Poem Explication: and Death Shall Have No Dominion

2652 Words Mar 22nd, 2012 11 Pages
Poem Explication:
And Death Shall Have No Dominion

Poem Explication: And Death Has No Dominion
Since the publication of his first volume of poetry, Eighteen Poems, Dylan Thomas explored the relationship between life and death. The devastating effects of World War I, the crushing economic consequences of the Treaty of Versailles, and the self-described Great Depression shaped Dylan Thomas’s childhood and subject matter and caused him to cherish the delicate balance of life like few others, giving his unique perspective great influence when coupled with his flowing writing style. In his first published poem “And Death Shall Have No Dominion,” Dylan Thomas utilizes sound imagery, diction, and allusion among other poetic devices to convey a
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Thomas begins the stanza by bringing back up the ocean metaphor, saying that “[u]nder the windings of the sea / [t]hey lying long shall not die windily...” Here the speaker warns that the unrepentant sinners, the untruthful “lying long,” will persist as unfulfilled as they have lived. They will exist in agony, “[t]wisting on racks when sinews give way, / [s]trapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break,” and suffer endless torture. “Breaking” or “giving way” would be the only desire for those that are evil, to stop the pain and be allowed to rest in peace, but the strength of life dominates death and they are forced to live on. Typical of modernist poets at the time, Dylan Thomas rejects the use of softened or genteel diction and writes harshly and brusquely to suit an era of global violence (Loy). Before cherishing the blessing of death’s insignificance, the speaker now adopts a somber tone and depicts the horrors below the sea, lamenting the fate of many who can never find rest. The duality towards perpetuity expressed by the poem thus far reflects the orthodox Christian poetry at the time, characterized by feeling rather than thought (Hayden). The latter half of the stanza further elaborates on the punishments of the denizens of Hell, that “[f]aith in their hands shall snap in two, / [a]nd the unicorn evils run them through...” The word “snap” indicates the first use
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