I've always had an appreciation for Dylan Thomas. Although born more than four decades apart, we share the same birthday. Like Thomas, I love the language of Shakespeare, of William Butler Yeats and Edgar Allan Poe. In my younger years, I scribbled my share of poetry. According to his biographers, Thomas wrote more than half of his poetry when he was in his late teens.
He quit school at 16 to become a reporter - an occupation we share. He eventually quit to write poetry full time.
Eventually he recorded radio programs and worked as a scriptwriter for the BBC. Between 1945 and 1949, he wrote, recorded, or assisted with more than 100 broadcasts.
A collection of poetry, Country Sleep And Other Poems was published including his most famous poem, 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night', which I borrowed for this column's title.
The poem is one of the first piece of Thomas' work I discovered while still a teen.
It's a sad, passionate plea in which he addresses his father, urging him not to go gentle into that good night or death. It's timely this week, because Thomas died at the age of 39 on November 9, 1953 while on tour in the U.S. He collapsed at a hotel after spending time atThe White Horse Tavern, New York's second oldest operating drinking establishment. Thomas favored the place because it reminded him of taverns back in his native Wales.
The rumor has existed since then that he died from excessive drinking and he had a reputation as a hard drinking man but the truth is that he arrived in the States already ill. One of the causes of death listed officially is pneumonia.
Thomas ranks among the finest poets of his generation and high among Welsh poets, high praise in a country known for a love of language and literary excellence.
In this season, the words of his poem have a poignant significance for me. In early November last year, I received a phone call to inform me that it was time for my husband to be on hospice. My heart raged, raged against the dying of the light and resisted the possibility Roy would die in the near future. He left this life on January 12, 2019.
Thomas also wrote 'A Child's Christmas In Wales', lyrical, lovely memories of his early Christmas seasons. I enjoy reading it but most of all, I like to listen to Thomas read it aloud each year.
In memory of the poet, I leave you with lines from 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' that capture a little of the essence of the man and the poet:
"Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night."
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is the community editor for The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also a published author, a widow, and mother to three adult children, one cat and one Jack Russell terrier.