Lines 1-3: The poem begins with an instructional sentence that is addressed to an “unknown” individual (no pronoun was stated). In line 1, the poet uses words metaphorically. He starts by urging an individual not to go into the “good night” easily. The good night, here, refers to death. In line 2, the poet supports his idea of “good night” with the phrase, “close of the day.” These expressions can be seen as the end of life. In line three, the poet urges his addressee to fight against the coming of death. Death, in the third line, is represented as “the dying of the light.”
Commentary: The poet tackles the concept of death by imploring the person listening to him not give in without a first thought. Despite the inevitable nature of death, the poet deems it reasonable for one to try one’s best to avoid it for as long as one can. Death is something unpleasant, and this explains why the poet advises people against the resignation to fate as pertaining to death. The poet shows that his subject matter revolves around death by constantly using epithets for it. The epithets that symbolise death in this stanza include: good night, close of day and the dying of the night.
Lines 4-6: The poetic persona brings in the wise men into his argument. He admits that these men are aware of the inevitability of death. Despite their awareness, they still strive to live for as long as they can. He affirms that these wise men know that their words and deeds have made little impact on the world; hence, it comes as no surprise that they refuse to docilely accept death.
Commentary: These lines refer to the first set of people. “Wise men” here refers to humans and not just men. These individuals are deemed as wise because they do not accept death; they fight to stay alive.
Lines 7-9: The next set of people to be described are the good men. These men are categorised as good men because of their exploits in life. They do not readily and gently give in to death because they want to continue enjoying the rewards of their good deeds.
Commentary: The poet reinforces his ideals in these lines by affirming that people should never cave in easily to the calls of death. He addresses these lines to the “good men” — those who have been productive.
Lines 10-12: These lines show how the wild men, who are being adventurous in the day (They caught and sang the sun in flight — line 10), do not want to die also because they regret their deeds, “and learn, too late…” It is equally important to know that these wild men may also be seen as those who enjoy life to the fullest.
Commentary: The poet continues to mention the different sets of people in the world. This time, he brings into limelight those that can be categorised as wild — the wild men. These individuals are portrayed as adventurous people who sought the pleasures of life. These men soon realise (howbeit late) that pleasures constitute vanity; hence, they try their best to ward off death in order to make amends for their careless lifestyles.
Lines 13-15: The poetic persona talks about the “grave men”. These men, based on how they are presented, represent the elderly or old people. Despite being old and close to death, they still resist being accepting in the face of death. Old age is sometimes characterised with loss of sight. This fact is pointed out by expressions such as “blinding sight” and “blind eyes”. Irrespective of these shortcomings, the poet states that the old people still recognise the beauty of life. Therefore, they also rage against the dying of the light.
Commentary: These lines further help to strengthen the author’s arguments. Here, he uses the old people to illustrate his point. He describes them as dogged individuals who will always aspire to live and enjoy life.
Lines 16-19: The concluding part of the poem seems to be addressed to a person, the persona’s father (“And you, my father…” Line 16). He urges his father to face and fight against death as he struggles with pains, as depicted in line 16, ” sad height.”
Commentary: With the revelation that this poem is addressed to the persona’s sick father, one can now understand why the poet gives various examples of people who kick against death. All these examples are given in a bid to strengthen the resolve of his sick father; that is, if the individuals mentioned in the previous stanzas can take a stand against death, so can his father.