And Death Shall Have No Dominion
And you thought death was the end of it all, right?
Well in Dylan Thomas's, "And death shall have no dominion," first published in 1933, we've got reason to suspect that even if the fat lady sings, the show's still going on. In fact, once the earthly party is over for us, we get to look forward to "dead men naked" hanging out as one big family in a sort of cosmic afterlife.
Thomas loved the cosmic stuff. He loved it so much that we may sometimes find ourselves begging our dearly departed poet to please bring it down to earth for a second. But fear not, because in this particular poem, which also happens to be the first he ever published, the message is pretty clear. And if perchance you happen to forget what it's all about, Thomas has got you covered with his refrain (also the title) that reminds us that death won't be getting the final say.
But don't get nervous if you haven't exactly made it to Santa's "nice" list this year. In Thomas's poem, we see that whether you're naughty or nice, we all end up in the same sort of unified cosmic space where everything goes. No matter if we're talking about those who "go mad," folks on medieval torture racks, or faithful lovers, we all end up "ris[ing] again."
So even if Thomas tends to go a little overboard with the cosmic imagery, he does so in a way that's somehow reassuring. So let's get cosmic, Shmoopers, and see what all this death and dominion talk is all about.
Why Should I Care?
We'd all like to shake our fist at death now and then and say, "you shall have no dominion!" right? Okay, maybe it's just us, but we're guessing you've at least seen or heard about death in a way that makes you think it can seem mighty unfair. Then of course in the back of our minds we're somewhat aware of our inevitable end, too.
But in Thomas's "And death shall have no dominion," we're given something of a silver lining. We don't have to hang our heads in a fatalistic depression because we sense that death can't kill us completely. Sure, our bones might get "picked clean" (as our speaker so eloquently puts it) but after the vultures have at us, we get to "have stars at elbow and foot." Even better, if you're lucky enough to find true love, that, too, won't be lost.
And if you're the more cynical type that finds all this romantic hoopla about death having no dominion a bit too much to bear, Dylan Thomas's biography might convince you otherwise. The guy was known to have lived a more than tumultuous life with lots of "drinking and philandering during his last years in America" (source). He was also broke for most of his life because of all his crazy habits. So if this guy could find a silver lining when it comes to the Grim Reaper, we're guessing he might inspire you to do the same.