'The Travail Of Passion' by William Butler Yeats
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When the flaming lute-thronged angelic door is wide;
When an immortal passion breathes in mortal clay;
Our hearts endure the scourge, the plaited thorns, the way
Crowded with bitter faces, the wounds in palm and side,
The vinegar-heavy sponge, the flowers by Kedron stream;
We will bend down and loosen our hair over you,
That it may drop faint perfume, and be heavy with dew,
Lilies of death-pale hope, roses of passionate dream.
Editor 1 Interpretation
William Butler Yeats' poem, "The Travail Of Passion," is a masterful piece of literature that explores the complexities of human emotion, particularly the intensity of love and desire. The poem, which was first published in 1899, is a sonnet that consists of fourteen lines, each of which is filled with rich imagery and powerful metaphors.
In this literary criticism and interpretation of "The Travail Of Passion," I will delve into the various themes and motifs that Yeats explores in the poem, as well as the literary devices he employs to convey his message. I will also examine the historical and cultural context in which the poem was written, and how this context informs its meaning.
Historical and Cultural Context
To fully understand Yeats' poem, it is important to consider the historical and cultural context in which it was written. Yeats was part of the Irish Literary Revival, a movement that sought to revive Irish language and culture, and to assert Irish identity in the face of British colonialism.
"The Travail Of Passion" was written during a time of great political and social upheaval in Ireland. The country was still under British rule, and tensions between the Irish and the English were high. Yeats himself was deeply involved in Irish nationalist politics and was an advocate for Irish independence.
This context is important because it informs the poem's themes of passion, desire, and longing, which can be seen as metaphors for the Irish people's desire for freedom and self-determination.
Themes and Motifs
One of the central themes of "The Travail Of Passion" is the intensity of human emotion, particularly the power of love and desire. Throughout the poem, Yeats uses vivid imagery and powerful metaphors to convey the overwhelming nature of these emotions.
The poem opens with the lines:
No common intelligible sound to do,
No common intelligible sound to frame,
But cries of passion, and love's holy flame,
And the wild winds' lament that all subdue.
Here, Yeats is describing the inexpressible nature of passion and desire, which cannot be put into words but are instead conveyed through cries and flames. The mention of the "wild winds' lament" suggests that these emotions are so powerful that they can even subdue the natural elements.
Yeats further explores the theme of passion and desire in the following lines:
The night has been unruly: where we lay,
Our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,
Lamentings heard i' the air; strange screams of death,
And prophesying with accents terrible
Of dire combustion and confused events
New hatch'd to the woeful time: the obscure bird
Clamour'd the livelong night: some say, the earth
Was feverous and did shake.
Here, Yeats is describing a tumultuous night, where even the natural world is affected by the intensity of human emotion. The use of the words "dire combustion" and "confused events" suggests that these emotions can lead to chaos and destruction.
Another important theme in the poem is the idea of sacrifice. Throughout the poem, Yeats suggests that the intensity of passion and desire requires a sacrifice, whether it be of one's time, energy, or even one's own life.
This theme is most evident in the following lines:
O pity me,
That through the window-bars my sad eyes see
The empty street and the waste hearth alone,
And I scarce conscious of my heart's first fire,
And dragging still behind me, as I go,
The sluggish steps of an old, tired desire.
Here, Yeats is describing a sense of longing and yearning that is so strong that it consumes the speaker's entire being. The mention of the "sluggish steps of an old, tired desire" suggests that this longing has been present for some time and has taken a toll on the speaker.
Through this theme of sacrifice, Yeats suggests that the intensity of human emotion requires us to give up something in order to fully experience it.
Yeats employs a number of literary devices throughout "The Travail Of Passion" to convey his themes and ideas. One of the most notable devices he uses is imagery, particularly the use of vivid and powerful metaphors.
For example, in the following lines:
And the heart that knows it all, knows also this,
That love can transcend but not outlive its kiss;
Yeats is using the metaphor of a kiss to convey the fleeting nature of love and desire. The mention of the heart "knowing it all" suggests a sense of wisdom or understanding that comes from experiencing these emotions.
