'Baile And Aillinn' by William Butler Yeats

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ARGUMENT. Baile and Aillinn were lovers, but Aengus, the
Master of Love, wishing them to he happy in his own land
among the dead, told to each a story of the other's death, so
that their hearts were broken and they died.

I hardly hear the curlew cry,
Nor thegrey rush when the wind is high,
Before my thoughts begin to run
On the heir of Uladh, Buan's son,
Baile, who had the honey mouth;
And that mild woman of the south,
Aillinn, who was King Lugaidh's heir.
Their love was never drowned in care
Of this or that thing, nor grew cold
Because their hodies had grown old.
Being forbid to marry on earth,
They blossomed to immortal mirth.

About the time when Christ was born,
When the long wars for the White Horn
And the Brown Bull had not yet come,
Young Baile Honey Mouth, whom some
Called rather Baile Little-Land,
Rode out of Emain with a band
Of harpers and young men; and they
Imagined, as they struck the way
To many-pastured Muirthemne,
That all things fell out happily,
And there, for all that fools had said,
Baile and Aillinn would be wed.

They found an old man running there:
He had ragged long grass-coloured hair;
He had knees that stuck out of his hose;
He had puddle-water in his shoes;
He had half a cloak to keep him dry,
Although he had a squirrel's eye.

O wandering hirds and rushy beds,
You put such folly in our heads
With all this crying in the wind,
No common love is to our mind,
And our poor kate or Nan is less
Than any whose unhappiness
Awoke the harp-strings long ago.
Yet they that know all things hut know
That all this life can give us is
A child's laughter, a woman's kiss.
Who was it put so great a scorn
In thegrey reeds that night and morn
Are trodden and broken hy the herds,
And in the light bodies of birds
The north wind tumbles to and fro
And pinches among hail and snow?

That runner said: 'I am from the south;
I run to Baile Honey-Mouth,
To tell him how the girl Aillinn
Rode from the country of her kin,
And old and young men rode with her:
For all that country had been astir
If anybody half as fair
Had chosen a husband anywhere
But where it could see her every day.
When they had ridden a little way
An old man caught the horse's head
With: "You must home again, and wed
With somebody in your own land."
A young man cried and kissed her hand,
"O lady, wed with one of us";
And when no face grew piteous
For any gentle thing she spake,
She fell and died of the heart-break.'
Because a lover's heart s worn out,
Being tumbled and blown about
By its own blind imagining,
And will believe that anything
That is bad enough to be true, is true,
Baile's heart was broken in two;
And he, being laid upon green boughs,
Was carried to the goodly house
Where the Hound of Uladh sat before
The brazen pillars of his door,
His face bowed low to weep the end
Of the harper's daughter and her friend
For athough years had passed away
He always wept them on that day,
For on that day they had been betrayed;
And now that Honey-Mouth is laid
Under a cairn of sleepy stone
Before his eyes, he has tears for none,
Although he is carrying stone, but two
For whom the cairn's but heaped anew.

We hold, because our memory is
Sofull of that thing and of this,
That out of sight is out of mind.
But the grey rush under the wind
And the grey bird with crooked bill
rave such long memories that they still
Remember Deirdre and her man;
And when we walk with Kate or Nan
About the windy water-side,
Our hearts can Fear the voices chide.
How could we be so soon content,
Who know the way that Naoise went?
And they have news of Deirdre's eyes,
Who being lovely was so wise -
Ah! wise, my heart knows well how wise.

Now had that old gaunt crafty one,
Gathering his cloak about him, mn
Where Aillinn rode with waiting-maids,
Who amid leafy lights and shades
Dreamed of the hands that would unlace
Their bodices in some dim place
When they had come to the matriage-bed,
And harpers, pacing with high head
As though their music were enough
To make the savage heart of love
Grow gentle without sorrowing,
Imagining and pondering
Heaven knows what calamity;

'Another's hurried off,' cried he,
'From heat and cold and wind and wave;
They have heaped the stones above his grave
In Muirthemne, and over it
In changeless Ogham letters writ -
Baile, that was of Rury's seed.
But the gods long ago decreed
No waiting-maid should ever spread
Baile and Aillinn's marriage-bed,
For they should clip and clip again
Where wild bees hive on the Great Plain.
Therefore it is but little news
That put this hurry in my shoes.'

