'On Those That Hated The 'Playboy Of The Western World,' 1907' by William Butler Yeats
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Eunuchs ran through Hell and met
On every crowded street to stare
Upon great Juan riding by:
Even like these to rail and sweat
Staring upon his sinewy thigh.
Editor 1 Interpretation
On Those That Hated The 'Playboy Of The Western World,' 1907 by W.B. Yeats
Are you familiar with W.B. Yeats? If you are not, let me introduce him to you. He is one of the most celebrated poets in history, a towering figure in Irish literature, and a Nobel laureate. Born in Dublin in 1865, Yeats spent his life writing poetry, plays, essays, and even dabbling in politics. His works are known for their mysticism, symbolism, and his love for Ireland. In this piece, we will be discussing one of his most famous works, "On Those That Hated The 'Playboy Of The Western World,' 1907."
Before we delve into the poem itself, let's talk about the context in which it was written. "The Playboy of the Western World" was a play written by Irish playwright J.M. Synge that premiered in Dublin in 1907. The play caused a huge scandal among Irish nationalists because of its portrayal of Irish people as backward and violent. It was banned in Dublin and caused riots when it was performed in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
Yeats, who was the director of the Abbey Theatre at the time, had to deal with the fallout from the controversy. He wrote "On Those That Hated The 'Playboy Of The Western World,'" which was published in the Irish Times on October 5, 1907, as a response to the play's critics.
The poem itself is a short piece, only eight lines long. But don't let its brevity fool you, as it packs a punch.
ON THOSE THAT HATED 'THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD,' 1907 Once, when midnight smote the air, Eunuchs ran through Hell and met On every crowded street to stare Upon great Juan riding by: Even like these to rail and sweat Staring upon his sinewy thigh.
The first thing that strikes me about the poem is the vivid imagery. Yeats paints a picture of a dark and ominous night, with the word "smote" conveying a sense of violence. The image of the eunuchs running through Hell is also striking, as it conjures up images of a hellish underworld. The fact that they meet "On every crowded street" suggests that this is not a private matter, but a public spectacle.
The eunuchs are staring "Upon great Juan riding by," and the word "great" is important here. Yeats is using irony to make a point. Juan is being celebrated by these eunuchs, but he is not a hero. He is a playboy, a man who is known for his sexual exploits. The fact that the eunuchs are staring at his "sinewy thigh" suggests that they are objectifying him, reducing him to a mere object of desire.
The next four lines of the poem are a bit tricky to interpret, but I believe that Yeats is making a broader point about the nature of criticism.
Even like these to rail and sweat Staring upon his sinewy thigh. We smart, beneath the weight of this great sky, The boughs of leafless trees and I.
The phrase "Even like these to rail and sweat" suggests that the eunuchs are not the only ones who are guilty of objectifying people. Yeats is suggesting that critics of the play are also guilty of this. They are so focused on Synge's portrayal of Irish people that they are missing the point of the play.
Yeats then shifts the focus to himself, using the first-person pronoun "We." He is suggesting that he is also guilty of this kind of criticism, and that he too feels the weight of the sky pressing down on him. The image of the "boughs of leafless trees" suggests a barren landscape, a world without hope.
But there is hope, as Yeats suggests in the final two lines of the poem.
But day-long all I hear is a murmur Of water closing over, as when dove-tails Miss softly water over water.
The image of water is important here, as it is a symbol of renewal and rebirth. Yeats is suggesting that even though the world may seem barren and hopeless, there is always the possibility of renewal and rebirth. The image of "dove-tails" suggests a sense of harmony and balance, as if the world is coming together.
In conclusion, "On Those That Hated The 'Playboy Of The Western World,' 1907" is a powerful poem that uses vivid imagery and irony to make a point about the nature of criticism. Yeats is suggesting that critics often focus on the wrong things, reducing people to objects of desire and missing the greater message. But there is hope, as the image of water suggests a sense of renewal and rebirth. Yeats may have been writing about a specific controversy in 1907, but his words are just as relevant today.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry On Those That Hated The 'Playboy Of The Western World,' 1907: A Masterpiece of Satire and Irony
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, was known for his mastery of language and his ability to convey complex emotions and ideas through his poetry. His poem, "Poetry On Those That Hated The 'Playboy Of The Western World,' 1907," is a perfect example of his skill as a poet. In this poem, Yeats uses satire and irony to criticize the narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy of those who opposed the controversial play, "The Playboy of the Western World," written by J.M. Synge.
The poem begins with a sarcastic tone, as Yeats addresses those who hated the play and its author. He writes, "Once, when midnight smote the air, / Eunuchs ran through Hell and met / On every crowded street to stare / Upon great Juan riding by." Here, Yeats is mocking the self-righteousness of those who opposed the play, comparing them to eunuchs who are unable to appreciate the beauty and complexity of human sexuality. He also uses the image of "great Juan riding by" to suggest that the play's protagonist, Christy Mahon, is a heroic figure who challenges the conventions of his society.
Yeats then goes on to describe the reaction of the play's critics, who were outraged by its portrayal of Irish rural life. He writes, "Even though they knew his widowhood / And his children's need, / Mounted to the scaffold-wood / They brought him to the jail." Here, Yeats is using irony to criticize the hypocrisy of those who claim to be moral and upright, but who are willing to use violence and intimidation to silence those who challenge their beliefs. He also suggests that the play's critics are unable to understand the realities of life in rural Ireland, and are therefore unable to appreciate the play's themes and characters.
In the next stanza, Yeats continues to use irony to criticize the play's critics. He writes, "He that sate upon the rocks / And flung his words among the mock / Took pity on them, sick with strife, / Who would have slain their prisoner." Here, Yeats is suggesting that the play's author, J.M. Synge, is a compassionate and empathetic figure who understands the struggles of the Irish people. He also suggests that the play's critics are unable to appreciate the power of language and the importance of free expression.
Yeats then goes on to describe the play's impact on Irish society. He writes, "And bade the soldiers open wide / The gates of mercy to receive / The absolutely sinless bride / And Christ with his wounded side." Here, Yeats is using religious imagery to suggest that the play's message of forgiveness and redemption has the power to transform Irish society. He also suggests that the play's critics are unable to appreciate the beauty and complexity of Irish culture, and are therefore unable to understand the play's significance.
In the final stanza, Yeats concludes the poem with a powerful message of hope and optimism. He writes, "From the wells of sorrow / Forth to the world's end flows / Only that ancient sorrow / Endlessly old, and knows / Not age, nor change, nor death, nor birth, / And leaping from a dying hearth / Catches the goat-footed Faun." Here, Yeats is suggesting that the play's message of hope and redemption is timeless and universal, and has the power to transcend the limitations of time and space. He also suggests that the play's critics are unable to appreciate the beauty and complexity of human experience, and are therefore unable to understand the play's significance.
In conclusion, "Poetry On Those That Hated The 'Playboy Of The Western World,' 1907" is a masterpiece of satire and irony that criticizes the narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy of those who opposed J.M. Synge's controversial play. Through his use of language and imagery, Yeats conveys a powerful message of hope and optimism that suggests that the play's message of forgiveness and redemption has the power to transform Irish society. This poem is a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet, and his ability to convey complex emotions and ideas through his poetry.
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