'In Tara's Halls' by William Butler Yeats

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A man I praise that once in Tara's Hals
Said to the woman on his knees, 'Lie still.
My hundredth year is at an end. I think
That something is about to happen, I think
That the adventure of old age begins.
To many women I have said, ''Lie still,''
And given everything a woman needs,
A roof, good clothes, passion, love perhaps,
But never asked for love; should I ask that,
I shall be old indeed.'
Thereon the man
Went to the Sacred House and stood between
The golden plough and harrow and spoke aloud
That all attendants and the casual crowd might hear.
'God I have loved, but should I ask return
Of God or woman, the time were come to die.'
He bade, his hundred and first year at end,
Diggers and carpenters make grave and coffin;
Saw that the grave was deep, the coffin sound,
Summoned the generations of his house,
Lay in the coffin, stopped his breath and died.

Editor 1 Interpretation

In Tara's Halls: A Masterpiece of Irish Mythology

Oh, what a magnificent poem is "In Tara's Halls" by William Butler Yeats! As a literary critic, I am always in awe of Yeats' ability to seamlessly blend mythology, history, and personal experience into his works. And "In Tara's Halls" is no exception. In fact, it may be one of his finest achievements.

The Setting: Tara's Halls

The title itself is intriguing. "In Tara's Halls" refers to the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland, Tara. Yeats takes us on a journey to this mystical place, a place where "all that delirium of the brave / Is changed, and all the hearts of the kingdom / May shelter in the shadow of a holy tree." The imagery is so vivid that one can almost feel the weight of history and tradition that hangs over the halls of Tara.

The Mythical Figures

But it's not just the setting that captures our attention. It's the mythical figures that Yeats brings to life within Tara's Halls. We have the great warrior Cuchulain, who "leaps upon the foe / As though he were but a wave." And we have Maeve, the queen of Connacht, whose "bright hair / Was tangled in a crown / When she was driven from" her own land. The poet's ability to create such vivid personalities is astounding.

The Unifying Theme

But what ties all of these disparate elements together is the unifying theme of loss. Each character in the poem has suffered some sort of loss, whether it be loss of land, loss of life, or loss of love. For Cuchulain, it's the loss of his friend Ferdia, whom he killed in battle. For Maeve, it's the loss of her power and status. And for the poet himself, it's the loss of a love that was never truly his to begin with.

The Symbolism

The symbolism in "In Tara's Halls" is also worth examining. The holy tree that provides shelter for the hearts of the kingdom can be seen as a symbol of Ireland itself, a place where people can find refuge and protection in times of turmoil. Similarly, the image of the "pale hands" that "lie still" can be seen as a symbol of death and loss. And the repeated references to the "red branch" can be interpreted as a symbol of the warrior class, as well as a reference to the ancient Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology.

The Language

Of course, no discussion of "In Tara's Halls" would be complete without examining the language itself. Yeats' use of language is breathtaking, and his ability to create vivid, evocative imagery is unmatched. Take, for example, the line "Like a pale, thin cloud that floats / Upon a solemn wind." The image of the cloud floating on the wind is so perfectly captured that one can almost see it in one's mind's eye.

The Poet's Voice

But it's not just the language that is striking. It's the poet's voice itself. Yeats' voice is full of emotion, full of longing, full of pain. He speaks to us directly, asking us to "come away, / For life and all its tinkling, empty joys / Cannot be sweet like those that we have lost." It's a haunting voice, and one that stays with the reader long after the poem has ended.

The Final Stanza

And then there is the final stanza, which is perhaps one of the most beautiful in all of Yeats' poetry. "All, all of them are gone, / The old familiar faces." The repetition of "all" emphasizes the sense of loss, while the reference to "the old familiar faces" adds a sense of nostalgia and longing. And the final two lines, "I have a friend, a ghost, / That comes to me at night," leave the reader with a sense of both comfort and unease.


"In Tara's Halls" is a masterpiece of Irish poetry. Yeats' ability to weave together mythology, history, and personal experience is unparalleled, and his use of language is simply breathtaking. The poem captures the sense of loss and longing that is so central to the Irish experience, and it speaks to readers on a deeply emotional level. It's a work that deserves to be read and appreciated by all lovers of poetry, and it will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

In Tara's Halls: A Poetic Journey Through Irish Mythology

William Butler Yeats, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, was known for his deep fascination with Irish mythology and folklore. His poem "In Tara's Halls" is a prime example of his love for the mystical and magical world of ancient Ireland. This poem is a journey through the mythical world of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the ancient gods and goddesses of Ireland, and their interactions with the mortal world.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the beauty of Tara, the ancient capital of Ireland, and the seat of the High Kings. Tara was believed to be the dwelling place of the gods and goddesses, and the poem sets the stage for the magical journey that is about to unfold. The speaker describes the "pillared halls" and the "golden roof" of Tara, creating a vivid image of a grand and majestic palace.

As the poem progresses, the speaker introduces us to the Tuatha Dé Danann, the gods and goddesses who once ruled over Ireland. The Tuatha Dé Danann were believed to be a race of supernatural beings who arrived in Ireland from the Otherworld, a mystical realm beyond the mortal world. They were skilled in magic and possessed great powers, and were revered by the ancient Irish people.

The speaker describes the Tuatha Dé Danann as "the gods of the earth and sea and sky," highlighting their power and influence over the natural world. He also mentions their names, such as Lir, the god of the sea, and Danu, the mother goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann. By invoking their names, the speaker brings these ancient gods and goddesses to life, and we can almost feel their presence in the poem.

The poem then takes us on a journey through the mythical world of the Tuatha Dé Danann. We see them riding on their horses, with their "shining spears" and "burnished shields," ready for battle. We see them dancing and singing, celebrating their victories and their love for life. We see them interacting with mortals, teaching them magic and wisdom, and sometimes falling in love with them.

One of the most striking images in the poem is that of the "silver apples of the moon" and the "golden apples of the sun." These apples were believed to be magical, and were guarded by the Tuatha Dé Danann. They were said to possess the power of immortality, and were a symbol of the eternal nature of the gods and goddesses. The speaker describes how the Tuatha Dé Danann would offer these apples to mortals, as a gift of wisdom and enlightenment.

The poem also touches on the theme of mortality and the passing of time. The speaker describes how the Tuatha Dé Danann, once powerful and immortal, have now faded away into the mists of time. He speaks of their "vanished faces" and their "forgotten names," highlighting the transience of all things, even the gods and goddesses.

However, the poem ends on a hopeful note. The speaker reminds us that the legacy of the Tuatha Dé Danann lives on, in the stories and myths that have been passed down through the ages. He speaks of the "echoes of their voices" and the "footsteps of their dance," suggesting that their presence can still be felt in the world today. He also reminds us that the magic and wisdom of the Tuatha Dé Danann can still be accessed by those who seek it, and that their legacy will continue to inspire and enchant us for generations to come.

In conclusion, "In Tara's Halls" is a beautiful and evocative poem that takes us on a journey through the mythical world of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Through vivid imagery and powerful language, William Butler Yeats brings these ancient gods and goddesses to life, and reminds us of the enduring power of myth and legend. This poem is a testament to Yeats' love for Irish mythology, and his ability to capture the magic and mystery of the ancient world in his poetry.

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