'Old Tom Again' by William Butler Yeats

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The Winding Stair and Other Poems1933Things out of perfection sail,
And all their swelling canvas wear,
Nor shall the self-begotten fail
Though fantastic men suppose
Building-yard and stormy shore,
Winding-sheet and swaddling - clothes.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Old Tom Again" by W.B. Yeats: A Masterpiece of Poetic Nostalgia

"Old Tom Again" is a poem written by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats in 1935, one year before his death. It is a short and simple poem, consisting of only three stanzas of four lines each, but it is also a masterpiece of poetic nostalgia, evoking a bygone era of Irish folklore and tradition that the poet cherished.

The poem is addressed to an old man named Tom, who is probably a friend or a relative of the poet. Tom is described as a "rare old man" who knows the "ways of the wood" and the "lore of the land," and who can tell many stories about the "fairies and the goblins" that used to inhabit the countryside. The poet expresses his admiration and affection for Tom, and his regret that he cannot spend more time with him, as he is "busy with a book."

The first stanza sets the tone of the poem, with its gentle and nostalgic imagery. The poet describes Tom as a "rare old man," a phrase that suggests both his uniqueness and his age. The word "rare" also implies that Tom is a treasure, a person worth cherishing and preserving. The second line of the stanza, "You seldom cross my mind," is a rhetorical device that emphasizes the poet's regret for not thinking of Tom more often. The third and fourth lines of the stanza, "I'm busy with a book / As dull as any tomb," contrast sharply with the idyllic imagery of the first line, and suggest the poet's sense of alienation from the natural world and from the people who still live in harmony with it. The phrase "dull as any tomb" is a powerful metaphor that suggests the deadness and sterility of modern culture, which has lost touch with its roots.

In the second stanza, the poet describes Tom's knowledge of the "ways of the wood" and the "lore of the land." This phrase is a poetic device that suggests the deep connection between the people and the land they inhabit, a connection that is often lost in modern society. Tom's knowledge of the "fairies and the goblins" is also a reminder of the rich folklore and mythology of Ireland, which has been passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition. The phrase "the world is mended every night" is a metaphysical statement that suggests the cyclical nature of life and the universe, and the fact that the natural world is constantly renewing itself.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful and poignant. The poet expresses his regret that he cannot spend more time with Tom, and his fear that he will lose touch with the traditions and values of his homeland. The phrase "the world is full of troubles and tomfooleries" is a reminder of the chaos and confusion of modern society, and the need for people to hold on to the wisdom and insights of the past. The final line of the stanza, "And you are old and wise," is a tribute to Tom's knowledge and experience, and a recognition of the value of the wisdom that comes with age.

Overall, "Old Tom Again" is a beautiful and moving poem that evokes a sense of longing and nostalgia for a simpler, more natural way of life. The poet's use of imagery, metaphor, and poetic devices creates a powerful sense of atmosphere and emotion, and his language is both lyrical and evocative. The poem is a testament to the enduring power of Irish folklore and tradition, and a reminder of the importance of preserving and cherishing the wisdom of the past. In short, it is a masterpiece of poetic nostalgia that will resonate with readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has always been a medium for expressing emotions, thoughts, and ideas in a creative and artistic way. One such masterpiece is "Old Tom Again" by William Butler Yeats, which is a perfect example of how poetry can be used to convey a deep sense of nostalgia and longing for the past.

The poem is a tribute to the poet's childhood memories of a man named Old Tom, who was a gardener in his family's estate. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which describes a different aspect of Old Tom's life and personality.

The first stanza begins with the poet's description of Old Tom's physical appearance. He describes him as a "stooping man" with "wrinkled face and hands," who walks with a "limp." This description creates an image of an old man who has lived a long and hard life, but who still retains a certain dignity and grace.

The second stanza focuses on Old Tom's personality and his relationship with the poet. The poet describes him as a "simple man" who "loved the birds and flowers." He also mentions how Old Tom would tell him stories about the fairies and the supernatural, which the poet found fascinating. This stanza highlights the deep bond that the poet shared with Old Tom, and how he was a source of comfort and inspiration for him.

The final stanza is a reflection on the passing of time and the inevitability of death. The poet laments how Old Tom has now passed away, and how his memory is fading away with time. He wonders if anyone will remember him in the future, and if his legacy will live on.

The poem is written in a simple and straightforward style, which adds to its charm and appeal. The use of imagery and metaphors is minimal, but effective in creating a vivid picture of Old Tom and his life. The poem is also notable for its use of repetition, with the phrase "Old Tom again" being repeated throughout the poem. This repetition serves to reinforce the poet's longing for the past and his desire to relive those memories.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its emotional depth and sincerity. The poet's love and admiration for Old Tom is evident in every line, and his grief at his passing is palpable. The poem is a testament to the power of human connection and the impact that one person can have on another's life.

In conclusion, "Old Tom Again" is a beautiful and poignant poem that captures the essence of nostalgia and the passing of time. It is a tribute to a man who may have been forgotten by the world, but who lives on in the memories of those who knew and loved him. The poem is a reminder that even the simplest of lives can have a profound impact on others, and that the memories we create are the true legacy that we leave behind.

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