I need help comparing and contrasting the two poems "When You Are Old" and "Do not go gentle into that good night."

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Michael Ugulini | (Level 3) Educator

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A)

 

The following are some ideas on a comparison of “When You Are Old” (by William Butler Yeats) and “Do not go gentle into that good night” (by Dylan Thomas):

 

1. Both poems employ end rhyme as an element of their respective formal structures.

 

2. Both poems deal with the issue of growing old. ‘When You Are Old” talks about being “…old and grey and full of sleep,” while “Do not go gentle into that good night” says that “Old age should burn and rave at close of day;”

 

3. Both poems deal with regret, somewhat. In Yeats’ poem he says:

 

”And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled”

 

There is regret here concerning love lost in one’s life.

 

In Thomas’ poem he says:

 

“Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,”

 

There is regret here from the men that they did not appreciate their youthful days of energy under the sun.

 

B)

 

The following are some ideas on a contrast of “When You Are Old” (by William Butler Yeats) and “Do not go gentle into that good night” (by Dylan Thomas):

 

1. William Butler Yeats employs four line stanzas throughout his poem. Dylan Thomas uses three line stanzas in his poem all the way to the end. However, in the very last stanza, Thomas switches to a four line stanza.

 

2. Yeats focuses on old age and aging in his poem, not an approaching physical death. Dylan Thomas focuses on the deathbed; old age has taken its toll and the father is about to die.

 

3. Yeats focuses on having the aged person reminisce and “dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once,” His poem is a mellower reflective poem. Dylan Thomas’ poem is more hard hitting. He’s telling his father to fight death – to not give in to it, to rage against death.

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