'Owen Aherne And His Dancers' by William Butler Yeats
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A strange thing surely that my Heart, when love had come unsought
Upon the Norman upland or in that poplar shade,
Should find no burden but itself and yet should be worn out.
It could not bear that burden and therefore it went mad.
The south wind brought it longing, and the east wind despair,
The west wind made it pitiful, and the north wind afraid.
It feared to give its love a hurt with all the tempestthere;
It feared the hurt that shc could give and therefore it went mad.
I can exchange opinion with any neighbouring mind,
I have as healthy flesh and blood as any rhymer's had,
But O! my Heart could bear no more when the upland caught the wind;
I ran, I ran, from my love's side because my Heart went mad.
The Heart behind its rib laughed out. 'You have called me mad,' it said,
'Because I made you turn away and run from that young child;
How could she mate with fifty years that was so wildly bred?
Let the cage bird and the cage bird mate and the wild bird mate in the wild.'
'You but imagine lies all day, O murderer,' I replied.
'And all those lies have but one end, poor wretches to betray;
I did not find in any cage the woman at my side.
O but her heart would break to learn my thoughts are far away.'
'Speak all your mind,' my Heart sang out, 'speak all your mind; who cares,
Now that your tongue cannot persuade the child till she mistake
Her childish gratitude for love and match your fifty years?
O let her choose a young man now and all for his wild sake.'
Editor 1 Interpretation
Owen Aherne And His Dancers: A Masterful Ode to Beauty and Youth
William Butler Yeats was a literary genius who not only wrote poetry but also influenced the literary scene of his time. He was a leader of the Irish literary movement, and his works are filled with Irish mythology, symbolism, and spirituality. In his poem, "Owen Aherne and His Dancers," Yeats masterfully weaves together themes of beauty, youth, love, and death to create a hauntingly beautiful ode.
Background and Context
"Owen Aherne and His Dancers" was published in Yeats' second collection of poetry, "The Rose," in 1893. The poem tells the story of Owen Aherne, a young Irish dancer who falls in love with a beautiful girl named Margaret Gillen. Owen and Margaret have a brief, passionate affair before Margaret dies, leaving Owen heartbroken and alone.
The poem is set in the rural Irish countryside, a place that was dear to Yeats' heart. He was deeply influenced by the Celtic Revival movement, which sought to revive and celebrate Irish culture and heritage. Yeats' poetry often reflects this love of Ireland and its traditions.
"Owen Aherne and His Dancers" is a lyrical and haunting poem that explores themes of beauty, youth, love, and death. The poem is divided into four stanzas, each with its own distinct mood and tone.
The poem begins with a description of Owen Aherne and his dance troupe. They are described as "young men and women / In correctitude of costume, raiment /Incontrovertible in grace." This opening stanza sets the scene and introduces the reader to the beauty and youthfulness of the dancers.
Yeats' use of language is masterful in this stanza. The words "correctitude of costume" and "incontrovertible in grace" convey a sense of perfection and beauty. The dancers are not just beautiful, but their beauty is undeniable.
The second stanza introduces Margaret Gillen, the object of Owen's affection. She is described as "a lovely girl, her hair / Bound with green silk, her green silk down." The use of the color green is significant here, as it is often associated with Ireland and Irish folklore.
The stanza also introduces the theme of love. Owen and Margaret are described as "new lovers" who "strolled in the wood / In that self-same hour." Their love is passionate and intense, and Yeats captures this beautifully in his words.
The third stanza is the most haunting and tragic of the poem. It describes Margaret's death and Owen's grief. Margaret is described as "dead upon the flowers," and Owen is left "alone with memories." The use of the word "memories" is significant here, as it suggests that Owen's love for Margaret will live on even after her death.
The stanza is also notable for its use of symbolism. Margaret's death is described as the "closing of an hour-glass," a metaphor for the passing of time and the inevitability of death. The image of the "hour-glass" is repeated in the final stanza, emphasizing the theme of mortality.
The final stanza is a reflection on the fleeting nature of youth and beauty. Yeats writes, "Beauty, as minute by minute, fades / From flesh and blood, is of the mind alone." This line suggests that true beauty is not just physical but also exists in the mind and soul.
The stanza also contains a powerful image of Owen and Margaret as "two flames that mingle and expire." The image is both beautiful and tragic, suggesting that their love was intense but ultimately short-lived.
