Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’
The two poems, Dickenson’s ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ and Thomas’ ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ speak about death, but not in the same way. Dickenson had a walk with ‘Death’ whom she sees as her welcoming companion while Thomas rages against Death and thinks that no brave man who has lived a full life should succumbed to death . He says “Old age should burn and rave at close of day” (“Do not go gentle.”) Dickenson makes death into a person and refers to it as ‘He’. She says ‘He’ kindly stopped by for her, speaking as though death is a friend and they were going somewhere. She goes on a journey with a gentleman who treats her kindly. She says “The carriage held but just ourselves” (“Because I could not..”) To many of us death means different things. Some sees it as something that is inevitable, and some, although they know that it befalls everyone, it should not be embraced, but be resisted.
Dickenson’s poem speaks about the three stages of life. In the third stanza she said that death accompanied her on a ride, and on this ride she passes three significant scenes. At each of those scenes she pauses as though they hold some memory. She lingers with her companion as though his presence gives her much pleasure. She gave the feeling that she has lived a very uninteresting life that now she welcomes anyone and anything that will give her pleasure.
Dickenson basks in death’s company. She says “We slowly drove, he knew no haste” (line 5) She had also ceased working and had put away anything that would be a distraction. In Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”, he does not think that a man who has lived an interesting life should allow death to conquer him. He should resent its intrusion and even though we know that in the end death will win we should die like a hero. He says, “rage, rage, against the dying of the light”(line 4) This line is repeated in the poem at least four times.
Thomas speaks about four different men. Maybe this is used to show that death is no respecter of persons. Although they have lived separate lives, doing what they like, at the end they meet the same fate. Wise men, although they speak words of wisdom, they have made no significant changes in their lives and, good men have failed to show their good deeds. The wild ones have wasted their youth and are now regretful and the grave men, they regret that they are dying because they did not live happy lives. Emily passes by the three stages of her life without even thinking or knowing that she was dead. She speaks with no regrets about playing and wrestling and gazing which are pleasant things that she was engaged in while she was younger.
Although both poems have the same theme they use figurative language to show how what their feelings are on the same subject. The use if imagery in Dickenson’s poem shows death as a welcoming figure as she says “we slowly drove” (line 5) and “we paused”(line 13). She was in no hurry, neither was she afraid to walk with death or to have a conversation. Thomas feared it and wanted it to pass quickly when it finally came. He uses phrases like, “dying of the light”,(line 4) “the sun in flight” (line 11) and “blaze like ,meteors” (line 15). They however agree on one thing, and that is the fact that at the end death which they refer to as darkness, comes eventually to everyone.
Thomas and Dickenson both have opposing views on life. Background checks into Dickenson’s life reveals that she was never married and after the age of thirty she almost never saw anyone outside of her own family. Thomas is imploring the aged not to live a boring life because they are old. They should continue to live a full life long after society has retired them from their jobs. He continues to say rage, rage against the dying of the light” which is symbolic of old age. Both poems use the imagery of light and dark as if they are both using light to represent life and darkness to represent death.
In Thomas’ poem he uses imagery to show how much he despises death. He talks about darkness and dying and grieve and sad. He says in line eighteen, ‘curse’ as if he wanted to curse death. He has experienced it and thinks that it is cruel. It has separated him and his father. He says “and you, my father, there on the sad height” He dislikes death when he thinks about life. On the contrary, Emily welcomes death when she thinks about life, especially her own.
In both poems we see the authors finally realizing that death comes anyway, whether you fight against it or not. Thomas is bitter that his father is dying and has not the will to fight against it. He could not stand to see his father or anyone else giving up on life. He wanted to fight death that comes to everyone, including himself. Dickenson says that she stopped before a house that seemed like a mound with its roof barely visible and somehow she knew that she was entering her grave from the first day that the horse turned its head that way – towards eternity. Thomas mourned his father’s passing and curses death.
Thomas’ raging against death tells us that he will not accept it when it is his time. He will continue to fight for life and begs others to join in the fight. Maybe he would have been upset with Dickenson for giving in to it so willingly. He cannot fight against the inevitable and that is the reason he is so rebellious. In the last stanza he says to his father “Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears” (line 18). This could have a double meaning; he is not sure what his father wants to do here, whether to curse death for being so cruel for taking his father away from him or to bless it for taking him out of his misery. If everyone had the chance they would choose life over death. Even Emily Dickenson, who went so willingly at first, says in the last stanza of her poem that she was shocked to see how suddenly she had reached the end of her life’s journey.
Unlike Thomas, Dickenson cannot see that she is no longer mortal. She sees her whole life before her. She sees her childhood going to school and playing, to her youthful days and then her final years. The final years do not hold much memories and she gladly embraces this thing called ‘Death”. When it came she gladly puts everything aside and went with it. She says “And I had put away my labor..”. This is the life that Emily never had and she gladly embraced it. She is happy in the first stanza but becomes more brooding at the end of the poem. Thomas could have lived his life through the four kinds of men that were mentioned in the poem. But whichever one he had lived his life through he is determined not to give up. He refuses to be like his father.
Grecinger, Myranda. Death, Impermanence and Acceptance: A Literary Theme Comparison
http://bryteyedgemini.hubpages.com/hub/LITERARY-COMPARISON. Web retrieved
June 29, 2014
Guyer, Joseph. How to Write a comparison Between Two Poems.
http://www.articlemyriad.com/poem-analysis-gently-good-night/web. Retrieved June 28, 2014