Friday, May 17, 2019

Do Not Go Gentle

International Dylan Thomas' Day fell on the 14th of this month. To my mind, he is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, poets of all time. By his own definition, his poems rank as some of history's best: "A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him."

Like most great artists, however, Thomas was an enigma: Depressive. Alcoholic. Self destructive.

But  words flowed out of him trailing clouds of glory, to quote another poet. If you have lost the joie de vivre, if life hangs limply on a bough, then drink of this golden cup handed to you by the poet Dylan Thomas and be born anew.

"Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means, Time held me green and dying, Though I sang in my chains like the sea."

"In my craft or sullen art, Exercised in the still night When only the moon rages, And the lovers lie abed, With all their griefs in their arms. "

"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."

And yet the bard himself failed his own test. He did go gently into that good night; he went stupidly, wastefully. He did not put up a fight when death kindly stopped for him at the age of thirty-nine. He kept pouring himself another, kept poisoning his liver until it could take no more. It's the Salieri Paradox that Peter Schaeffer points to in Amadeus: There is the imparted wisdom and then there is the imperfect vessel.
Salieri rages against God who has overlooked his piety and given the gift of genius instead to " a boastful, smutty, infantile boy...and give(n) me for reward only the ability to recognise the incarnation."

The heavenly chorus of words sang through Dylan Thomas; he was not the progenitor. He recognised the incarnation that was in him, an imperfect vessel, and that in the end was a fate too difficult to live with. 

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