'Cuchulan's Fight With The Sea' by William Butler Yeats
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A man came slowly from the setting sun,
To Emer, raddling raiment in her dun,
And said, 'I am that swineherd whom you bid
Go watch the road between the wood and tide,
But now I have no need to watch it more.'
Then Emer cast the web upon the floor,
And raising arms all raddled with the dye,
Parted her lips with a loud sudden cry.
That swineherd stared upon her face and said,
'No man alive, no man among the dead,
Has won the gold his cars of battle bring.'
'But if your master comes home triumphing
Why must you blench and shake from foot to crown?'
Thereon he shook the more and cast him down
Upon the web-heaped floor, and cried his word:
'With him is one sweet-throated like a bird.'
'You dare me to my face,' and thereupon
She smote with raddled fist, and where her son
Herded the cattle came with stumbling feet,
And cried with angry voice, 'It is not meet
To ide life away, a common herd.'
'I have long waited, mother, for that word:
But wherefore now?'
'There is a man to die;
You have the heaviest arm under the sky.'
'Whether under its daylight or its stars
My father stands amid his battle-cars.'
'But you have grown to be the taller man.'
'Yet somewhere under starlight or the sun
My father stands.'
'Aged, worn out with wars
On foot. on horseback or in battle-cars.'
'I only ask what way my journey lies,
For He who made you bitter made you wise.'
'The Red Branch camp in a great company
Between wood's rim and the horses of the sea.
Go there, and light a camp-fire at wood's rim;
But tell your name and lineage to him
Whose blade compels, and wait till they have found
Some feasting man that the same oath has bound.'
Among those feasting men Cuchulain dwelt,
And his young sweetheart close beside him knelt,
Stared on the mournful wonder of his eyes,
Even as Spring upon the ancient skies,
And pondered on the glory of his days;
And all around the harp-string told his praise,
And Conchubar, the Red Branch king of kings,
With his own fingers touched the brazen strings.
At last Cuchulain spake, 'Some man has made
His evening fire amid the leafy shade.
I have often heard him singing to and fro,
I have often heard the sweet sound of his bow.
Seek out what man he is.'
One went and came.
'He bade me let all know he gives his name
At the sword-point, and waits till we have found
Some feasting man that the same oath has bound.'
Cuchulain cried, 'I am the only man
Of all this host so bound from childhood on.
After short fighting in the leafy shade,
He spake to the young man, 'Is there no maid
Who loves you, no white arms to wrap you round,
Or do you long for the dim sleepy ground,
That you have come and dared me to my face?'
'The dooms of men are in God's hidden place,'
'Your head a while seemed like a woman's head
That I loved once.'
Again the fighting sped,
But now the war-rage in Cuchulain woke,
And through that new blade's guard the old blade broke,
And pierced him.
'Speak before your breath is done.'
'Cuchulain I, mighty Cuchulain's son.'
'I put you from your pain. I can no more.'
While day its burden on to evening bore,
With head bowed on his knees Cuchulain stayed;
Then Conchubar sent that sweet-throated maid,
And she, to win him, his grey hair caressed;
In vain her arms, in vain her soft white breast.
Then Conchubar, the subtlest of all men,
Ranking his Druids round him ten by ten,
Spake thus: 'Cuchulain will dwell there and brood
For three days more in dreadful quietude,
And then arise, and raving slay us all.
Chaunt in his ear delusions magical,
That he may fight the horses of the sea.'
The Druids took them to their mystery,
And chaunted for three days.
Stared on the horses of the sea, and heard
The cars of battle and his own name cried;
And fought with the invulnerable tide.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea: A Literary Criticism
William Butler Yeats has long been regarded as one of the most important poets of the 20th century. His poetry is known for its themes of mysticism, mythology, and Irish folklore. One of his most famous poems is "Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea," a work that explores the conflict between man and nature, as well as the human desire for immortality. In this literary criticism, we will take a closer look at this classic poem, examining its themes, structure, and symbolism.
Theme of Immortality
At the heart of "Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea" is the theme of immortality. The poem tells the story of the legendary Irish hero Cuchulain, who is determined to achieve immortality by fighting against the powerful forces of nature. Cuchulain's desire to achieve immortality is a common theme in Irish mythology, and it reflects the human desire for eternal life.
Yeats uses the character of Cuchulain to explore the idea that humans are mortal and that death is an inevitable part of life. Cuchulain's struggle against the sea represents the human struggle against the forces of nature and the inevitability of death. The sea, which is a symbol of the eternal and the infinite, represents the inevitability of death, and Cuchulain's fight against it represents the human desire for immortality.
