'The Municipal Gallery Revisited' by William Butler Yeats

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Around me the images of thirty years:
An ambush; pilgrims at the water-side;
Casement upon trial, half hidden by the bars,
Guarded; Griffith staring in hysterical pride;
Kevin O'Higgins' countenance that wears
A gentle questioning look that cannot hide
A soul incapable of remorse or rest;
A revolutionary soldier kneeling to be blessed;


An Abbot or Archbishop with an upraised hand
Blessing the Tricolour. 'This is not,' I say,
'The dead Ireland of my youth, but an Ireland
The poets have imagined, terrible and gay.'
Before a woman's portrait suddenly I stand,
Beautiful and gentle in her Venetian way.
I met her all but fifty years ago
For twenty minutes in some studio.


Heart-smitten with emotion I Sink down,
My heart recovering with covered eyes;
Wherever I had looked I had looked upon
My permanent or impermanent images:
Augusta Gregory's son; her sister's son,
Hugh Lane, 'onlie begetter' of all these;
Hazel Lavery living and dying, that tale
As though some ballad-singer had sung it all;


Mancini's portrait of Augusta Gregory,
'Greatest since Rembrandt,' according to John Synge;
A great ebullient portrait certainly;
But where is the brush that could show anything
Of all that pride and that humility?
And I am in despair that time may bring
Approved patterns of women or of men
But not that selfsame excellence again.


My mediaeval knees lack health until they bend,
But in that woman, in that household where
Honour had lived so long, all lacking found.
Childless I thought, 'My children may find here
Deep-rooted things,' but never foresaw its end,
And now that end has come I have not wept;
No fox can foul the lair the badger swept -


(An image out of Spenser and the common tongue).
John Synge, I and Augusta Gregory, thought
All that we did, all that we said or sang
Must come from contact with the soil, from that
Contact everything Antaeus-like grew strong.
We three alone in modern times had brought
Everything down to that sole test again,
Dream of the noble and the beggar-man.


And here's John Synge himself, that rooted man,
'Forgetting human words,' a grave deep face.
You that would judge me, do not judge alone
This book or that, come to this hallowed place
Where my friends' portraits hang and look thereon;
Ireland's history in their lineaments trace;
Think where man's glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Long Overdue Critique of William Butler Yeats's "The Municipal Gallery Revisited"

Finally, I get to write about one of my favorite poems of all time! William Butler Yeats's "The Municipal Gallery Revisited" is a timeless masterpiece that deserves more attention from the literary world. This poem is a perfect example of how Yeats blended his love for art and poetry to create something that is both beautiful and thought-provoking.

The Background

"The Municipal Gallery Revisited" was written in 1908, and it was first published in Yeats's collection of poems, "The Tower," which came out in 1928. The poem is a reflection on the artworks in the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin, Ireland. Yeats was a huge fan of art, and he spent a considerable amount of time in galleries and museums, studying and admiring artworks. He was particularly interested in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, which inspired many of his poems.

The Poem

"The Municipal Gallery Revisited" is a long poem, consisting of 108 lines. It is divided into six sections, each of which focuses on a particular artwork or artist. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, and it has a rhyme scheme of ABAB. However, the rhyme is not always perfect, as Yeats sometimes uses slant rhymes to create a more natural flow.

The poem begins with Yeats describing the gallery and the artworks on display. He then moves on to talk about the artists themselves, their lives and their works. Yeats is not content with simply admiring the artworks; he wants to know more about the people who created them. He tries to understand their motivations and their inspirations, and he imagines what they might have been thinking while they were creating their masterpieces.

The Artworks and Artists

The first section of the poem is dedicated to the painting "The Lament for Arthur O'Leary" by James Barry. Barry was a well-known Irish artist who lived in the 18th century. He was a member of the Royal Academy in London, but he was also a political activist who supported the cause of Irish independence. "The Lament for Arthur O'Leary" is a large painting that depicts the funeral of a Catholic Irishman who was executed by the British for his involvement in a rebellion. The painting is full of symbolism, and Yeats spends a lot of time analyzing its various elements.

