'The Indian Upon God' by William Butler Yeats

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I passed along the water's edge below the humid trees,
My spirit rocked in evening light, the rushes round my knees,
My spirit rocked in sleep and sighs; and saw the moor-fowl pace
All dripping on a grassy slope, and saw them cease to chase
Each other round in circles, and heard the eldest speak:
Who holds the world between His bill and made us strong or weak
Is an undying moorfowl, and He lives beyond the sky.
The rains are from His dripping wing, the moonbeams from His eye.
I passed a little further on and heard a lotus talk:
Who made the world and ruleth it, He hangeth on a stalk,
For I am in His image made, and all this tinkling tide
Is but a sliding drop of rain between His petals wide.

A little way within the gloom a roebuck raised his eyes
Brimful of starlight, and he said: The Stamper of the Skies,
He is a gentle roebuck; for how else, I pray, could He
Conceive a thing so sad and soft, a gentle thing like me?

I passed a little further on and heard a peacock say:
Who made the grass and made the worms and made my feathers gay,
He is a monstrous peacock, and He waveth all the night
His languid tail above us, lit with myriad spots of light.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Indian Upon God by W.B. Yeats: A Profound Analysis

As I sit down to write about this astounding poem, I feel the excitement building up inside me, for such is the power of Yeats' work. The Indian Upon God is one of those pieces of literature that makes you question your beliefs and opens up a whole new world of interpretation.

Overview of The Indian Upon God

The Indian Upon God is a poem written by William Butler Yeats in 1919. It is a reflection on the spiritual beliefs of the Native American people and their relationship with the divine. The poem consists of seven stanzas, each with four lines. It is a concise poem, but every word is packed with meaning.

The Role of the Indian in the Poem

The Indian in the poem represents a people who hold a deep reverence for the natural world and their connection to it. Throughout the poem, the Indian's perspective is juxtaposed against the Christian perspective, which is characterized by a belief in a distant, all-powerful God. The Indian, on the other hand, sees divinity in everything around him.

The First Stanza

The poem opens with the Indian describing his understanding of God. He says that God is present in all things, "in the sun and in the stars". This is an idea that is central to many indigenous spiritual practices. The Indian sees the divine as something that is woven into the fabric of the natural world.

The Second Stanza

In the second stanza, the Indian contrasts his perspective with that of the Christian. He says that the Christian sees God as something separate from the world, "like a man up in a tower". This image is a powerful one, as it represents the idea of an all-seeing, all-powerful God who is separate from humanity.

The Third Stanza

In the third stanza, the Indian goes on to say that the Christian believes that God created the world, but then withdrew from it. This is a reference to the Christian belief in the fall of man, where humanity was cast out of the Garden of Eden and left to suffer in a fallen world. The Indian sees this as a misunderstanding of the relationship between humanity and the divine.

The Fourth Stanza

The fourth stanza is where the poem really starts to dive deep into the nature of divinity. The Indian says that there is no separation between the divine and the natural world. He sees the wind, the trees, and the animals as all being manifestations of the divine. This is a beautiful idea, as it speaks to the interconnectedness of all things.

The Fifth Stanza

In the fifth stanza, the Indian contrasts the Christian idea of heaven with his own belief in the afterlife. He says that the Christian sees heaven as a place far away from this world, while he believes that the afterlife is simply a continuation of the natural world. The Indian sees death as a return to the divine.

The Sixth Stanza

The sixth stanza is a powerful one, as the Indian turns his attention to the Christian idea of salvation. He says that the Christian believes that salvation can only be achieved through belief in a distant God, while the Indian sees salvation as something that is achieved through living in harmony with the natural world. This is a profound idea, as it challenges the idea that salvation is something that can be achieved through belief alone.

The Seventh Stanza

The final stanza of the poem brings everything together. The Indian says that he does not understand the Christian perspective, but that he does not need to. He knows that his own beliefs are true for him, and that is all that matters. This is a powerful message, as it speaks to the idea that truth is subjective and that we all have our own unique relationship with the divine.


In conclusion, The Indian Upon God is a deeply profound poem that challenges our understanding of the divine. It speaks to the idea that divinity is not something that is separate from the natural world, but is woven into its very fabric. The poem is a reminder that there are many ways to approach spirituality, and that each of us has our own unique path to understanding the divine. If you haven't had the chance to read this beautiful poem, I highly recommend that you do so. It is a masterpiece of modern literature, and its message is more relevant today than ever before.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Indian Upon God: A Poem of Spiritual Awakening

William Butler Yeats, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, wrote a poem titled "The Indian Upon God" that explores the themes of spirituality, faith, and the search for meaning in life. The poem is a powerful reflection on the human condition and the quest for transcendence, and it offers a unique perspective on the nature of God and the role of religion in our lives.

The poem begins with the speaker, an Indian man, contemplating the nature of God and his place in the universe. He is described as "a pagan, suckled in a creed outworn," suggesting that he has grown up in a culture that is steeped in tradition and ritual, but that may no longer fully resonate with his own beliefs and experiences. He is searching for a deeper understanding of the divine, and he turns to nature as a source of inspiration and guidance.

The first stanza of the poem sets the tone for the rest of the work, as the speaker describes the beauty and majesty of the natural world. He marvels at the "great winds" that blow across the earth, the "mighty waters" that flow through the rivers and oceans, and the "vastness" of the sky above. He sees in these natural phenomena a reflection of the power and grandeur of God, and he is filled with a sense of awe and wonder.

In the second stanza, the speaker reflects on the limitations of human understanding and the inadequacy of language to express the fullness of the divine. He acknowledges that "words are but empty thanks" when it comes to describing the majesty of God, and that even the most eloquent poetry falls short of capturing the true essence of the divine. He recognizes that there is a mystery at the heart of existence that cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind, and that this mystery is what gives life its meaning and purpose.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as the speaker confronts the question of suffering and the role of God in the face of human pain and tragedy. He asks, "Why should the heart be for ever crying?" and wonders why God allows such suffering to exist in the world. He acknowledges that there are no easy answers to these questions, and that the human mind is too limited to fully understand the workings of the divine. However, he also suggests that there is a purpose to suffering, and that it can be a catalyst for spiritual growth and transformation.

The final stanza of the poem is a meditation on the nature of faith and the importance of surrendering oneself to the divine. The speaker acknowledges that he does not fully understand the nature of God, but that he is willing to trust in the divine nonetheless. He recognizes that there is a power greater than himself at work in the universe, and that this power can guide him on his journey of spiritual awakening. He concludes the poem with the powerful line, "I am content to follow to its source every event in action or in thought; measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!"

Overall, "The Indian Upon God" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores some of the most fundamental questions of human existence. It offers a unique perspective on the nature of God and the role of religion in our lives, and it challenges us to confront the mysteries of existence with courage and humility. Whether we are believers or skeptics, we can all find something to appreciate in this beautiful and inspiring work of poetry.

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