Death in Poetry
Death in Poetry
1) Death. Perhaps no other theme elicits such deep and varied emotions from individuals across the globe. It's no wonder, then, that poets through the ages—no matter the time or place—have sought to address death through poetry. Read the following poems by A.E. Housman and Dylan Thomas and begin to consider the theme of death in poetry.
- To an Athlete Dying Young by A.E. Housman
- Do not go gentle into that good night—transcript and audio clip of Dylan Thomas reading his poem
- Glossary of Poetry Terms
- the elegy
- the villanelle
2) Conduct in-depth analysis of the poems' form and meaning using the corresponding student analysis worksheet, available in PDF form below
3) Compare and contrast the poems by completing the Venn diagrams using the following guiding questions.
- Venn Diagram worksheet (PDF)
- How do the speakers differ? How are they similar?
- How would you describe the tone of each poem? How does the tone of each poem differ? Is the tone the same at certain parts of the poem?
- How is the use of sound devices similar in each poem? How is it different?
- What are the similarities and differences of the poems’ rhyme schemes?
- What effect does Thomas' use of the villanelle form have on the tone of "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" in contrast to "To an Athlete Dying Young"?
- What are the similarities and differences between each poem's presentation of death?
- How else would you compare and contrast these poems?
4) Other possible poems for consideration include the following:
- "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson
- "Holy Sonnets: Death Be Not Proud" by John Donne
- "If We Must Die" by Claude McKay
- "The Death of a Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell
- "Night Funeral in Harlem" by Langston Hughes
- "Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100" by Martín Espada
- "Dirge" by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- "Elegy for Jane" by Theodore Roethke
- "Nothing But Death" by Pablo Neruda, trans. by Robert Bly
- "Stop all the clocks" by W.H. Auden
- "O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman
- "I Have a Rendezvous with Death" by Alan Seeger