Explain in detail the first stanza of "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" by Dylan Thomas.

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first stanza opens with the line "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" which Thomas borrows from the Bible in Romans 6:9; this powerful line sets the tone and theme for the rest of the poem, reinforcing the idea of resurrection and the immortality of the spirit.  The first and second lines depict the dead, and Dylan connects them to natural elements, the wind and the moon.  By connecting the dead men to these powerful elements, he suggests that the dead will endure forever like the moon and wind.  He uses imagery of death and decay, like "bones are picked clean," but replaces those temporary images with something infinite like stars.  in this way, Dylan suggests that death and decay are temporary states. 

Dylan Thomas uses lines six through eight of the first stanza to show more transitory aspects of the human condition.  People who have been "mad" will be sane, people lost at sea "shall rise again," and even though lovers might have lost each other, their love endures.  The final line of the last stanza repeats the refrain, "And Death Shall have No Dominion" (9). 

Interestingly enough, while Thomas' poem uses a Bible verse as a major refrain in all of the stanzas of the poem, "God is never mentioned, [and] there is no talk of souls or of salvation" ("Salem on Literature," eNotes).  Rather, the speaker of the poem focuses on the natural order of life, in which death is part of its unending cycle.

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