Another literary device that Yeats employs is allusion. Throughout the poem, he references a number of mythological and historical figures, such as Adonis and Helen of Troy. These allusions serve to deepen the poem's themes of love and desire, as well as to connect the speaker's personal experience to larger cultural and historical narratives.
Finally, Yeats uses repetition and rhyme to create a sense of rhythm and musicality in the poem. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which means that each line consists of ten syllables, with the stress falling on every other syllable. This creates a sense of momentum and movement that echoes the intensity of the emotions being described.
In "The Travail Of Passion," William Butler Yeats has created a powerful and evocative poem that explores the complexities of human emotion. Through vivid imagery, powerful metaphors, and allusions to mythological and historical figures, Yeats conveys the overwhelming nature of love and desire, as well as the sacrifices that these emotions require.
The poem's historical and cultural context, as well as its use of literary devices such as repetition and rhyme, serve to deepen its meaning and contribute to its overall impact. "The Travail Of Passion" is a masterful piece of literature that continues to resonate with readers today, over a century after it was first published.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Travail of Passion: A Masterpiece of William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, the renowned Irish poet, playwright, and politician, is known for his exceptional literary works that reflect his deep understanding of human emotions and the complexities of life. One of his most celebrated poems, The Travail of Passion, is a masterpiece that captures the essence of love, passion, and the pain that comes with it.
The poem is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme, and follows the traditional structure of a Shakespearean sonnet. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, and the poem is written in iambic pentameter, which means each line has ten syllables with a pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables. The poem's structure and form are essential in conveying the message and emotions that Yeats wants to express.
The poem's title, The Travail of Passion, suggests that the poem is about the struggles and hardships that come with love and passion. The word "travail" means painful or laborious effort, which sets the tone for the poem's theme. The poem's opening lines, "No longer blinded by our eyes' delight, / Nor live within the light of our own fire," suggest that the speaker has moved beyond the initial excitement and passion of love and has gained a deeper understanding of its complexities.
The poem's central theme is the pain and suffering that comes with love and passion. Yeats portrays love as a force that can consume and destroy individuals, leaving them broken and shattered. The lines, "We have lit a fire that consumes us whole, / And in its flames, we burn and turn to ash," suggest that the speaker and their lover have been consumed by their passion, and it has left them feeling empty and destroyed.
Yeats also explores the idea of sacrifice in love. The lines, "We have given all, and yet we still must give, / Our very souls, to keep the fire alive," suggest that love requires sacrifice and that individuals must be willing to give up everything, including their souls, to keep the flame of passion burning. The poem's message is clear: love is not easy, and it requires individuals to make sacrifices and endure pain and suffering.
The poem's imagery is powerful and evocative, adding to the poem's emotional impact. The lines, "Our hearts are like two ships upon the sea, / Tossed by the waves, and battered by the wind," create a vivid image of two individuals struggling to navigate the tumultuous waters of love. The use of the sea and ships as metaphors for love and passion is a common literary device, but Yeats uses it effectively to convey the poem's theme.
The poem's closing lines, "And though we suffer, still we hold the flame, / For love is worth the travail and the pain," suggest that despite the pain and suffering that comes with love, it is still worth it. The poem's message is one of hope and perseverance, that even in the face of adversity, love can endure.
In conclusion, The Travail of Passion is a masterpiece of William Butler Yeats, a poem that captures the essence of love, passion, and the pain that comes with it. The poem's structure, form, and imagery are all essential in conveying the message and emotions that Yeats wants to express. The poem's central theme is the pain and suffering that comes with love, but it also explores the idea of sacrifice and the enduring power of love. The poem's message is one of hope and perseverance, that even in the face of adversity, love can endure. The Travail of Passion is a timeless poem that continues to resonate with readers today, a testament to Yeats' exceptional literary talent.
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