And death shall have no dominion

Death is often seen as an all-powerful force. Death is the final transition of life, one that is often feared in literature and history. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas believed in an intense connection between mankind and the cosmos. Much of his poetry explains humankind in terms of celestial beings. In "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" (1933) we see Thomas explore the limiting powers of death and gain a sense of understanding of the importance of actions in life. For Thomas, the power of death is limited in scope and can not erase the good that is done in life and has no power against the human spirit. Although all life ends in death, do you agree with Dylan Thomas that the effects of death are limiting?

And death shall have no dominion And death shall have no dominion

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Contents
Table of contents

    Dylan Thomas and Death Shall Have No Dominion

    Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) began writing poetry at an early age, and first published some of his pieces as a teenager. His writing reveals an obsession and understanding of the nature of words. He was a wordsmith, and used his skills with language to bring deep meaning to his poetry. In his short 3 stanza poem, "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" Thomas uses his skills with language to express that death is both an end and a beginning; it's part of a cycle rather than the conclusion of life. Dylan Thomas harnesses the rich meaning of words and uses opposites to reveal a truth. The seeming opposite idea, that in death life is found, surfaces as a controlling idea within the poem, "And Death Shall Have No Dominion."

    And Death Shall Have No Dominion Poem at a glance

    Poem"And Death Shall Have No Dominion"
    WrittenDylan Thomas
    Published1933
    Structure3 stanzas
    ToneCalm, assertive
    MoodInspiring
    Poetic devicesRefrain, visual imagery, alliteration, contrast
    ThemePerseverance
    MessageDeath is powerless in some respects

    The Full Poem of And Death Shall Have No Dominion

    And death shall have no dominion.Dead men naked they shall be oneWith the man in the wind and the west moon;When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,They shall have stars at elbow and foot;Though they go mad they shall be sane,Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;Though lovers be lost love shall not;And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.Under the windings of the seaThey lying long shall not die windily;Twisting on racks when sinews give way,Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;Faith in their hands shall snap in two,And the unicorn evils run them through;Split all ends up they shan't crack;And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.No more may gulls cry at their earsOr waves break loud on the seashores;Where blew a flower may a flower no moreLift its head to the blows of the rain;Though they be mad and dead as nails,Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion, sunset and beach, StudySmarter

    Death is overpowered with each sunrise, as life is present in each new day. Pexels.

    Summary of And Death Shall Have No Dominion

    Dylan Thomas's "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" takes a unique approach to death. The three stanza poem has no consistent rhyme scheme, but maintains a rhythm and pattern through literal repetition and near rhyme. Using the repetition of the line "And death shall have no dominion" (lines 1, 9, 10, 18, 19 and 27) at the start and end of every stanza, Thomas visually represents that death, commonly seen as the end of something, is also the start of something else.

    Dylan Thomas used the Bible verse from Romans 6:9 "Knowing that Christ be raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." 1 Using this line as the focus of the poem helps to unify the idea that death is not all powerful and that humankind can ascend above the trials of death, and succeed in life despite the inevitable end.

    While life is fleeting and death is typically the ultimate demise, the poem views death as a force that is powerless against the strength of the human spirit. Using images of the cosmos, the sea, and nature, Thomas shows that the human spirit arises again within nature. Although the effects of death are powerful, death is also unifying. In death, humankind becomes one with nature and with each other. Throughout the poem, Thomas explores death and life as a cycle, that eventually results in a form of awakening that is materialized in nature.

    What do you think? Is death something that should be feared, or do you agree with Thomas that death is something that is a natural part of life that humans can overcome?

    Analysis of And Death Shall Have No Dominion

    To best understand and appreciate the message of Thomas's "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" it is best to analyze the poem, stanza-by-stanza.

    Dylan Marlais Thomas, a romantic poet, included elements and ideals from the Romantic movement within his poem "And Death Shall Have No Dominion." Using nature imagery throughout his poem, Thomas expresses an idealized notion of death, as a beautiful process in which humans are unified as one being, and then become one with nature.

    Stanza 1

    The title and first line of the poem, "And death shall have no dominion", acts as a glue—a unifying idea through the poem—and also serves as a transition from stanza to stanza, and idea to idea. The first stanza uses imagery to express the physical separation of the body and the self. Line 2 states, "Dead men naked they shall be one" showing that although the loss of worldly possessions leaves all humans "naked" (line 2), the loss of the physical results in a unified entity. Although "bones are picked clean and the clean bones are gone" (line 4) and mortals lose even their bodies—bones and all—the cosmos, or the "stars", shall be the soul's home, where "elbow and foot" (line 5) reside for the rest of time.

    Going on to juxtapose contrasting ideas, Dylan Thomas seamlessly reveals a truth through the complex ideas presented. Lines 6-8 show contrasting ideas, those that "go made they shall be sane, / Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; / Though lovers be lost love shall not." The paradox of being sane though being mad, rising while sinking, and lovers being gone but love still existing, proves that the body and physical aspects of life have a greater existence and truth.

    And death shall have no dominion, night sky, StudySmarter

    The speaker of the poem expresses that in death the souls ascend to the sky, with "stars at elbow and foot" (line 5). Pexels.

