Explain the line “After the first death, there is no other-“in Dylan Thomas’s poem “A Refusal to Mourn”

After the first death, there is no other-

This line appears to be highly cryptic and ambiguous. It has given rise to manifold interpretations. All these interpretations are correct and these are as follows:

i) That death is death. There is no other death because once dead, one is dead forever. There is no other death to face.

ii) One dies but once, and through that death one becomes reunited with the timeless unity of all things.

iii) Death is not the end, but thë beginning. It is the renewal of life. When one dies, one is born into a new life. Death is followed by resurrection. So “after the first death, there is no other death.”

iv) The first death referred to in this line is either birth or deäth. What Thomas is saying is what he says so often that “Death shall have no dominion”. And, as usual, he is saying it in terms of a scientific’ humanism rather than in old Testament or New Testament terms.


(v) Barbette Deutsch has given an interesting interpretation of this line. The last line gives the clue to the poem: “After the first death, there is no other.” After this early death, the child will not have to die again, as we who
grow up to adulthood repeatedly die; first the child in us, then the young man or woman: oneself after another. But this child dying without the experience of the meanness of life without having to watch the brightness leak away, in Spender’s phrase will not répeatedly die like a’ full-grown man or woman.’

(vi) Dylan Thomas’ last line returns us to the idea of a tragic and irreversible fact: that in Abel’s death. the human race first died, so that no death thereafter could be new or different or more grievous.

(vii) The Christians believe in the immortality of the soul. So after. the first death, that is, after the bodily death one does not die again for the soul is immortal, indestructible and imperishable.

(viii) The line is a rejection of the biblical doctrine of the second death inflicted upon those who will be found irredeemable in the Day of Judgement. In other words, the irredeemable will be hurt by the second death from which there is no further awakening or resurrection. In the case of the child, the question of the ‘second death’ does not arise at all for she-is already ‘unbound’ from this eternal death.

ix) “The last line provides elegiac consolation for the simple reader and the alert, a pleasing doubt. ‘The first death recalling the first death could be that of Adam, Eve, Jesus, this child or anybody…that ‘there is no other deäth after the first means, as the context demands; that death is followed by perpetual life: Christian heaven or natural rebirth in bird or flower.”