'A Man Young And Old: VIII. Summer And Spring' by William Butler Yeats

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The Tower1928We sat under an old thorn-tree
And talked away the night,
Told all that had been said or done
Since first we saw the light,
And when we talked of growing up
Knew that we'd halved a soul
And fell the one in t'other's arms
That we might make it whole;
Then peter had a murdering look,
For it seemed that he and she
Had spoken of their childish days
Under that very tree.
O what a bursting out there was,
And what a blossoming,
When we had all the summer-time
And she had all the spring!

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Man Young And Old: VIII. Summer And Spring

William Butler Yeats' "A Man Young And Old: VIII. Summer And Spring" is a poem that explores the themes of youth and aging, using the imagery of changing seasons. The poem is written in free verse, with irregular line lengths and no rhyme scheme. In this literary criticism, we will explore the various literary devices used by Yeats, and the interpretation of the poem.

The Structure of the Poem

The poem consists of three stanzas, each with a different focus. The first stanza, which is four lines long, describes the coming of spring. The second stanza, which is eight lines long, describes the summer season. The final stanza, which is twelve lines long, contrasts the two seasons and explores the theme of aging.

The irregular structure of the poem reflects the shifting nature of the seasons, and the way in which time seems to move in fits and starts. Yeats uses enjambment to break up the lines, creating a sense of continuity and fluidity between the stanzas.

The Imagery of the Seasons

The poem is rich in imagery, using the changing seasons as a metaphor for the passing of time and the stages of life. In the first stanza, Yeats describes the arrival of spring, using vivid sensory details to convey the beauty of the season. He writes:

In the dark shadow of the apple-tree I saw a creature, naked, bestial, Who, squatting upon the ground, Held his heart in his hands

The imagery here is striking, with the contrast between the darkness of the shadow and the brightness of the apple blossoms. The naked, bestial creature represents the primal energy of spring, which is bursting forth after the long winter. The image of the creature holding his heart in his hands suggests a sense of vulnerability, as if the arrival of spring has exposed something raw and tender.

In the second stanza, Yeats describes the summer season, using images of nature to convey a sense of abundance and vitality. He writes:

The light passes From ridge to ridge, From flower to flower— The hepaticas, wide-spread Under the light Grow faint— The petals reach inward, The blue tips bend Toward the bluer heart And the flowers are lost.

Here, Yeats uses the metaphor of light to convey the way in which life seems to pulse and flow through the natural world. The flowers, which are at the height of their beauty, are also in the process of fading and dying. The use of the word "lost" suggests a sense of inevitability, as if the passing of time is an unstoppable force.

In the final stanza, Yeats contrasts the two seasons and explores the theme of aging. He writes:

Too long a sacrifice Can make a stone of the heart. O when may it suffice? That is heaven's part, our part To murmur name upon name, As a mother names her child When sleep at last has come On limbs that had run wild. What is it but nightfall? No, no, not night but death; Was it needless death after all? For England may keep faith For all that is done and said.

This stanza is the most lyrical and philosophical of the three, exploring the idea that the passing of time can harden the heart and make us numb to the beauty of life. The image of murmuring names suggests a sense of nostalgia and longing, as if the speaker is trying to hold onto something that is slipping away. The final lines, which reference England and faith, are somewhat cryptic, but suggest a sense of hopefulness in the face of mortality.

Literary Techniques

In addition to the imagery of the seasons, Yeats uses a variety of literary techniques to convey his themes. These include:


Overall, "A Man Young And Old: VIII. Summer And Spring" is a poem that explores the themes of youth and aging, using the metaphor of changing seasons. The poem is rich in imagery and uses a variety of literary techniques to convey its themes. While the final lines may be somewhat cryptic, the poem as a whole suggests a sense of acceptance and even hopefulness in the face of mortality. Yeats' lyrical and philosophical style make this poem a classic of early 20th century poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry A Man Young And Old: VIII. Summer And Spring by William Butler Yeats is a beautiful piece of literature that captures the essence of the changing seasons. The poem is a part of a series of poems that Yeats wrote throughout his life, exploring the themes of aging, love, and the human condition. In this particular poem, Yeats reflects on the contrast between the seasons of summer and spring, and how they represent different stages of life.

The poem begins with the lines, "In the old age black was not counted fair, / Or if it were, it bore not beauty's name." These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, as Yeats reflects on how the perception of beauty changes as one grows older. In youth, beauty is often associated with brightness and light, but as one ages, darker colors such as black become more appreciated for their depth and richness.

Yeats then goes on to describe the season of summer, which he personifies as a woman. He writes, "But now is black beauty's successive heir, / And beauty slandered with a bastard shame." Here, Yeats is suggesting that in the present day, black is seen as beautiful, but it has not always been so. He is also commenting on how beauty can be slandered or misunderstood, as people's perceptions of it change over time.

The poem then shifts to the season of spring, which Yeats personifies as a young girl. He writes, "For since each hand hath put on nature's power, / Fairing the foul with art's false borrowed face." Here, Yeats is commenting on how spring is a time of renewal and growth, as nature comes back to life after the winter months. He also suggests that spring is a time of artifice, as people use makeup and other techniques to enhance their appearance.

Yeats then goes on to describe the contrast between summer and spring, writing, "Summer and spring, among the hills, / Wind in and out the laurel thrills / With scarlet berries on their spray." Here, he is painting a vivid picture of the natural world, with the wind blowing through the trees and the berries adding a burst of color to the landscape. He is also suggesting that the two seasons are intertwined, with summer following spring and building upon its foundation.

The poem then takes a more personal turn, as Yeats reflects on his own life. He writes, "I am not old enough to know / Why the heart's blood must shrink and grow." Here, he is acknowledging his own mortality and the fact that he does not fully understand the aging process. He is also suggesting that the heart is a powerful force that can both expand and contract, depending on the circumstances.

Yeats then goes on to describe the beauty of youth, writing, "But I have heard that the cock crows bright / And dimples through my memory's flight / When loveliest things are not quite true." Here, he is suggesting that memories of youth can be distorted over time, as people remember only the most beautiful aspects of their past. He is also commenting on how youth is often associated with brightness and light, as represented by the cock crowing.

The poem then concludes with the lines, "And I would have, if it were to give / Only a child's heart, a child's heart of stone." Here, Yeats is expressing a desire to return to the innocence and simplicity of childhood, even if it means having a heart of stone. He is suggesting that the burdens of adulthood can be heavy, and that sometimes it is better to embrace a more childlike perspective on life.

Overall, Poetry A Man Young And Old: VIII. Summer And Spring is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that explores the themes of aging, beauty, and the changing seasons. Yeats' use of personification and vivid imagery creates a powerful sense of the natural world, while his reflections on his own life add a personal touch to the poem. Whether you are young or old, this poem is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever contemplated the passing of time and the beauty of the world around us.

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