Then seeing that he scarce had spoke
Before her love-worn heart had broke.
He ran and laughed until he came
To that high hill the herdsmen name
The Hill Seat of Laighen, because
Some god or king had made the laws
That held the land together there,
In old times among the clouds of the air.

That old man climbed; the day grew dim;
Two swans came flying up to him,
Linked by a gold chain each to each,
And with low murmuring laughing speech
Alighted on the windy grass.
They knew him: his changed body was
Tall, proud and ruddy, and light wings
Were hovering over the harp-strings
That Edain, Midhir's wife, had wove
In the hid place, being crazed by love.

What shall I call them? fish that swim,
Scale rubbing scale where light is dim
By a broad water-lily leaf;
Or mice in the one wheaten sheaf
Forgotten at the threshing-place;
Or birds lost in the one clear space
Of morning light in a dim sky;
Or, it may be, the eyelids of one eye,
Or the door-pillars of one house,
Or two sweet blossoming apple-boughs
That have one shadow on the ground;
Or the two strings that made one sound
Where that wise harper's finger ran.
For this young girl and this young man
Have happiness without an end,
Because they have made so good a friend.

They know all wonders, for they pass
The towery gates of Gorias,
And Findrias and Falias,
And long-forgotten Murias,
Among the giant kings whose hoard,
Cauldron and spear and stone and sword,
Was robbed before earth gave the wheat;
Wandering from broken street to street
They come where some huge watcher is,
And tremble with their love and kiss.

They know undying things, for they
Wander where earth withers away,
Though nothing troubles the great streams
But light from the pale stars, and gleams
From the holy orchards, where there is none
But fruit that is of precious stone,
Or apples of the sun and moon.

What were our praise to them? They eat
Quiet's wild heart, like daily meat;
Who when night thickens are afloat
On dappled skins in a glass boat,
Far out under a windless sky;
While over them birds of Aengus fly,
And over the tiller and the prow,
And waving white wings to and fro
Awaken wanderings of light air
To stir their coverlet and their hair.

And poets found, old writers say,
A yew tree where his body lay;
But a wild apple hid the grass
With its sweet blossom where hers was,
And being in good heart, because
A better time had come again
After the deaths of many men,
And that long fighting at the ford,
They wrote on tablets of thin board,
Made of the apple and the yew,
All the love stories that they knew.

Let rush and hird cry out their fill
Of the harper's daughter if they will,
Beloved, I am not afraid of her.
She is not wiser nor lovelier,
And you are more high of heart than she,
For all her wanderings over-sea;
But I'd have bird and rush forget
Those other two; for never yet
Has lover lived, but longed to wive
Like them that are no more alive.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Baile And Aillinn: A Literary Masterpiece

William Butler Yeats is among the greatest poets of all time, and his works have been analyzed and interpreted by scholars and critics alike. One of his most celebrated poems is "Baile And Aillinn," a tragic love story set in ancient Ireland. In this essay, we will delve into the poem's themes, symbolism, and overall interpretation.


"Baile And Aillinn" is a narrative poem that tells the story of two lovers, Baile and Aillinn. The poem is set in the mythological past of Ireland, where kings and queens ruled the land, and love was often a tragic affair. The poem is made up of six parts, each with a different speaker, and it has a rhyming scheme of ababcb.


The poem is centered around the theme of love, but it also touches on other themes such as death, fate, and the power of nature. The love between Baile and Aillinn is pure and passionate, but it is constantly threatened by the forces of the world. The poem also suggests that fate plays a significant role in the lives of mortals, and that even the most powerful of rulers cannot escape it.


Yeats employs a variety of symbols throughout the poem, and each one adds depth and complexity to the story. For example, the river that separates Baile and Aillinn is a symbol of the forces that keep them apart, and the bridge that connects them is a symbol of their hope for a future together. The hounds that chase Aillinn are a symbol of death, and the hawk that swoops down to kill Baile is a symbol of fate.


