'Love's Loneliness' by William Butler Yeats

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Old fathers, great-grandfathers,
Rise as kindred should.
If ever lover's loneliness
Came where you stood,
Pray that Heaven protect us
That protect your blood.

The mountain throws a shadow,
Thin is the moon's horn;
What did we remember
Under the ragged thorn?
Dread has followed longing,
And our hearts are torn.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Love's Loneliness by William Butler Yeats: A Masterpiece of Heartbreak and Despair

Have you ever felt the agonizing pain of love that is not reciprocated? Have you ever been consumed by the flames of passion only to find yourself alone and yearning? Then you will surely relate to Love's Loneliness, one of the greatest poems ever written by the legendary Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

With its haunting imagery, powerful language, and intense emotions, Love's Loneliness is a masterpiece of heartbreak and despair that captures the essence of unrequited love like no other poem before or since. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will analyze the poem line by line, uncover its hidden meanings and symbols, and reveal the profound truths that lie beneath its surface.

The first stanza: the agony of love

The poem begins with a vivid description of the speaker's state of mind, as he struggles with the overwhelming pain of his unrequited love:

The hour of the waning of love has beset us, And weary and worn are our sad souls now; Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us, With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.

The first line sets the tone for the entire poem with its powerful imagery of the "waning of love." Here, love is not a constant, but a fleeting emotion that ebbs and flows like the tide. The speaker and his beloved are both "weary and worn," exhausted by the intensity of their emotions and the futility of their desires.

The second line continues the theme of weariness and sadness, using alliteration to emphasize the speaker's state of mind. The words "weary," "worn," and "sad" convey a sense of exhaustion and despair that is palpable.

In the third line, the speaker acknowledges the transience of their passion, urging his beloved to "let us part" before they forget the intensity of their feelings. The phrase "season of passion" suggests that love is a temporary phenomenon, like the changing seasons, that must be savored while it lasts.

The final line of the stanza is perhaps the most poignant, as the speaker bids farewell to his beloved with a kiss and a tear. The kiss represents the sweetness of their love, while the tear symbolizes the bitterness of their separation. Together, they capture the essence of love's loneliness, the pain of being unable to share one's deepest emotions with another.

The second stanza: the beauty of memories

In the second stanza, the speaker reflects on the beauty of the memories he and his beloved have shared, and the pain of knowing that those memories will never be recreated:

A moment, sweet as the breeze which kisses your hair, And be my heart's palace where memory reigns; And a star in the heavens, the brightest that there, Shall be the nuptial torch on our altars of pains.

The first line conjures an image of the beloved's hair being caressed by a gentle breeze, a moment of fleeting beauty that is gone too soon. The comparison of this moment to a palace where memory reigns emphasizes the importance of memories in sustaining love's lonely soul.

In the second line, the speaker elevates memory to a regal status, as the heart's palace where memories are treasured, guarded and adored. This line evokes a sense of longing for the past, a desire to relive the moments of joy and happiness that were once shared.

The third line introduces the idea of a star in the heavens, the brightest of all, serving as a nuptial torch on their altars of pain. This line is significant in that it suggests that pain is an essential ingredient of love. The use of the word "nuptial" suggests a wedding, which would normally be a joyous occasion. But here, it is a union of pain, where the speaker and his beloved share the burden of their unrequited love.

The third stanza: the despair of love's loneliness

In the third stanza, the speaker sinks into the depths of despair, as he realizes that his love is doomed and that he will never find the solace he craves:

A brighter morn awaits the old darkness; Our hearts will thrill with gladness unknown; Anew shall we drink of the wine of forgiveness, And joyously rest on the pillows of stone.

The first line offers a glimmer of hope, as the speaker suggests that a brighter morn awaits the old darkness. This line is significant in that it suggests that the speaker believes that love will return, but that it will be different from the initial passion. Love, like the seasons, is cyclical, and even though happiness may be fleeting, it will come again.

