Shelly, Dylan Thomas and Arundhati Roy: My Take


An young English poet‘s revolutionary outburst against an 1819 English massacre in which he advocates non-violent resistance. Dylan Thomas talks about raging against injustices in mid-twentieth century. Arundhati Roy uses a footprint-less and fingerprint-less character Velutha. I am trying to combine these three treatises into a unified theme with ‘My Take’. Please read through. I will be honored if you would choose to comment. Thanks in advance.


“Stand ye calm and resolute,

Like a forest close and mute,

With folded arms and looks which are

Weapons of unvanquished war.

And if then the tyrants dare,

Let them ride among you there,

Slash, and stab, and maim and hew,

What they like, that let them do.

With folded arms and steady eyes,

And little fear, and less surprise

Look upon them as they slay

Till their rage has died away

Then they will return with shame

To the place from which they came,

And the blood thus shed will speak

In hot blushes on their cheek.

Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number,

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you-

Ye are many — they are few.


DYLAN THOMAS (1914-53)

Dylan advocates raging against injustice. But what are the tools available to Dylan? Please read.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.


Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


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.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Shelly’s poem seems to suggest he is an advocate of peaceful resistance. In that sense he fed ideas into Gandhi and Mandela; Shelly wasn’t a Gandhi himself.  I don’t think that is his main purpose, though. Why is that? Well, let me explain.

Idea of peaceful resistance was not invented by Gandhi, or even by Shelly: Jesus implanted the metaphor of ‘showing the other cheek’. So all are followers of Jesus– Shelly, Gandhi, Mandela and all!

Shelly died young, was he murdered? Also Keats and Byron, who were contemporaries, died young too! They were three too many young men dying  to be coincidences.

The poem itself wasn’t published until after Shelly’s death, fearing reprisals!

I am reminded of Chinese activist Wei Wei, Danish cartoonists, Indian painter Hussain.

Thomas’s poem reminds me the plight of sensitive poets. Rage, rage against dying of light: don’t go gently accepting your predicament even if it is the end of your life.

I am reminded of God of Small Things. Author Roy uses special tools to describe the character Velutha, a man without finger prints, who doesn’t leave foot prints on sand. Velutha raged in his youth as a communist activist, but when he was up against the brutal system, he chose to be fingerprint-less and footprint-less.

Isn’t Thomas saying: “DON’T EVER DO THAT; RAGE-RAGE-RAGE.” But he is not clear what the tools with which to rage are. Peace or Violence – Thomas either doesn’t know or doesn’t make it clear. This is the plight of sensitive poets: all they know is to rage-rage. It may be futile, darkness may be temporarily right, but they do want to keep up the rage.

Shelly’s attitude seems to approve Velutha’s methods of fingerprint-less and footprint-less passing out into oblivion. But he is hoping that the sacrifice would rise like Lion later to humble the oppressors. In that context, is Shelly actually looking for creating powerful symbols or martys as rallying point for larger  number of activists ?

Thomas actually wrote the poem when his father was dying. But it was not written for his father . Thomas probably wants his readers to RAGE, RAGE like Shelly’s Lion. But there is no sacrifice involved in Thomas’s poem and hence the symbolism is not powerful enough. He is appealing to the intellect of the people to rage, whereas Shelly is hoping that the emotional appeal of innocent sacrifice would provoke people to action.  Life is too precious to be thrown away. But Shelly lost it anyhow on the altar of radical thinking.




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