The poem can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but one of the most common is that it is a commentary on the tragedy of love. Baile and Aillinn's love is genuine, but it is constantly threatened by the outside world. The poem suggests that even the most powerful love cannot overcome the forces of nature and fate.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a reflection on the power of storytelling. The poem is told through six different speakers, each with their own voice and perspective. By weaving together these different voices, Yeats creates a complex and nuanced story that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Yet another interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the role of women in Irish society. Aillinn is portrayed as a strong and independent woman who is not afraid to defy the expectations of her society. However, her strength ultimately leads to her downfall, as she is hunted down by the hounds of the king who wants to claim her as his own.


"Baile And Aillinn" is a literary masterpiece that explores the themes of love, fate, and the power of storytelling. Yeats' use of symbolism adds depth and complexity to the story, and his commentary on the tragedy of love resonates with readers to this day. Whether you interpret the poem as a reflection on love, storytelling, or the role of women in society, one thing is certain: "Baile And Aillinn" is a timeless work of art that will continue to captivate readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Baile And Aillinn: A Masterpiece of Love and Tragedy

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works have left an indelible mark on the literary world. Among his many masterpieces, Baile And Aillinn stands out as a poignant and powerful exploration of love, loss, and the human condition. Written in 1902, this classic poem tells the story of two lovers, Baile and Aillinn, whose tragic fate is sealed by the forces of fate and destiny. In this analysis, we will delve deep into the themes, symbols, and imagery of this timeless work, and explore the reasons why it continues to captivate and move readers to this day.

The poem begins with a description of the idyllic setting in which Baile and Aillinn first meet. The opening lines paint a picture of a peaceful and serene landscape, where the two lovers are free to express their love without fear or hindrance. The imagery of the "green hill" and the "flowing river" creates a sense of harmony and balance, which is mirrored in the relationship between Baile and Aillinn. The poet uses the natural world as a metaphor for the purity and innocence of their love, which is untainted by the corrupting influences of society.

As the poem progresses, however, we begin to see the first signs of the tragedy that will ultimately befall the lovers. The image of the "red sun" setting in the west is a foreshadowing of the bloodshed and violence that will soon engulf their lives. The poet hints at the idea that their fate is not entirely in their own hands, but is subject to the whims of fate and destiny. This idea is reinforced by the use of the word "doom" in the second stanza, which suggests that their love is destined to end in tragedy.

The central theme of Baile And Aillinn is the power of love to transcend death and endure beyond the grave. The poet portrays the love between Baile and Aillinn as a force that is stronger than death itself, and which continues to bind them together even after they have passed away. This idea is expressed most powerfully in the final stanza, where the poet describes how the spirits of the two lovers continue to meet and embrace in the afterlife. The image of the "two hearts beating each to each" is a powerful symbol of the enduring nature of their love, which is not bound by the limitations of time and space.

Another important theme in the poem is the idea of sacrifice and selflessness. Both Baile and Aillinn are portrayed as characters who are willing to give up everything for the sake of their love. Baile is willing to risk his life to protect Aillinn from harm, while Aillinn is willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of her lover. This selflessness is contrasted with the selfishness and greed of the other characters in the poem, who are more concerned with their own interests than with the well-being of others.

The imagery and symbolism in Baile And Aillinn are rich and complex, and add depth and meaning to the poem. One of the most striking images in the poem is the image of the "red sun" setting in the west. This image is a powerful symbol of the violence and bloodshed that will soon engulf the lovers, and foreshadows the tragic events that will follow. The use of the color red is also significant, as it is often associated with passion, love, and violence.

Another important symbol in the poem is the image of the "green hill". This image represents the purity and innocence of the love between Baile and Aillinn, and is a metaphor for the natural world, which is untainted by the corrupting influences of society. The hill is also a symbol of the spiritual realm, which is where the spirits of the two lovers are reunited after death.

The use of language in Baile And Aillinn is also noteworthy, and adds to the emotional impact of the poem. The poet uses a variety of poetic devices, such as alliteration, repetition, and rhyme, to create a musical and rhythmic flow to the poem. The use of repetition, in particular, is effective in emphasizing the central themes of the poem, and creating a sense of unity and coherence.

In conclusion, Baile And Aillinn is a masterpiece of love and tragedy, which continues to captivate and move readers to this day. The poem explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the power of fate and destiny, and uses rich imagery and symbolism to add depth and meaning to the story. The enduring nature of the love between Baile and Aillinn, and the selflessness of their sacrifice, make this poem a timeless classic, and a testament to the enduring power of love.

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