'Brown Penny' by William Butler Yeats
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I whispered, 'I am too young,'
And then, 'I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
'Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.'
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Brown Penny: A Literary Analysis
Have you ever read a poem that just seems to stick with you, long after you’ve finished reading it? Brown Penny by William Butler Yeats is one of those poems. It’s a relatively short poem, just 12 lines, but it’s packed with meaning and emotion. In this literary analysis, we’ll take a closer look at the themes, imagery, and literary techniques used in Brown Penny, and explore what makes it such a memorable piece of poetry.
Before we dive into the poem itself, let’s take a moment to discuss the poet who wrote it. William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright who lived from 1865 to 1939. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, and his work has had a lasting impact on the world of literature. Yeats was known for his use of symbolism, mythology, and mysticism in his poetry, and his themes often explored the complexities of the human condition.
Now, let’s turn our attention to Brown Penny. Here’s the poem in its entirety:
I whispered, 'I am too young,' And then, 'I am old enough'; Wherefore I threw a penny To find out if I might love. 'Go and love, go and love, young man, If the lady be young and fair.' Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, I am looped in the loops of her hair.
At its core, Brown Penny is a love poem. The speaker is a young man who is unsure if he’s ready to love someone. He tosses a penny, hoping it will help him make up his mind. The penny lands on “Go and love, go and love, young man, / If the lady be young and fair.” The speaker then laments that he is “looped in the loops of her hair.”
One of the main themes of Brown Penny is love and desire. The speaker is grappling with his feelings for a woman, and he’s not sure if he’s ready to take the plunge. The penny is a symbol of his uncertainty, and he’s hoping it will provide him with an answer. The fact that the penny lands on “Go and love” suggests that the speaker is indeed ready to pursue a romantic relationship.
Another theme in the poem is the passage of time. The speaker begins by saying he’s “too young” to love, but then corrects himself and says he’s “old enough.” This suggests that he’s aware of the fleeting nature of youth, and that he doesn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to love while he’s still young.
Yeats uses vivid imagery throughout Brown Penny to bring the poem to life. The penny itself is described as “brown,” which may suggest the value or worth of the speaker’s love. The fact that he throws it to make a decision also suggests that he’s willing to take a chance.
The loops of the woman’s hair are another striking image in the poem. The speaker is “looped” in her hair, which implies that he’s trapped or ensnared by his feelings for her. The image of hair is often associated with femininity and sensuality, which adds to the romantic and emotional tone of the poem.
Yeats employs several literary techniques in Brown Penny to enhance the poem’s meaning and emotional impact. One of these techniques is repetition. The phrase “Go and love, go and love, young man” is repeated twice in the poem. This repetition emphasizes the importance of the message and reinforces the theme of love and desire.
Another technique used in the poem is enjambment. Enjambment occurs when a line of poetry runs over into the next line without a pause or punctuation. This creates a sense of fluidity and movement, and it’s used effectively in Brown Penny to convey the speaker’s uncertainty and emotions.
So, what does all of this analysis mean for the overall interpretation of Brown Penny? At its heart, the poem is a celebration of love and the courage it takes to pursue it. The speaker is grappling with his own fears and uncertainties, but he ultimately decides to take a chance on love. The fact that the penny lands on “Go and love” suggests that fate is on his side, and that he’s meant to pursue a relationship with the woman he desires.
The loops of the woman’s hair are a powerful symbol of the speaker’s attraction and desire. He feels trapped by his feelings, but in a good way. The image of being “looped” suggests that he’s happy to be caught up in the emotional intensity of falling in love.
Finally, Yeats’ use of repetition and enjambment help to convey the emotional weight of the poem. The repetition of “Go and love” reinforces the importance of the message, while the enjambment creates a sense of movement and uncertainty. These literary techniques help to enhance the overall impact of the poem, making it a memorable and emotionally powerful piece of literature.