Structure and Symbolism
The structure of "Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea" is a sonnet, which is a 14-line poem that follows a specific rhyme scheme. The poem is divided into two parts, the octet and the sestet. The octet describes Cuchulain's fight against the sea, while the sestet reflects on the idea of immortality and the inevitability of death.
The poem is full of powerful and evocative symbolism. The sea represents the eternal and the infinite, while Cuchulain represents humanity's struggle against the forces of nature. The waves crashing against the rocks represent the inevitability of death, while Cuchulain's sword represents the human desire for immortality.
Imagery and Language
Yeats' use of imagery and language in "Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea" is particularly powerful. The poem is full of vivid and evocative descriptions of nature, such as "The waves at the cliff's foot break in the / Returning foam" and "The skies they were ashen and sober." These descriptions create a sense of the power and majesty of nature, and they help to emphasize the contrast between nature and humanity.
Yeats also uses language to create a sense of drama and tension in the poem. The use of words such as "struggle," "fight," and "battle" create a sense of conflict and tension, while the repetition of the phrase "I will arise and go now" creates a sense of determination and resolve.
In conclusion, "Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of immortality, the human struggle against the forces of nature, and the inevitability of death. Yeats' use of structure, symbolism, imagery, and language all contribute to the effectiveness of the poem, creating a sense of drama, tension, and emotional resonance. This poem remains one of the greatest works of Irish poetry, and a testament to Yeats' skill as a writer.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea: A Masterpiece of Irish Mythology
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, was deeply influenced by Irish mythology and folklore. His poem "Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea" is a prime example of his fascination with the heroic tales of ancient Ireland. This poem is a masterpiece of Irish mythology, blending history, legend, and symbolism to create a powerful and evocative narrative.
The poem tells the story of Cuchulain, a legendary hero of Irish mythology, who is challenged by the sea to a battle. Cuchulain accepts the challenge and fights the sea for three days and three nights. The sea throws everything it has at Cuchulain, from waves and storms to sea monsters and demons. But Cuchulain is a fearless warrior, and he fights back with all his might.
The poem is divided into three parts, each corresponding to one day of the battle. In the first part, Cuchulain is introduced as a brave and powerful warrior, ready to face any challenge. He accepts the sea's challenge with confidence, knowing that he is the only one who can defeat it. The sea, on the other hand, is portrayed as a formidable opponent, with its waves and storms representing the forces of nature that are beyond human control.
In the second part of the poem, the battle between Cuchulain and the sea intensifies. The sea sends its most fearsome creatures to attack Cuchulain, including a giant octopus and a demon called the "Red Man". Cuchulain fights back with his sword and his bare hands, showing his incredible strength and courage. The imagery in this part of the poem is vivid and powerful, with Yeats using words like "whirlwind" and "thunder" to describe the intensity of the battle.
In the third and final part of the poem, Cuchulain emerges victorious from the battle. He has defeated the sea and proven his bravery and strength. But the victory comes at a cost, as Cuchulain is left exhausted and wounded. The sea, meanwhile, retreats back to its own domain, defeated but not destroyed. The poem ends with a sense of awe and wonder, as the reader is left to contemplate the power of nature and the heroism of Cuchulain.
One of the most striking aspects of "Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea" is its use of symbolism. The sea is not just a physical opponent for Cuchulain, but also a symbol of the unknown and the uncontrollable. It represents the forces of nature that are beyond human understanding and control. Cuchulain, on the other hand, represents the human spirit, with his bravery and determination showing that even in the face of the unknown, humans can still triumph.
Another important symbol in the poem is Cuchulain's sword. This sword is not just a weapon, but also a symbol of Cuchulain's strength and power. It represents his ability to overcome any obstacle and his willingness to fight for what he believes in. The sword is also a symbol of the heroism that is so central to Irish mythology, with Cuchulain embodying the ideal of the brave and noble warrior.
The language and imagery in "Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea" are also worth noting. Yeats uses vivid and powerful language to describe the battle, with words like "whirlwind" and "thunder" creating a sense of intensity and drama. The imagery in the poem is also striking, with Yeats using metaphors and similes to bring the battle to life. For example, he describes the sea as a "great cat" and a "black demon", while Cuchulain is compared to a "lion" and a "tiger".
In conclusion, "Cuchulain's Fight With The Sea" is a masterpiece of Irish mythology, blending history, legend, and symbolism to create a powerful and evocative narrative. The poem is a testament to Yeats' fascination with Irish folklore and his skill as a poet. It is a timeless work that continues to captivate readers today, reminding us of the power of nature and the heroism of the human spirit.
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