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.

From Dylan's Poem Do not go gentle into that good night

"The last wave by" is this an adverb in the passive form that if written in an active voice would be: by the last wave --- indicating a presence of time?

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    I've added source for you. Please remember to fully cite your sources and in the case of a poem that is available online you should link to the text of the full poem. Poetry is often not a good source for how English syntax works. Poets break all the "rules"
    – James K
    Nov 4, 2017 at 7:29

1 Answer 1


There are layers of meanings.

"The last wave" refers to the most recent(=last) generation(=wave) of good men to go by, or perhaps the final generation of good men. It has allusions to the last stage of life of the "good men" and to a farewell wave to their loved ones, metaphorically it suggests a sea wave that will soon crash against the rocks of the "green pay"

The syntax is a shortening of "The last wave to go by" but poetry often breaks some or all the rules of syntax to create images.

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