The collective “hmmmm”*

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 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 that 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.

Dylan Thomas
If you’ve ever been to a poetry reading, you will recognize my reference to a “collective hmmm.” It seems to be the most commonly heard (or at least, it’s what I always seem to remember) first reaction at the end of a poem, as it is digested, and begins to settle in; the public, collective sigh you hear when a poem hits a nerve or strikes several someones as particularly profound, the apt expression of something in your heart, which speaks to the collective unconscious. It makes me giggle, and it also makes me happy, or go hmmm too, because even if it’s silly, it also speaks to something universal. There’s also something disarmed and disarming and sweet and lacking in affectation.
That’s my contribution to the collective hmmm for the day.
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