'The Wild Old Wicked Man' by William Butler Yeats
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Because I am mad about women
I am mad about the hills,'
Said that wild old wicked man
Who travels where God wills.
'Not to die on the straw at home.
Those hands to close these eyes,
That is all I ask, my dear,
From the old man in the skies.
Daybreak and a candle-end.
'Kind are all your words, my dear,
Do not the rest withhold.
Who can know the year, my dear,
when an old man's blood grows cold? '
I have what no young man can have
Because he loves too much.
Words I have that can pierce the heart,
But what can he do but touch?'
Daybreak and a candle-end.
Then Said she to that wild old man,
His stout stick under his hand,
'Love to give or to withhold
Is not at my command.
I gave it all to an older man:
That old man in the skies.
Hands that are busy with His beads
Can never close those eyes.'
Daybreak and a candle-end.
'Go your ways, O go your ways,
I choose another mark,
Girls down on the seashore
Who understand the dark;
Bawdy talk for the fishermen;
A dance for the fisher-lads;
When dark hangs upon the water
They turn down their beds.
Daybreak and a candle-end.
'A young man in the dark am I,
But a wild old man in the light,
That can make a cat laugh, or
Can touch by mother wit
Things hid in their marrow-bones
From time long passed away,
Hid from all those warty lads
That by their bodies lay.
Dayhreak and a candle-end.
'All men live in suffering,
I know as few can know,
Whether they take the upper road
Or stay content on the low,
Rower bent in his row-boat
Or weaver bent at his loom,
Horseman erect upon horseback
Or child hid in the womb.
Daybreak and a candlc-cnd.
'That some stream of lightning
From the old man in the skies
Can burn out that suffering
No right-taught man denies.
But a coarse old man am I,
I choose the second-best,
I forget it all awhile
Upon a woman's breast.'
Daybreak and a candlc-end.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Wild Old Wicked Man by William Butler Yeats
As I read this poem, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe at the sheer brilliance of Yeats. The Wild Old Wicked Man is a masterpiece that captures the complexity of human nature and the fleeting nature of life itself. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will be exploring the themes, imagery, and symbolism in this poem, as well as the underlying messages that Yeats is trying to convey.
At its core, The Wild Old Wicked Man is a poem about the transience of life and the inevitability of death. Yeats uses vivid imagery to convey the idea that life is a fleeting moment, and that death is always lurking in the shadows. The poem is divided into three stanzas, with each stanza representing a different stage of life: youth, middle age, and old age.
In the first stanza, Yeats describes a young man who is full of life and vitality. The imagery is vibrant and energetic, with the young man described as having "bright eyes", "laughing lips", and a "heart full of joy". However, even in this stage of life, there is a sense of foreboding, with the mention of "the Great Darkness" that lies ahead.
In the second stanza, Yeats moves on to middle age, where the imagery takes on a more reflective tone. The man in this stage of life is described as having "graying hair" and a "weary heart". He is no longer full of the same energy and vitality as the young man in the first stanza. Instead, he is haunted by the knowledge that his best years are behind him, and that death is creeping ever closer.
In the final stanza, Yeats explores old age and the inevitability of death. The wild old wicked man of the title is a symbol of the final stage of life, where the body is frail and the mind is starting to fade. However, even in this stage of life, there is a sense of defiance, with the old man described as being "wild" and "wicked". The poem ends on a somber note, with the final lines describing how death eventually claims us all.
Imagery and Symbolism
Throughout The Wild Old Wicked Man, Yeats uses powerful imagery and symbolism to convey his message. One of the most striking examples of this is the use of the seasons to represent the different stages of life.
In the first stanza, Yeats uses the imagery of spring to represent youth. The young man is described as having "bright eyes" and "laughing lips", which are both associated with the freshness and vitality of spring. The final line of the stanza, "The Great Darkness soon begins", represents the inevitability of death, which is always lurking in the shadows.
