The poems I have selected to analyze, interpret and compare and contrast are Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” and Luke Maguire Armstrong’s “Flaming Fire Ants.” Both have a similar theme, but treat it very distinctly. Both have to do with death, or rather, the holding onto life in the face of death.
Unlike Armstrong’s poem, which is completely free verse, Thomas’s poem has a repeating refrain, which is also the title, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Cold Night.” Thomas’s poem translates it’s theme very clearly in the opening stanza with, “Old age should burn and rave at close of day; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light” (Thomas).” What he is communicating here is to live your life vigorously even when approaching death. Thomas does not consider death to be unnatural, and says that wise men, though wise men at their end know dark is right” (Thomas).
In the fifth stanza, the speaker says, “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight,” that their eyes could “blaze like meteors and be gay” (Thomas).
Thomas stays on point throughout the poem, each stanza inventing new images that say essentially the same thing: live your life to the fullest until your dying breath.
The final stanza introduces a specific person into the imagery, a universal image of father. “And you, my father, there on the sad height,Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears.” (Thomas). This changes the dynamic of the poem, making it personal. The speaker is no longer addressing a general audience with sagacious advice. Now he is bemoaning what appears to be a difficult death of his father. His hope for is father, is that he does not go quietly. He wants him to fight to enjoy life until his dying breath. The poem ends with the speaker directly addressing his father, “Do not go gentle into that good night. / Rage, rage against the dying of the light” (Thomas).
Armstrong takes a more roundabout way to get at his point. He develops a portrait through his prose of two people, presumable a male and a female talking about a time when ants invaded the male speaker’s house. The first line has a finality to it, by it being identified as a finishing conversation, “ ‘Ants!’ I said during our last conversation thousands of ants they had stormed into our house.”
The ants the speaker writes, “didn’t know any better.” At this the speaker begins to contemplate the social structure of ants civilization. He identifies these lines of thoughts as “rogue reasoning,” using alliteration here and throughout the poem.
The stream of consciousness ponderings continue, including contemplating the poor, thinking of depression as a “modern ailment,” ends the third stanza with powerful language that wonders if ants are better of than humanity’s “unyielding fields of malnourishment / Before facing paralyzing inner demons.” (Armstrong).
The forth stanza returns to the conversation of the invading ants, but this time it is the reader being addressed and the quotation marks from the “last conversation” with the unidentified female have disappeared. Because they did not have bug spray, the speaker says that he sprayed the ants with Lysol that led to a “small end of a small civilization” (Armstrong).
The fifth stanza returns with one single word now in quotation marks, “Yeah,” then the quotation marks drop and the sentence continues to description of her state of mind when she said it: “She was not really listening, or / Did not want to hear what I was saying.”
The contemplation than meanders to other stream of consciousness thoughts that rank ants as above artists because they do not have to fill the “occupational / Blanks with waiter or bartender.” (Armstrong).
Armstrong spends ten additional stanzas on stream of consciousness thoughts of repeated topics and themes such as an ant colony and it’s comparison to Marxism, and then the current state of the world’s affairs compared to a colony. There are also random musing which the speaker ponders but do not appear again. What maintains interest of the reader in this meandering contemplation is the poetic language employed and the interesting musings which beg for deeper meditation. Many of the musings employ alliteration, “Until in the wake of winter we’d wonder when the / Weather turned its back on our colonized worldviews” (Armstrong).
The death of the ants slowly focuses the thinking of the speaker until the comparison from ants to humanity makes way to a shift in focus, which looks at how young humanity is and how long it has to go. The comparison of ants and humans is closely linked in an obvious fashion throughout the poem. The ants the prompt the comparison all die a fiery death. This causes all humans to seem less important—just ants in a colony. The hope that paints the silver lining in Armstrong’s “Flaming Fire Ants” is a hope that humanity will leave on and continue to grow and evolve. That is the silver lining for death. In Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” the silver lining for death is that it is natural and that you can still live out your last days fulfilling an impassioned happiness.
The poems share a common theme in this sense, but maintain different focuses of the issue and arrive at different conclusions for how to deal with the death of the individual.
Thomas, Dylan “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” Poetry.Org
Armstrong, Luke Maguire. “Flaming Fire Ants” iPoems for the dolphins to click home about. Potent Possibilities Publishing, 2010. Print.