for them.
So to conclude, Rossetti’s poem and Thomas’ poem have a great many similarities but different purposes (Remember – accepting a person’s death, DNGGITGN – fighting death). They both use similar techniques such as euphemism, personification and personified metaphors for imagery and repetition for emphasis. Rossetti believes it is better to move on with life after someone is gone, while Thomas believes to fight for survival. I think this is why Rossetti uses gentle words to make death acceptable to the narrator’s lover while Thomas uses harsh words to make it easier for the narrator’s father to hate death and fight it. Both poems leave the reader with a reflection about the approach to death and life after.
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