'Under The Round Tower' by William Butler Yeats

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'Although I'd lie lapped up in linen
A deal I'd sweat and little earn
If I should live as live the neighbours,'
Cried the beggar, Billy Byrne;
'Stretch bones till the daylight come
On great-grandfather's battered tomb.'

Upon a grey old battered tombstone
In Glendalough beside the stream
Where the O'Byrnes and Byrnes are buried,
He stretched his bones and fell in a dream
Of sun and moon that a good hour
Bellowed and pranced in the round tower;

Of golden king and Silver lady,
Bellowing up and bellowing round,
Till toes mastered a sweet measure,
Mouth mastered a sweet sound,
Prancing round and prancing up
Until they pranced upon the top.

That golden king and that wild lady
Sang till stars began to fade,
Hands gripped in hands, toes close together,
Hair spread on the wind they made;
That lady and that golden king
Could like a brace of blackbirds sing.

'It's certain that my luck is broken,'
That rambling jailbird Billy said;
'Before nightfall I'll pick a pocket
And snug it in a feather bed.
I cannot find the peace of home
On great-grandfather's battered tomb.'

Editor 1 Interpretation

Under The Round Tower by William Butler Yeats

Are you a fan of poetry? Do you enjoy reading classic poems that have stood the test of time and left an indelible mark on literature? If so, then you have probably heard of William Butler Yeats and his famous poem, "Under The Round Tower." This poem is a masterpiece of literature that has captivated readers for generations. In this essay, we will analyze and interpret "Under The Round Tower" to better understand its themes, its structure, and its impact on the literary world.

Background Information

Before we dive into the poem itself, let's take a moment to discuss the background of its author, William Butler Yeats. Yeats was born in Ireland in 1865, and he went on to become one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. He was a member of the Irish literary revival, a movement that sought to revitalize Irish culture and identity through literature, and he was also a key figure in the development of modernist poetry. Yeats won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923, and his works continue to be widely read and studied to this day.

Now that we have a bit of context, let's turn our attention to "Under The Round Tower."



"Under The Round Tower" is a five-stanza poem that follows a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB. Each stanza consists of four lines, and the poem is written in iambic tetrameter, which means that each line contains four iambs (a metrical foot consisting of two syllables, with the emphasis on the second syllable). The poem's structure is simple and straightforward, which allows the reader to focus on the poem's themes and imagery rather than getting bogged down in complicated language or form.


One of the most prominent themes in "Under The Round Tower" is the idea of change and transformation. The poem begins with the image of a young girl dancing under a round tower, and this image serves as a metaphor for the passage of time and the inevitability of change. The girl is described as "laughing and singing/With hair agleam," but as the poem progresses, we see her grow up and become "quiet and grey." This transformation is also reflected in the changing seasons, as the poem moves from the "warm sun" of summer to the "cold rain" of autumn.

Another theme that runs throughout the poem is the idea of memory and nostalgia. The speaker looks back on the girl's youth with fondness, describing her "dancing and playing/In the bright air." However, this nostalgia is tinged with sadness, as the speaker realizes that the girl's youth is fleeting and that time cannot be stopped. The round tower itself serves as a symbol of the past, a reminder of the generations that have come before and the passage of time that cannot be reversed.


One of the most striking features of "Under The Round Tower" is its vivid imagery. Yeats uses a variety of sensory details to bring the poem's scenes to life, from the "warm sun" and "scent of the hay" in the first stanza to the "shadows deep" and "cold rain" in the final stanza. The image of the young girl dancing under the round tower is particularly powerful, as it evokes a sense of innocence and joy that contrasts with the somber tone of the rest of the poem.

Another striking image in the poem is the contrast between light and darkness. The girl is first described as dancing in the "bright air," but as the poem progresses, we see her become "quiet and grey" and the "shadows deep" around the tower. This contrast between light and darkness serves as a metaphor for the passage of time and the inevitability of change.


Finally, let's take a closer look at the language of "Under The Round Tower." Yeats uses simple, direct language throughout the poem, which allows the reader to focus on the imagery and themes rather than getting lost in complicated syntax or vocabulary. However, there are still some notable poetic devices at work in the poem. For example, Yeats uses alliteration in several places, such as "dancing and playing" and "shadows deepen." He also uses repetition to emphasize certain phrases, such as "under the round tower" and "time cannot break the bird's wings."