    Stanza 2

    The second stanza links to the first one through the refrain "And death shall have no dominion" (line 9). Each refrain concludes with a period. This end punctuation emphasizes the confidence that death is not powerful and can not reach certain truths in life. Using more aggressive visual imagery in the second stanza, Thomas expresses life as a form of torture. Bodies are "twisting on racks" (line 12), "[s]trapped to a wheel" (line 10), but they "shall not break" (line 10). This resistance of the human body and spirit to resist any "crack" (line 17) indicates that the reaches of death will have "no dominion" in certain aspects of life, and human existence.

    Stanza 3

    Stanza 3, the final stanza of the poem, expresses the rebirth of the being, and how humans can find new life in death by becoming one with nature. Although humans can no longer hear "gulls cry at their ears" (line 20), or "waves break loud on the seashores" (line 21), the "heads of the characters hammer through daisies" (line 25). Rebirth or resurrection in nature is part of life, and reveals death as powerless to stop life. The daisies, and the daily "break in the sun" (line 26), or the sunrise, cannot be stopped and is evidence that life continues beyond the grasp of death. The alliteration in line 26, "[b]reak in the sun till the sun break down" slows the rhythm down with the alternating "s" and "b" sounds, and phonetically emphasizes the repeating cycle of days, of life, of death, and of rebirth.

    And death shall have no dominion, daisy, StudySmarter

    Daisies are a part of nature, signifying the continuation of life, despite the occurrence of death. Pexels.

    Themes in And Death Shall Have No Dominion

    Dylan Thomas surfaces a few strong themes in his brief 3 stanza poem. Here are a couple key themes to keep in mind:

    Death

    In the poem "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" death's presence is inevitable. However, death's power is limited. Rather than a force to be feared, death is portrayed as an inevitable process and part of a larger cycle of life. Through the repeated refrain, "And death shall have no dominion" and the use of strong visual imagery, from the "windings of the sea" (line 11) to the "break in the sun" (line 26), death has limited powers that can not break the spirit and continuance of man. In death, rather, humankind becomes more powerful as it joins together to "be one" (line 2). Further, it is as vast as the universe with "stars at elbow and foot" (line 5).

    The unifying nature of death creates a continuity in life where humankind doesn't cease to exist, but rather transcends and become part of a larger story. Humankind "shall rise again" (line 7) through the various forces in nature. The description asserts that a physical being no longer exists to hear "gulls cry at their ears" (line 20) while their "bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone" (line 4). However, humans can still persevere under a different form of existence. The answer to the continued cycle of being shows that the body is gone, but their "heads ... hammer through daisies" (line 25) and become part of a larger form of reality, making their presence known in every aspect of nature. Though death merely exists, life continues and thrives.

    Perseverance

    Through the use of contrast, the poetic voice invites the reader to consider the nature of death and how the beauty of life continues despite a seemingly unavoidable ending. People may no longer experience "gulls cry" (line 20) or "waves break loud" (line 21) or even "the blows of rain" (line 23), but life will persevere. This concept is explored as the voice asserts that humans will thrive, even in the "stars" (line 5) until "the sun breaks down" (line 26). The resilient spirit of humankind continues, even as the body is "dead as nails," (line 24); the will grows in flowers, in nature, and is evidenced through the light shining with each sunrise.

    The detailed imagery in stanza two of the poem expresses the different ways the body physical can suffer. From being tortured with the self "[t]wisting on racks," (line 13) "strapped to a wheel," (line 14) and "split all ends up" (line 17) the physical form withstands the pain. Humankind not only withstands physical pain, but persists. The speaker expresses the idea of persistence by noting that despite bodily torment and anguish, the self "shall not die," (line 12) "shall not break," (line 14) and "shan't crack" (line 17). Humankind has a spirit that will endure and continue, even in the face of death.

    How would you focus your analysis of "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" on a theme you identify in the poem?

    And Death Shall Have No Dominion - Key Takeaways

    • "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" is a poem written by Dylan Thomas.
    • The poem "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" was published in 1933.
    • In "And death shall have no dominion" Dylan uses refrain and visual imagery to help the reader connect with the meaning of the poem.
    • The controlling themes of "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" are that death's power is limited and humanity's ability to persevere.
    • "Death Shall Have No Dominion" expresses that the human spirit is stronger than death, and that death is part of the cycle of life and nature.
    1. Holy Bible. King James Version.
    Frequently Asked Questions about And death shall have no dominion

    What is the meaning behind "And death shall have no dominion"?

    The meaning of "And death shall have no dominion" is that the human spirit is stronger than death, and that death is part of the cycle of life and nature.

    What is the purpose of the imagery in "And Death Shall Have No Dominion"?

    The purpose of the imagery in "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" is to to help the reader connect with the meaning of the poem. Stanza 2 uses descriptive imagery detailing the ways a physical body can suffer torture. This description helps readers understand that the human spirit can rise above the physical existence. 

    What is the tone of "And Death Shall Have No Dominion"?

    The tone of "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" is assertive and calm. 

    What kind of poem is "And Death Shall Have No Dominion"?

    "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" is a 3 stanza poem with near rhyme. Each stanza consists of 9 lines, with the first and last line of the poem repeating the line "And death shall have no dominion."

    What is the theme of "And death shall have no dominion"?

    The central themes of "And death shall have no dominion" are death's power is limited and humanity's ability to persevere.

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