The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“And Death Shall Have No Dominion” is a poem in three nine-line stanzas of sprung rhythm. Each of the stanzas begins and ends with the title line, which echoes Romans 6:9 from the King James translation of the Christian New Testament: “Death hath no more dominion.” The title and the refrain give the theme of the poem—resurrection—and introduce its characteristic rhythm and solemn tone.

The poem is built on repetition, and not merely of the title. Once the meaning of the first line is grasped, the entire poem is understood. Each of the intervening lines and images is simply another way of saying that the life force is immortal—that people’s bodies may die but their spirits live on in the world.

The speaker of the poem is a grand and disembodied voice. There is no particular representative intended; there is no character whose words these are taken to be. The poem is an oratory; it is truth spoken out of the air.

The first stanza deals with the dead, who shall be made whole again at the end of time. The unity and wholeness of the universe is hinted at by an arresting rearrangement of elements that Dylan Thomas creates in the third line: “the man in the wind and the west moon.” Man in the moon, man in the wind, west wind, west moon—it does not matter how the parts are arranged because all is one.

When dead men reach the final reckoning, therefore, even though their bodies are gone, “they shall have...

(The entire section is 498 words.)