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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Going gently...

I was fortunate to have had him as my English Literature teacher my freshman year in high school. It embarrasses me that I forgot his name. Thinking back, I can attest with some assurance that he was a spitting image of the cinematic Harry Potter (albeit a wee bit older). What I vividly remember is that he ignited my passion for poetry.

It’s not that I had been oblivious to poetry. I (along with my entire third-grade class) had memorized Joyce Kilmer’s “I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree.” There were Browning, Dickinson, Emerson, Longfellow and Whitman, too. Poems selected by well-meaning elders as something to be studied by innocents.

I had not realized there were poems of sterner stuff until this singular teacher opened my eyes. He introduced me to Dylan Thomas, this Welshman addressing his father:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

That line: “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” stayed with me my entire life. It served as a clarion call. And, had I been so blessed to have had the opportunity to clutch my Father’s hand as he was dying, I’ve no doubt I would have whispered these very words to him...
hoping, begging, pleading and praying he could take them to heart.

As Fate would have it, that was not to be.

Fast forward twenty-plus years. This poem, these words, no longer resonate within this orphan.

I will have none of this, this burning and raving, crying and raging.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to shed my mortal coil any sooner than necessary. There’s waaaay too much to savor still. Still. I see the light atop the exit door on the other side of the dance floor flashing.

This angry youth, driven professional, tortured soul and passionate heart seeks only peace. Peace enough to savor all there is to be savored. Peace enough to lie in bed at end of day accepting all that was and is to be...with gratitude.

* * *


Blogger Elisabeth said...

I'm all for these sentiments, 'rage, rage against the dying of the light'. Keep going as long as you can.

Mon Sep 27, 05:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gabriela Abalo said...

"Peace enough to lie in bed at end of day accepting all that was and is to be...with gratitude."
That is the way we should all live life!
Great post Jonas!


Mon Sep 27, 05:33:00 AM  
Blogger June Calender said...

Oh yes, Jonas! DT was young and a fighter and ignorant of peace entirely if his bio is to be believed. Age and wisdom brings peace and acceptance -- which is not at all giving up or being passive. A good end, however young or old the person, is not about rage, no, not at all.

Mon Sep 27, 07:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest I've never liked that poem. I don't think we have to rage against the dying of the light. Our last breath is the partner to our first breath and I hope it's gentle and peaceful.

Mon Sep 27, 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger Wine and Words said...

Shit. I'm actually crying here. GAWD how I wish for that kind of peace. Go get it Jonas, then hand me the map.

Mon Sep 27, 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Kass said...

A certain kind of exhaustion is bringing me peace these days.

Interesting, we've both quoted D. T. in our last posts.

Tue Sep 28, 02:03:00 AM  
Blogger anna said...

Another of your readers here in tears.

Sun Oct 03, 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I see we each have our own take on the "dying of the light." And I suspect these feelings are subject to change with time and circumstance.

Ironic, isn't it, that Dylan Thomas passed away shortly after his 39th birthday? Who knows, a coupla more decades and he may have reacted a bit more akin to me?

It's no coincidence, Kass. Your blog entry triggered a Pavlovian response inside me. I've carried the words "rage, rage against the dying of the light" inside me my entire life. It doesn't take much to trigger a reflexive response. I react much the same whenever the line "I wake to sleep and take my waking slow" comes to mind. I'm pierced through and through with shards of poetry (and I like it that way).

I wish you all peace.

Wed Oct 06, 12:10:00 AM  

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