Comment on the imagery used by Dylan Thomas in his poem "And Death Shall Have No Dominion".

Expert Answers
lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this poem, Thomas uses, from the very title, religious imagery from the Bible combined with natural and bodily imagery. This combination shifts the central theme of resurrection from a religious point of view to a more pantheistic one, which stresses the continuation of human lives in nature. This transition occurs through a series of paradoxes in the first stanza as well as through the imagery of the last one which stresses how although human bodies die, their spirit continue to live in natural elements.

Religious imagery include the first and last line of each stanza, as well as expressions like “naked they shall be one,” “stars at elbow and foot,” and “they shall rise again” (first staza) which all echo Biblical idioms. In contrast with this religious imagery, the poem also recalls the materiality of the human body through words like "bones" (line 3 first stanza), "elbow" and "foot" (line 4 first stanza), "hands" (line 6 second stanza), "heads" (line 7 third stanza). Associated with this bodily imagery is also the idea of death, which, however, is simply material, because, on a deeper level, nature preserves the force of life. As for the imagery related to nature, the poem particularly focuses on the sea, repeatedly mentioned in all three stanzas with its environment ("waves" and "seashores" line 3 third stanza) and animals ("gulls" line 2 second stanza), and water ("rain" line 5 third stanza) recalling the famous idea of Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher considered the founder of pantheism, "panta rei" ("everything flows"). Other natural elements present in the poem are the moon and the sun, again pointing to the concept of human life as a cycle, as well as flowers in the last stanza.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question