'A Man Young And Old: XI. From Oedipus At Colonus' by William Butler Yeats

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The Tower1928Endure what life God gives and ask no longer span;
Cease to remember the delights of youth, travel-wearied aged man;
Delight becomes death-longing if all longing else be vain.Even from that delight memory treasures so,
Death, despair, division of families, all entanglements of mankind grow,
As that old wandering beggar and these God-hated children know.In the long echoing street the laughing dancers throng,
The bride is catried to the bridegroom's chamber through torchlight and tumultuous song;
I celebrate the silent kiss that ends short life or long.Never to have lived is best, ancient writers say;
Never to have drawn the breath of life, never to have looked into the eye of day;
The second best's a gay goodnight and quickly turn away.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Man Young and Old: XI. From Oedipus at Colonus by William Butler Yeats

Have you ever read a poem that just speaks to your soul? A poem that seems to perfectly encapsulate your thoughts and emotions? That's how I felt when I first read A Man Young and Old: XI. From Oedipus at Colonus by William Butler Yeats. In this 14-line poem, Yeats explores themes of aging, death, and the search for meaning in life. Let's dive in and take a closer look at this beautiful piece of poetry.

The Poem

Before we dive into the analysis, let's first read through the poem in its entirety:

A Man Young and Old: XI. From Oedipus at Colonus

One that knew all that He had said And had not said a word Out of his head. Because He had come no more Into his sight That man had kept a stone In readiness all night That he might jam it Into his mouth. William Butler Yeats

At first glance, this may seem like a simple and straightforward poem. But as we delve deeper, we begin to uncover the layers of meaning and symbolism that Yeats has woven into these 14 lines.


The poem begins with the line "One that knew all that He had said," referring to someone who had listened intently to the words of a wise man. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for the search for knowledge and enlightenment. The speaker is suggesting that this person had absorbed all of the wisdom that the wise man had imparted, and had become wise themselves.

The second line, "And had not said a word," is a curious one. It almost seems to contradict the first line, as if to say that this person had not actually become wise themselves, but had simply memorized the words of the wise man without truly understanding them. It could also be interpreted as a reference to the idea that true wisdom lies in silence - that sometimes the best way to learn is to simply listen and absorb without feeling the need to speak.

The third line, "Out of his head," is a clever play on words. It could mean that the knowledge had simply stayed in the person's head, but it could also mean that the person had gone crazy from all the knowledge they had absorbed. This could be interpreted as a warning against becoming too obsessed with knowledge and losing touch with reality.

The next three lines are a bit more straightforward. The speaker describes how the wise man had not returned, and the person who had listened to him had kept a stone in readiness all night, presumably to jam it into his mouth if he were to return. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for the frustration and disappointment that comes with seeking knowledge and never quite finding the answers you're looking for.

The final line, "William Butler Yeats," is a bit of a mystery. Some interpret it as Yeats signing his name to the poem, while others suggest that it could be a reference to Yeats himself being the wise man that the speaker is referring to. It could also be seen as a way of tying the poem back to Yeats' own search for meaning and enlightenment.


So what does this all mean? At its core, A Man Young and Old: XI. From Oedipus at Colonus is a meditation on the search for meaning in life. The wise man that the speaker refers to could be seen as a metaphor for the search for enlightenment - we are constantly seeking answers to life's big questions, but often find ourselves frustrated and disappointed when those answers don't come.

The image of the stone in readiness all night is a powerful one. It speaks to the desperation and frustration that can come with seeking knowledge and never quite finding it. We become so hungry for answers that we're willing to do anything to get them - even if that means jamming a stone into our own mouths.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this poem is the ambiguity. Yeats leaves so much up to interpretation that the poem can be read in a variety of different ways. Is the person who listened to the wise man truly wise themselves, or have they simply memorized his words without understanding them? Is the stone in readiness a symbol of desperation or determination? Is the final line a sign-off or a call-to-action?

Ultimately, the beauty of A Man Young and Old: XI. From Oedipus at Colonus lies in its ability to speak to each reader in a different way. It's a poem that encourages us to ask questions, to think deeply about the meaning of life, and to never stop searching for answers. And that, my friends, is something truly special.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry A Man Young And Old: XI. From Oedipus At Colonus is a masterpiece by the renowned Irish poet, William Butler Yeats. This poem is a part of his collection, A Man Young And Old, which was published in 1928. The poem is inspired by the Greek tragedy, Oedipus At Colonus, written by Sophocles. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail.

The poem is a reflection on the life of Oedipus, the tragic hero of Greek mythology. Oedipus was a king who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. When he discovered the truth, he blinded himself and went into exile. The play, Oedipus At Colonus, is about his final days, where he seeks redemption and forgiveness for his sins.

The poem begins with the lines, "I am worn out with dreams; A weather-worn, marble triton Among the streams; And all day long I look Upon this lady's beauty." The speaker is Oedipus, who is tired of his dreams. He compares himself to a weather-worn, marble triton, a mythical sea creature, who is surrounded by streams. The imagery of the triton and the streams symbolizes Oedipus's isolation and loneliness. He is a broken man, who has lost everything, and is now living in exile.

The lady in the poem refers to the goddess, Athena, who appears to Oedipus in his dreams. Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, and inspiration. She is the one who guides Oedipus in his final days and helps him find redemption. Oedipus is in awe of her beauty and wisdom, and he longs to be close to her.

The next stanza of the poem reads, "Till I forget to stir; A grey- haired, wandering scholar, In his dim library." Here, Oedipus compares himself to a grey-haired, wandering scholar, who is lost in his thoughts in a dim library. The imagery of the scholar and the library symbolizes Oedipus's quest for knowledge and understanding. He is trying to make sense of his life and his fate, and he is seeking answers to his questions.

The poem then takes a darker turn, as Oedipus reflects on his past. He says, "What are those blue remembered hills, What spires, what farms are those? That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went And cannot come again." The blue remembered hills and the shining plain represent Oedipus's memories of his past. He longs to go back to the happy highways of his youth, but he knows that he can never return. The land of lost content represents his lost innocence and his lost happiness. He is haunted by his past, and he cannot escape it.

The final stanza of the poem reads, "Ah, no, the years O! How the sick leaves reel down in throngs! They trod on me with feet unshod, And the old bookshelves groan; And I hear cascade's roar And shake among reeds and rooks the moan Of that old man whom I adore." Here, Oedipus reflects on the passage of time and the inevitability of death. The sick leaves represent the passing of time, and how it wears down everything, including Oedipus. The old bookshelves groaning symbolize the weight of Oedipus's knowledge and his burden of guilt. The cascade's roar and the moan of the old man represent the sound of death, which is coming for Oedipus.

In conclusion, Poetry A Man Young And Old: XI. From Oedipus At Colonus is a powerful poem that reflects on the life of Oedipus, the tragic hero of Greek mythology. The poem is a reflection on the passage of time, the inevitability of death, and the search for redemption. Yeats's use of imagery and symbolism creates a haunting and powerful atmosphere, which captures the essence of Oedipus's tragic life. This poem is a testament to Yeats's mastery of the English language and his ability to capture the human experience in all its complexity.

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