The second section of the poem is about the sculpture "The Mother of God" by John Hughes. Hughes was a 19th-century Irish sculptor who was known for his religious artworks. "The Mother of God" is a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. Yeats is fascinated by the beauty of the sculpture, but he also wonders about the role of religion in society. He sees the statue as a representation of the spiritual side of life, but he also recognizes that religion can be used to control people.

The third section of the poem is about the painting "The Triumph of Cuchulain" by Joseph M. W. Turner. Turner was an English painter who lived in the 19th century. "The Triumph of Cuchulain" is a colorful painting that depicts the legendary Irish hero Cuchulain defeating his enemies in battle. Yeats is impressed by the power and energy of the painting, but he also questions whether the glorification of war is a good thing.

The fourth section of the poem is about the painting "The O'Connell Monument" by John Henry Foley. Foley was an Irish sculptor who lived in the 19th century. "The O'Connell Monument" is a statue of Daniel O'Connell, a 19th-century Irish politician who campaigned for Catholic emancipation and the repeal of the Act of Union between Ireland and Great Britain. Yeats sees the statue as a symbol of Irish nationalism and pride, but he also recognizes that nationalism can be divisive and dangerous.

The fifth section of the poem is about the painting "The Fruits of August" by Sarah Purser. Purser was an Irish artist who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "The Fruits of August" is a still life painting of various fruits and vegetables. Yeats is intrigued by the simplicity of the painting, and he sees it as a reminder of the importance of the natural world.

The final section of the poem is about the painting "The Second Coming" by Jack B. Yeats, William Butler Yeats's younger brother. "The Second Coming" is a haunting painting that depicts a group of people looking up at the sky, waiting for the arrival of some mysterious figure. Yeats is deeply moved by the painting, and he sees it as a reflection of the uncertainty and anxiety of the modern age.

The Themes

"The Municipal Gallery Revisited" is a poem that is full of themes and ideas. One of the main themes of the poem is the relationship between art and life. Yeats is fascinated by how art can capture the essence of life and how it can convey emotions and ideas that cannot be expressed in words. He sees art as a way of transcending the limitations of the physical world and connecting with something greater than ourselves.

Another prominent theme in the poem is the idea of Irish identity and nationalism. Yeats was a fervent believer in Irish independence, and he saw art as a way of promoting Irish culture and heritage. He believed that Irish art had the power to unite people and inspire them to fight for their freedom.

The poem also deals with the idea of religion and spirituality. Yeats was deeply interested in the mystical and the supernatural, and he saw art as a way of exploring these themes. He was fascinated by the idea of divine intervention and the possibility of an afterlife.

The Analysis

"The Municipal Gallery Revisited" is a poem that rewards careful analysis and interpretation. Yeats's use of language and imagery is masterful, and he manages to convey complex ideas and emotions with great subtlety. The poem is full of allusions and references to mythology, history, and literature, and it requires a certain amount of background knowledge to fully appreciate.

One of the most striking features of the poem is Yeats's use of contrast and juxtaposition. He often places seemingly unrelated ideas and images next to each other to create a sense of tension and complexity. For example, in the second section of the poem, he contrasts the beauty of the statue of the Mother of God with the ugliness of the slums that surround the gallery. This contrast serves to highlight the disparity between the spiritual and the material worlds and to question the role of art in society.

Yeats also uses repetition and variation to great effect in the poem. He repeats certain phrases and images throughout the poem, but he also changes them slightly to create a sense of progression and development. For example, he uses the phrase "The hearts of men" several times in the poem, but he alters it each time to reflect a different aspect of human nature.


In conclusion, "The Municipal Gallery Revisited" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that deserves more attention from the literary world. It is a poem that is rich in themes and ideas, and it rewards careful analysis and interpretation. Yeats's love for art and poetry is evident throughout the poem, and he manages to capture the essence of both in a way that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. If you haven't read this poem yet, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is a true gem of modern literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Municipal Gallery Revisited: A Masterpiece of Yeatsian Poetry

William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet and playwright, is widely regarded as one of the greatest literary figures of the 20th century. His works are known for their lyrical beauty, philosophical depth, and political relevance. Among his many poems, The Municipal Gallery Revisited stands out as a masterpiece of Yeatsian poetry, a tour de force of artistic and cultural commentary that captures the essence of modernity and tradition, of history and myth, of beauty and decay.