So what does "Under The Round Tower" mean, and why has it endured as a classic of English literature? As we have seen, the poem touches on themes of change, memory, and the passage of time. It reminds us that youth is fleeting and that time marches on, whether we like it or not. However, the poem is not merely a meditation on mortality; it is also a celebration of the beauty and joy of life. The young girl dancing under the round tower embodies this sense of joy and innocence, and her transformation serves as a poignant reminder of the richness and complexity of human experience.

Furthermore, the poem's imagery and language contribute to its enduring appeal. Yeats' use of sensory details and vivid imagery bring the poem's scenes to life, while his simple, direct language makes the poem accessible to readers of all levels. The ABAB rhyme scheme and iambic tetrameter structure give the poem a musical quality that adds to its emotional impact.

In conclusion, "Under The Round Tower" is a masterpiece of English literature that has endured for over a century. Its themes of change, memory, and the passage of time are timeless and universal, while its vivid imagery and simple, direct language make it accessible to readers of all levels. Whether you are a longtime fan of poetry or a newcomer to the genre, this poem is sure to leave a lasting impression on you.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Under the Round Tower: A Masterpiece of Symbolism and Imagery

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. Among his many masterpieces, "Under the Round Tower" stands out as a shining example of his poetic genius. This poem is a perfect blend of symbolism, imagery, and emotion, and it takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. In this article, we will explore the themes, symbols, and imagery of "Under the Round Tower" and analyze its significance in the context of Yeats' body of work.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a scene of natural beauty, with a "green and lovely hill" and a "silver moon" shining in the sky. However, this idyllic setting is soon disrupted by the appearance of a "round tower" that looms over the landscape. The tower is described as "blackened by time," and its presence casts a shadow over the hill. The tower is a powerful symbol in the poem, representing the forces of tradition, authority, and the past. It is a reminder that the past is always present, and that we cannot escape its influence on our lives.

The speaker then describes a group of people who are gathered around the tower, "chanting" and "praying." These people represent the forces of tradition and authority, who seek to maintain the status quo and resist change. They are the guardians of the tower, and they are determined to keep it standing, no matter what. However, the speaker is not content to simply accept the tower and its guardians. He is a seeker of truth and enlightenment, and he is determined to explore the mysteries that lie beneath the surface of things.

The speaker then describes his journey into the tower, where he encounters a series of obstacles and challenges. He must climb a "winding stair" and pass through a "narrow door" before he can enter the inner chamber of the tower. These obstacles represent the difficulties and challenges that we must overcome in order to gain knowledge and understanding. They are a reminder that the path to enlightenment is not easy, and that we must be willing to face our fears and overcome our limitations in order to grow.

Once inside the tower, the speaker encounters a series of strange and mystical visions. He sees "a woman standing in the doorway," who represents the forces of intuition and creativity. She is a reminder that we must be open to new ideas and perspectives if we are to grow and evolve. The speaker also sees "a man with a hazel wand," who represents the forces of wisdom and knowledge. He is a reminder that we must seek out knowledge and understanding if we are to make sense of the world around us.

The speaker then encounters a series of animals, each of which represents a different aspect of the human psyche. He sees a "lion," which represents courage and strength, a "stag," which represents grace and beauty, and a "boar," which represents ferocity and power. These animals are a reminder that we all have different aspects to our personalities, and that we must learn to balance and integrate these aspects in order to become whole.

Finally, the speaker encounters a "crystal man," who represents the forces of enlightenment and transcendence. He is a reminder that we must strive to reach beyond our limitations and connect with something greater than ourselves. The crystal man is a symbol of the divine, and he represents the ultimate goal of the seeker of truth and enlightenment.

In conclusion, "Under the Round Tower" is a masterpiece of symbolism and imagery, and it is a testament to Yeats' poetic genius. The poem explores the themes of tradition, authority, and the search for truth and enlightenment, and it takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. The tower, the obstacles, the animals, and the crystal man are all powerful symbols that represent different aspects of the human experience, and they remind us that we must be willing to face our fears and overcome our limitations if we are to grow and evolve. This poem is a timeless masterpiece that will continue to inspire and captivate readers for generations to come.

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