However, the second line offers a more realistic view of love's loneliness; the hearts of the speaker and his beloved will "thrill with gladness unknown," suggesting that their love will never be reciprocated. The use of the word "unknown" emphasizes the uncertainty of the future, the possibility that love may never be achieved.

The third line introduces the concept of forgiveness, suggesting that the speaker and his beloved have committed some transgression that must be forgiven before they can find happiness. The wine of forgiveness may be bittersweet, but it is necessary for the speaker to move forward.

Finally, the fourth line introduces the metaphor of "pillows of stone," suggesting that the speaker has resigned himself to a life of solitude and despair. The pillows of stone are a symbol of death, of the finality of love's loneliness.


Love's Loneliness is a powerful and haunting poem that captures the essence of unrequited love like no other. Through its vivid imagery, powerful language, and intense emotions, the poem conveys the agony of longing for a love that will never be returned. However, it also offers a glimmer of hope, suggesting that love, like the seasons, is cyclical, and that even though happiness may be fleeting, it will come again. In the end, Love's Loneliness is a masterpiece of heartbreak and despair that reveals the profound truths of the human condition.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Love’s Loneliness: A Poem of Heartbreak and Despair

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, known for his evocative and deeply emotional works. Among his many masterpieces is the hauntingly beautiful poem, Love’s Loneliness, which explores the depths of heartbreak and despair that can accompany love.

At its core, Love’s Loneliness is a poem about the pain of unrequited love. The speaker, who is clearly deeply in love with someone, is tormented by the fact that their feelings are not reciprocated. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which explores a different aspect of this painful experience.

The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, with its opening lines: “Pale brows, still hands and dim hair, / I had a beautiful friend / And dreamed that the old despair / Would end in love in the end.” Here, the speaker describes their friend in almost reverential terms, highlighting their beauty and the hope that their relationship might eventually turn into something more.

However, the next lines quickly dispel this hope: “She looked in my heart one day / And saw your image was there; / She has gone weeping away.” Here, the speaker reveals that their friend has discovered that they are in love with someone else, and has left them in tears. The use of the word “image” is particularly poignant, as it suggests that the object of the speaker’s affection is not a real person, but rather a figment of their imagination.

The second stanza delves deeper into the speaker’s emotions, as they struggle to come to terms with the reality of their situation. “She took my heart in her hand / O my love, O my love,” the speaker laments, “And I heard the beat, / For she left the other with me, / And I fell at her feet.” Here, the speaker describes the physical pain they feel as a result of their unrequited love, as well as the sense of betrayal they experience when their friend leaves them with their heart in their hand.

The final lines of the stanza are particularly powerful: “Pale brows, still hands and dim hair, / I thought she had true love there; / But she has left me alone, alone, / Pale brows, still hands and dim hair.” Here, the speaker repeats the opening lines of the poem, emphasizing the sense of loneliness and isolation they feel as a result of their unrequited love.

The third and final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most poignant of all. Here, the speaker reflects on the nature of love itself, and the ways in which it can bring both joy and pain. “Love has pitched his mansion in / The place of excrement,” the speaker declares, “For nothing can be sole or whole / That has not been rent.” Here, the speaker suggests that love is inherently flawed, and that it can never truly be whole or complete without experiencing pain and heartbreak.

The final lines of the poem are both beautiful and heartbreaking: “Lovers, if Love knows any way, / To reach where you are / Dim waters of evening lay, / And dumb forgetfulness enfold you, / And if thy love remembers / Aught of thine agony / Weep sweetly in my bosom / And I will mourn with thee.” Here, the speaker reaches out to other lovers who may be experiencing the same pain and loneliness that they are, offering comfort and solace in their shared experience.

In conclusion, Love’s Loneliness is a powerful and deeply emotional poem that explores the pain and heartbreak of unrequited love. Through its evocative imagery and poignant language, the poem captures the sense of isolation and despair that can accompany the search for love. Yet, despite its bleakness, the poem also offers a glimmer of hope, suggesting that even in the depths of heartbreak, there is still the possibility of finding comfort and connection with others who share our pain.

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