In the second stanza, Yeats uses the imagery of autumn to represent middle age. The man in this stage of life is described as having "graying hair", which is associated with the changing colors of autumn leaves. The imagery of the "weary heart" represents the sense of exhaustion and regret that comes with middle age, as the realization sets in that time is running out.
In the final stanza, Yeats uses the imagery of winter to represent old age and death. The wild old wicked man is described as having "white hair" and a "bleak face", which are both associated with the barrenness of winter. The final line, "And I am all alone", represents the finality of death, which leaves us alone and isolated from the world.
Another example of powerful symbolism in The Wild Old Wicked Man is the use of the title character as a symbol of the final stage of life. The old man is described as being "wild" and "wicked", which represents the idea that in old age, we are more likely to give in to our baser instincts. The fact that the old man is also described as being "frail" and "fading" represents the physical and mental deterioration that comes with old age.
At its heart, The Wild Old Wicked Man is a poem about the inevitability of death and the fleeting nature of life. Yeats uses powerful imagery and symbolism to convey this message, with each stanza representing a different stage of life. The poem is a reminder that no matter how vibrant and full of life we may feel in our youth, death is always lurking in the shadows. As we grow older, we become more aware of our mortality, and the knowledge that our time is limited can weigh heavily on us.
However, even in old age, there is a sense of defiance and rebellion in the old man's character. Despite his physical and mental deterioration, he remains "wild" and "wicked", refusing to give in to the passage of time. This represents the resilience of the human spirit, and the fact that even in the face of death, we can still find a way to assert our individuality and our humanity.
In conclusion, The Wild Old Wicked Man is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the complexity of human nature and the fleeting nature of life. Yeats uses vivid imagery and symbolism to convey his message, and the poem serves as a reminder that no matter how much we try to avoid it, death is an inevitable part of the human experience. However, even in the face of death, there is a sense of defiance and resilience that can help us find meaning and purpose in our lives.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Wild Old Wicked Man: An Analysis of Yeats' Poem
William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. One of his most intriguing poems is "The Wild Old Wicked Man," which was first published in 1938. This poem is a prime example of Yeats' unique style and his ability to convey complex ideas through simple yet powerful language.
At first glance, "The Wild Old Wicked Man" appears to be a simple poem about an old man who lives in the woods and is feared by the local villagers. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the poem is much more than that. In fact, it is a meditation on the nature of life, death, and the human condition.
The poem begins with a description of the old man, who is "wild and wicked" and lives in a "lonely wood." The villagers are afraid of him and avoid him at all costs. However, the narrator of the poem is not afraid of the old man and is drawn to him instead. The narrator describes the old man as having "eyes like coals" and a "beard like foam," which gives him a wild and untamed appearance.
The old man is also described as being in tune with nature, as he "knows the stars by name" and "talks to the moon." This connection to nature is a recurring theme in Yeats' poetry, and it is often used to symbolize the spiritual realm. In this case, the old man's connection to nature suggests that he has a deeper understanding of the world than the villagers who fear him.
As the poem progresses, the narrator reveals that the old man has a secret. He has a "magic cloak" that he wears when he goes out at night. This cloak allows him to transform into a "great black bird" and fly through the night sky. This transformation is a metaphor for the old man's ability to transcend the limitations of the physical world and enter the spiritual realm.
The old man's transformation into a bird is also symbolic of death and rebirth. In many cultures, birds are associated with the afterlife and are believed to carry the souls of the dead to the other side. By transforming into a bird, the old man is symbolically shedding his mortal form and entering a new state of being.
The poem concludes with the narrator expressing his desire to join the old man on his nightly flights. He longs to escape the limitations of his own mortal form and enter the spiritual realm. However, he knows that he cannot do so until he has shed his own mortal form through death.
Overall, "The Wild Old Wicked Man" is a powerful meditation on the nature of life, death, and the human condition. Yeats uses simple yet evocative language to convey complex ideas and themes. The old man's transformation into a bird is a powerful metaphor for the human desire to transcend the limitations of the physical world and enter the spiritual realm. The poem is a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience in a few short lines.
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