And death shall have no dominion.

This is one of Dylan Thomas’s most famous poems, memorable for the striking title, which is also a repeated theme bookending each stanza; and for the rhythm of the poem which engages the reader and provides momentum and energy sustained from beginning to end.
The poem is about the invincible power of life and vitality, even in the face of our knowledge that we shall all die one day. Life itself will continue in many forms and triumph over death.

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With 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 sea
They 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 ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift 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.

Dylan Thomas

From <;

This poem not only reads very well, particularly out loud, but it is also very artfully constructed. The title and opening line starting with the word “And” links the poem to a larger discourse and implies continuity with human experience before and afterwards. The repetition of this line at the beginning and end of each stanza binds the poem together and reinforces the power of its message.

The paradox of death not being triumphant over life is echoed in supporting paradoxes through the poem, “Though they go mad they shall be sane”, “Though lovers be lost, love shall not”, “Split all ends up, they shan’t crack”, and a number of other examples of pertinent wordplay.

I bet this is one of the poem’s they read at funerals.

The Poetry Dude


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