The Theme of Death Present in Donne’s, Dickinson’s and Thomas’ Poetry

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Poetry as an art expresses the pedestal realities and emotions in the lives of human beings and poetry discourses generally pursue to delve into the emotional disparate experienced by individuals while encountering death and dying. Because of the emotional complexity it evokes in humans and being an undeniable truth in life, the conception of death resides in many poetical works and many poets treated differently this subject. This essay will examine the eminent theme of death and the methods it is depicted and presented by three different poems: “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas, “Because I could not stop for death” by Emily Dickinson and “Death be not proud” by John Donne.

The author’s attitude and perpective is a distinguishing factor and can give hints regarding how they place confidence in a common theme utilized in poetry like death and the representations offer an implicit space wherein readers engage conclusion. Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do not go gentle into that good night”, Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for death” and John Donne’s poem “Death be not proud” concern death and how individuals ought to react to that. For Dylan Thomas, struggling against death is a courageous reaction. He expresses that every man should rage and revolt against death by writing the lines: “Do not go gentle into that good night / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”. In contrast to Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson’s poem present a more positive and moderate view of death. She embarks on the idea of go with the flow: “And I had put away / My labor and my leisure too / for his civility.” In terms of their perception of death and immortality, Dickinson and Donne embrace the equivalent Christian perspective. A person dies and goes on to a better place to live forever.

Same confrontation and confidence in tone as Dylan’s attract the attention in John Donne’s poem. He presents an argument against the power of death by personification: ‘Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men….’. His ‘Death Be Not Proud’ is notable (even among Donne’s poems) for its brittle, shifting tone. After his triumphant opening assertion of victory over Death, the speaker’s certainty falters, and he proceeds to engage in casuistical and contradictory arguments with Death. (Tromly 392) In conclusion writer’s attitudes toward death plays the role of an interpretative guide. When approaching a work of poetry from the analytic point of view it is necessary to examine the structure. Poets write their poems in a certain structure to evoke a particular response within the reader on their theme. When writing, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, and John Donne uses a definitive structure that allows the reader to move easily from beginning to end on the subject of death. Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for death” is within the form of a lyric poem that contains six stanzas with four lines. Each stanza depicts another phase of the journey of death.

By contrast, physical death is rarely ever referred to as ‘death’ in her poems; instead, it is frequently given the euphemisms ‘immortality,’ ‘eternity,’ or ‘resurrection.’ Dickinson calls these junctures in life ‘deaths’ because an old way of life is wiped out in the process and often painfully. (Lambert 8) In her poem the journey begins with the first stanza, continues through the second and then in the third stanza, the author seems to review the periods of her life: childhood: ”We passed the School, where Children strove”, maturity: “We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain“, and the descent into death: “We passed the Setting Sun “as she passes to the other side. As Emily Dickinson, Dylan Thomas uses a sequence of imagery to portray his poem. Each stanza describes a different type of man at their ending, and this sequence is described as: “From the first stanza to the last, dying men portrayed by the means of images that aggrandize his position in the cosmos” (Öz 1049). Those images in each stanza are cautiously organized in a textured sequence. The unity of the continuing process of life and death linked generations and different men such as “wise men”, “good men”, wild men” and “grave men” throughout the poem. Dylan Thomas’ choice of verbal style plays a dioristic role compared to Dickinson’s.

He wrote ‘Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ in the poetic structure of a villanelle which customarily used in poems dealt with natural or simple themes. By employing that suitable form for his poem he narrated his natural view of death. “Death be not proud” is theoretically a Shakespearean or Elizabethan sonnet, consisting of three quatrains and a couplet. It is considerably rhetorical and devotional. The philosophy which aroused and then proceed in his poem is to disprove a personified antagonist of death. In the first quatrain, he focuses on the subject and audience of this poem, death. The second quatrain turns the criticism of death as less than fearful into acclaim for death’s good features. In the final couplet, he closes his argument against death and poem conclude with an inflating address which intensely claims the victory of mankind over the death by saying: “One short sleep past, we wake eternally / And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”

Thinking the overall idea of death, obvious and general aspects like deprivation and mourning seems more likely fundamental and central things to consider but there are many conclusions to be drawn philosophically and intellectually. Teodorescu explains the aim of the death narratives by saying: One essential objective of the death narratives then is to act as subliminal ways of naturalizing the fear of death and dying. Such chronicles often portray the human understanding of death not merely as gateway to the inescapable unknown, but also as a channel for psychological reconciliation with human physical frailties. ( Teodorescu 10).

Alternatively, poets can choose to concentrate on one aspect of the overall theme or explore different areas and features. Experience of death, whether direct or indirect can make a poet examine questions such as the brevity of life or the inevitability of death, or make them answer the aftermath of it in some way. Dylan Thomas, John Donne, and Emily Dickinson did not confine themselves to a specific aspect of death. Dylan Thomas wrote his poem during a particular moment in his life. Seeing the death of his father and his unaccomplished aspiration, Thomas associated the boundedness of time as another aspect of death. Life is a short period and death waits for every human being. In this short period, men should accomplish what they want or do their best. The people in the poem do not cheat death to live another day so the result of fighting death is not victory. Emily Dickinson and John Donne embrace the idea that death is not to be feared since it is a genuine part of the endless cycle of the natural order. Dickinson and Donne approach death through their personal and religious views. Dickinson’s beliefs on dying and afterlife defined as: To the end of her life, Emily puzzled over the mystery and miracle life, time, eternity, God, and death. As she grew older, her faith some form of reincarnation or resurrection, her belief in immortality as we commonly define the term in the Christian manner, seemed grow. (Mcnaughton 205).

Since both sharing the Christian credo, they were optimistic about their utmost destiny but Emily Dickinson more appeared to see death as a friend rather than John Donne. Donne demonstrates the Christian doctrines of resurrection and immortality of the soul. Though Dickinson’s concentration on the uncertain aspect of the theme draws a fine line between immortality and eternity. Another aspect Dickinson and Donne are share is that by using the metaphor of death, they arguing the persistency of death and its function as an eternal pathway to the afterlife.


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