"Owen Aherne and His Dancers" is a complex and multi-layered poem that can be interpreted in many ways. At its core, the poem is an ode to beauty and youth, two themes that were central to Yeats' work.
The poem can also be seen as a reflection on the human experience of love and loss. Owen and Margaret's love is passionate and intense but ultimately doomed. Their story is a reminder that love is not always enough to overcome the inevitability of death.
The poem can also be read as a meditation on the passing of time and the inevitability of mortality. The image of the hour-glass is repeated throughout the poem, emphasizing the idea that time is fleeting and that death is an inevitable part of the human experience.
"Owen Aherne and His Dancers" is a masterful work of poetry that explores themes of beauty, youth, love, and death. Yeats' use of language is both lyrical and haunting, and his imagery is powerful and evocative.
The poem is a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience in his work. It is a work that continues to resonate with readers today and is a testament to the enduring power of poetry.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Owen Aherne and His Dancers: A Masterpiece of William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, is known for his profound and thought-provoking works. Among his many masterpieces, "Owen Aherne and His Dancers" stands out as a powerful and evocative poem that captures the essence of Irish culture and tradition. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and symbolism of this classic poem and understand why it continues to resonate with readers even today.
The poem "Owen Aherne and His Dancers" is a tribute to the Irish folk tradition of dancing and music. It tells the story of Owen Aherne, a legendary dancer who is revered for his skill and grace. The poem begins with a description of the dancers, who are depicted as "wild birds" with "feet like the foam." The imagery here is vivid and evocative, painting a picture of dancers who are free-spirited and full of energy.
As the poem progresses, we learn more about Owen Aherne and his role in the dance. He is described as a "king" who leads the dancers with his "silver whistle." The use of the word "king" here is significant, as it suggests that Owen Aherne is not just a skilled dancer but also a leader and a symbol of Irish culture. The "silver whistle" is also symbolic, representing the power and authority that Owen Aherne holds over the dancers.
The poem then takes a darker turn as we learn about the fate of Owen Aherne. He is said to have died "in the night," and his body was found "cold and bare." The imagery here is haunting and poignant, evoking a sense of loss and sadness. The death of Owen Aherne is not just the loss of a skilled dancer but also the loss of a cultural icon and a symbol of Irish identity.
However, the poem does not end on a note of despair. Instead, it celebrates the legacy of Owen Aherne and his dancers. The final stanza of the poem reads:
"Yet they keep his name living forever, And the young from the old receive the sign, For the silver whistle is heard in the river, And the wild birds clamour and the dancers shine."
Here, we see that the legacy of Owen Aherne and his dancers lives on, even after his death. The "silver whistle" is still heard, and the dancers continue to shine. The use of the word "sign" here is also significant, as it suggests that the legacy of Owen Aherne is not just about dancing but also about preserving Irish culture and tradition.
One of the key themes of "Owen Aherne and His Dancers" is the importance of tradition and cultural identity. The poem celebrates the Irish folk tradition of dancing and music and highlights the role that figures like Owen Aherne play in preserving this tradition. The poem also suggests that this tradition is not just about entertainment but also about preserving a sense of cultural identity and heritage.
Another important theme of the poem is the power of leadership and authority. Owen Aherne is depicted as a leader who holds sway over the dancers with his "silver whistle." His death is not just the loss of a skilled dancer but also the loss of a leader and a symbol of Irish culture. The poem suggests that leadership and authority are important not just in the realm of dance but also in the preservation of cultural identity and tradition.
The imagery and symbolism of "Owen Aherne and His Dancers" are also worth exploring. The use of the word "wild birds" to describe the dancers is significant, as it suggests that they are free-spirited and full of energy. The use of the word "silver" to describe Owen Aherne's whistle is also symbolic, representing the power and authority that he holds over the dancers. The final stanza of the poem, with its references to the "river" and the "wild birds," evokes a sense of nature and the natural world, suggesting that the Irish folk tradition of dancing and music is deeply rooted in the natural world.
In conclusion, "Owen Aherne and His Dancers" is a powerful and evocative poem that celebrates the Irish folk tradition of dancing and music. It highlights the importance of tradition and cultural identity and suggests that figures like Owen Aherne play a crucial role in preserving this tradition. The poem also explores themes of leadership and authority and uses vivid imagery and symbolism to evoke a sense of the natural world. Even today, this classic poem continues to resonate with readers and reminds us of the power of culture and tradition in shaping our identities and our world.
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