What's the Poem in 'Interstellar'? Dylan Thomas' Words Have Been Used in TV & Film Before
Warning: spoilers ahead. So you saw Interstellar and thought it was amazing and not really as confusing as people are making it out to be, I see. (OK, maybe you thought it was totally confusing. That's fine too.) And now that you have finally stopped staring into a mirror contemplating reality, you have important to questions to ask, like: Will the remaining population of the Earth one day be sent to live in a centrifuge which orbits a wormhole near Saturn? And also: What's the poem in Interstellar? It sounds so familiar! Well, I'm here to answer one of those.
Unfortunately, I need to stare off into space (ha!) for a few more weeks before I'll even begin to answer that whole future of humanity question, but I do know who wrote that poem Michael "I'm secretly evil!" Caine recites during the film. The poem is titled "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight" and is by Dylan Thomas, a Welsh poet who lived during the first half of the 20th century. If you're like me, you probably thought the poem was by Walt Whitman and that's probably because you've seen Dead Poets Society too many times. And if you didn't, then good for you! The education system has done you a solid.
If the poem sounds familiar, that's because it's been featured in films and television before, and because it's just so damn poem-y sounding. (You know what I mean.) A couple days after I saw Interstellar, I heard the poem on a commercial for a video game about wrestling called WWE 2K15. This makes sense because the poem is about RAAAAGE!!!! But it's also about death and fighting for your life — or, you know, the lives of the entire human race. Rage!
The poem — in addition to being in a video game commercial and a movie that made the world say, "What? Matt Damon is an esteemed enough actor (read: he's been around long enough) that he is the surprise cameo? I mean, I like Matt Damon and all, but this is the type of thing that's kept secret now?" — has also been featured in the 1986 film Back to School, an episode of Family Guy, and the opening line of the poem was slightly altered for Independence Day, among other references.
If the poem sounds even more familiar than that, it may be because you have it confused with another poem. "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight" just sounds like it has been used in every movie (particularly war dramas, though apparently that is not the case) you've ever seen.
Here is the poem in full for your reading pleasure:
Do not go gentle into that good night,Old age should burn and rave at close of day;Rage, rage against the dying of the light.Though wise men at their end know dark is right,Because their words had forked no lightning theyDo not go gentle into that good night.Good men, the last wave by, crying how brightTheir 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 grieve it on its way,Do not go gentle into that good night.Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sightBlind 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.
And here is Michael Caine reciting the poem in the film's trailer. I'm pretty sure he recited this poem to "Mr. Wayne" in The Dark Knight...
Images: Paramount Pictures