Do go gentle into this good night

In 1988, I came face to face with the poem, “Do not go gentle into this good night”. The poet Dylan Thomas’ Welsh accent brought the poem alive in the way that only the poet could. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” was the line that captured my imagination. The idea of not giving in to death, of fighting it kicking and screaming resonated with me. Somewhere tucked into my understanding this line also spoke to the situation of our country at the time. “Rage, rage…”

The raging had resulted in a new life for our country. Six years later I voted for the first time as my country embraced democracy, led by Nelson Mandela who would become our President. Madiba. A man who has accomplished so much but who is still also, just a man.

A man who at this moment is critically ill, probably in pain and suffering.


Tonight there is no raging. Tonight there is waiting. A dreaded knot in my stomach that I will hear the news that I know will sadden my soul.  News that our Tata has found eternal peace.  I say our, because that’s what it feels like. This man so respected by the world is ours. And I feel a stubbornness and possessiveness about it. This man of the people and for the people belongs to this land he served so well.  As a child of this land, I feel connected to this man, who has taught me to proud of my identity as a South African. I realise that what I want for him is peace even though I can’t really picture this world without him. I realise I don’t want Tata to be fighting death I want him embracing it, falling into it. And why not? There is no need to be fighting death because he’s done his fighting here, for you and for me.  Death should hold no fear if you’ve lived a life where you’ve “raged against the dying of the light”.

How do I honour Tata Madiba? By “raging against the dying of the light”. There is a “dying of the light” everywhere. The “dying of thelight” when children are abused, neglected, raped…when women are treated as lesser humans and abused in all forms…when someone is murdered every hour of every day…when we disrespect the land…when we care only about ourselves and not others…when people are struggling to survive and the list goes on. Why am I not raging louder ? Silence in actions and words against these things won’t produce change.

Tata my prayers are with you.  Rest well tonight and I want to say,” If it’s time, do go gentle into that good night for you have raged against the dying of the light”.

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8 Responses to Do go gentle into this good night

  1. Well said! And I join you in your wish for Madiba, that he find peace, that he goes gently into that good night. This blog is a fitting tribute for him, Vanessa.

  2. Marcus says:

    One of my favourite poems, well written Vanessa…and if I may add “death be not proud”…for Tata has overcome darkness through his life’s example of shedding light.

  3. thecarolinepowell says:

    thank you- finally some much needed tears are falling- you gave me words to what i am feeling

  4. Beautiful and most appropriate

  5. idelette says:

    Beautiful, Vanessa.

    This struck me: “The raging had resulted in a new life for our country.” How true. Turning rage into revolution. Now we have to learn what to do with that rage in a new way …

    A beautiful tribute to Madiba. Thank you for sharing!

  6. bsk says:

    Asimbolanga (He is the man)

  7. bsk says:

    Oops, typo – Asimbonanga

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