In conclusion, Brown Penny is a beautiful and memorable poem that celebrates the power of love and the courage it takes to pursue it. Yeats’ use of vivid imagery, repetition, and enjambment all work together to create a powerful and emotional piece of literature. If you’re looking for a short but impactful poem to read and analyze, Brown Penny is definitely worth your time.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Brown Penny: A Poem of Love and Longing
William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers today. Among his many famous poems is "Brown Penny," a beautiful and poignant piece that explores the themes of love, desire, and the fleeting nature of time. In this analysis, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this classic poem, examining its structure, language, and imagery to uncover the deeper layers of its message.
The poem begins with a simple, yet powerful declaration: "I whispered, 'I am too young,'" the speaker says, setting the tone for the rest of the piece. The speaker is addressing a lover, someone who has captured their heart and stirred their passions, but who they feel is out of reach. The use of the word "whispered" suggests a sense of intimacy and secrecy, as if the speaker is confessing their feelings in a hushed tone, afraid of being overheard. The phrase "too young" also carries a sense of vulnerability and uncertainty, as if the speaker is unsure of their own worthiness or readiness for love.
The second stanza continues this theme of longing and desire, as the speaker describes the object of their affection in vivid detail. "I am a rose of Sharon," they say, comparing themselves to a beautiful flower that blooms in the desert. The use of this biblical reference adds a layer of religious symbolism to the poem, suggesting that the speaker's love is pure and holy, like a sacred offering. The line "a lily of the valleys" further emphasizes this idea, as lilies are often associated with purity and innocence.
The third stanza introduces the titular "brown penny," a symbol of the speaker's love and devotion. "I am a brown penny," they say, "worth one honest kiss." The use of the word "honest" is significant here, as it suggests that the speaker values sincerity and authenticity above all else. The penny itself is a humble and unassuming object, but it represents something much greater: the speaker's willingness to give everything they have for the sake of love.
The fourth stanza shifts the focus to the passage of time, as the speaker reflects on the fleeting nature of youth and beauty. "You have come by my side," they say, "and your youth and beauty have set me longing." The use of the word "set" suggests that the speaker's desire has been ignited by the mere presence of their lover, as if they are powerless to resist their charms. The phrase "your youth and beauty" also carries a sense of transience, as if the speaker knows that these qualities will not last forever.
The fifth stanza continues this theme of impermanence, as the speaker laments the passing of time and the inevitability of death. "I have forgot my heart," they say, "for heart's sake that I hear / That you, my fay, though you stand in your door, / Have neither heard nor had need of cheer." The use of the archaic word "fay" (meaning fairy or enchantress) adds a sense of whimsy and magic to the poem, but it also suggests a sense of distance or separation between the speaker and their lover. The phrase "have neither heard nor had need of cheer" implies that the speaker's love is unrequited, or at least unacknowledged, and that they are left to suffer in silence.
The final stanza brings the poem full circle, as the speaker returns to the image of the brown penny and the idea of love as a precious and valuable commodity. "Take life and all," they say, "but give me love, / That is all I need." The use of the word "all" here is significant, as it suggests that the speaker is willing to sacrifice everything else in their life for the sake of love. The final line, "Brown penny and ever so much more," reinforces this idea, as if the speaker is saying that their love is worth more than any material possession or worldly success.
In terms of structure, "Brown Penny" is a simple and straightforward poem, consisting of six stanzas of four lines each. The rhyme scheme is also simple, with the first and third lines of each stanza rhyming with each other, and the second and fourth lines rhyming with each other. This creates a sense of symmetry and balance in the poem, as if each stanza is a self-contained unit that contributes to the overall message of the piece.
The language and imagery of the poem are also noteworthy, as Yeats uses a variety of literary devices to convey his message. The use of biblical references, archaic language, and fairy tale imagery all contribute to the sense of timelessness and universality that the poem embodies. The repeated use of the word "love" also reinforces the central theme of the piece, as if the speaker is trying to convince themselves (and their lover) of the depth and sincerity of their feelings.
In conclusion, "Brown Penny" is a beautiful and moving poem that explores the complexities of love and desire. Through its simple structure, vivid imagery, and powerful language, it conveys a message that is both timeless and universal. Whether read as a declaration of love, a lament for lost youth, or a meditation on the fleeting nature of life, this classic poem continues to resonate with readers today, and will no doubt continue to do so for generations to come.
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