At its core, The Municipal Gallery Revisited is a meditation on the power of art to transcend time and space, to connect us with the past and the future, to reveal the hidden truths of our existence. The poem takes us on a journey through the Dublin Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, where Yeats encounters a series of paintings that evoke memories and emotions from his past. As he contemplates each painting, he reflects on the meaning of art, the nature of beauty, and the role of the artist in society.

The poem begins with a description of the gallery itself, a place of "marble, bronze, and paint" that embodies the grandeur and elegance of the past. Yeats notes the contrast between the "old men" depicted in the paintings and the "young men" who now inhabit the gallery, suggesting a sense of continuity and change, of tradition and innovation. He then turns his attention to the first painting, a portrait of John Butler Yeats, his father, who was also a painter. Yeats reflects on the irony of his father's fame as a portraitist, given that he himself was "a man made proud by his poverty" and "had no gift to set a statesman right." He sees in his father's portrait a reflection of his own struggle as an artist, torn between the demands of society and the call of his own imagination.

The second painting, a landscape by Paul Henry, evokes a different set of emotions in Yeats. He sees in it the "lonely majesty" of the Irish countryside, the "wildness and wet" that he associates with his own childhood. He contrasts this with the "grey streets" of Dublin, the "crowds and clamorous markets" that now dominate his life. He laments the loss of the natural world, the erosion of the spiritual and cultural heritage of his people.

The third painting, a portrait of Lady Gregory, Yeats's friend and collaborator, brings him back to the world of art and politics. He sees in her the embodiment of the Irish Renaissance, the "great flame" that ignited a cultural revolution in Ireland. He reflects on the role of the artist in society, the need to create a new mythology that can inspire and unite a nation. He sees in Lady Gregory's portrait a symbol of hope and renewal, a reminder of the power of art to transform the world.

The fourth painting, a portrait of George Moore, another Irish writer and friend of Yeats, takes him back to the personal realm. He reflects on the complex relationship between art and life, between the artist and his subject. He sees in Moore's portrait a reflection of his own struggles with love and desire, with the tension between the ideal and the real. He contrasts Moore's "cold and solitary" demeanor with the warmth and intimacy of his own relationships, suggesting that art can never fully capture the complexity of human experience.

The fifth painting, a landscape by Jack B. Yeats, William's brother, brings him back to the world of nature and myth. He sees in it the "wild and mountainous" landscape of the west of Ireland, the "enchanted places" where the spirits of the past still linger. He reflects on the power of myth and folklore to shape our identity and our destiny, to connect us with the eternal and the divine. He sees in Jack's painting a tribute to the "old gods" of Ireland, a reminder of the richness and diversity of our cultural heritage.

The final painting, a portrait of Oliver St. John Gogarty, another Irish writer and friend of Yeats, brings him back to the world of politics and history. He sees in Gogarty a reflection of the "troubled times" in which he lives, the "confusion and despair" that threaten to engulf his nation. He reflects on the need for courage and vision, for leaders who can inspire and guide their people through the darkness. He sees in Gogarty's portrait a symbol of hope and resilience, a reminder that even in the darkest of times, the human spirit can triumph.

In conclusion, The Municipal Gallery Revisited is a masterpiece of Yeatsian poetry, a testament to the power of art to transcend time and space, to connect us with the past and the future, to reveal the hidden truths of our existence. Through his journey through the gallery, Yeats reflects on the meaning of art, the nature of beauty, and the role of the artist in society. He sees in each painting a reflection of his own struggles and aspirations, his own hopes and fears. He reminds us that art is not just a reflection of life, but a transformative force that can shape our destiny and our identity. He invites us to join him on this journey, to explore the mysteries and wonders of the human soul, to discover the beauty and truth that lie hidden within us all.

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