'Reconciliation' by William Butler Yeats

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Some may have blamed you that you took away
The verses that could move them on the day
When, the ears being deafened, the sight of the eyes blind
With lightning, you went from me, and I could find
Nothing to make a song about but kings,
Helmets, and swords, and half-forgotten things
That were like memories of you - but now
We'll out, for the world lives as long ago;
And while we're in our laughing, weeping fit,
Hurl helmets, crowns, and swords into the pit.
But, dear, cling close to me; since you were gone,
My barren thoughts have chilled me to the bone.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Reconciliation by William Butler Yeats: A Poetic Masterpiece

When it comes to poetry that transcends time and geography, few names can compare to William Butler Yeats. His works are a testament to the power of language and imagination, combining vivid imagery with profound insights into the human condition. And among his many notable poems, "Reconciliation" stands out as a true masterpiece.

At its core, "Reconciliation" is a meditation on the cyclical nature of life and death, and the need to find peace and acceptance in the face of mortality. But like all great poems, its meaning is multifaceted and can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the reader's perspective and experience. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the various themes and motifs of "Reconciliation," and offer my own insights into this timeless work of art.

Context and Background

To fully appreciate the significance of "Reconciliation," it's important to understand the historical and cultural context in which it was written. Yeats lived in a time of great political and social upheaval in Ireland, as the country struggled to free itself from British rule and establish a new identity. He was deeply involved in the Irish nationalist movement, and his poetry often reflected his political and cultural beliefs.

"Reconciliation" was written in 1904, a few years before the Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence. It was a time of uncertainty and unrest, but also of great creativity and intellectual ferment. Yeats was part of a group of writers and artists who were trying to redefine Irish identity and culture, and his poetry was a crucial part of this effort.

Structure and Form

One of the most striking features of "Reconciliation" is its structure and form. The poem is divided into two parts, each with six stanzas of six lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABABCC, with the final couplet providing a concluding thought or resolution.

The form of the poem is reminiscent of a sonnet, but with a variation on the traditional 14-line structure. This variation, along with the use of enjambment and repetition, creates a sense of fluidity and movement that mirrors the cyclical nature of the poem's themes.

Themes and Motifs

The central theme of "Reconciliation" is the cycle of life and death, and the need to find acceptance and peace in the face of mortality. This theme is conveyed through a variety of motifs and symbols, including the sea, the moon, and the changing seasons.

The sea is perhaps the most prominent of these motifs, and is used to represent the eternal cycle of life and death. In the first stanza, Yeats describes the sea "creeping like a snail" to the shore, a metaphor for the slow but inexorable march of time. He then goes on to describe how the sea "changes" and "changes," emphasizing its constant motion and transformation.

The moon is another important symbol in the poem, representing the cyclical nature of time and the inevitability of change. In the second stanza, Yeats describes how the moon "changes," "wanes," and "grows," just as our own lives wax and wane. The moon is also associated with the sea, creating a sense of interconnectedness between the natural world and our own mortality.

The changing seasons are also used as a metaphor for the cycle of life and death. In the third stanza, Yeats describes how the "autumn" leaves fall to the ground, just as our own bodies will eventually return to the earth. But even as the seasons change and life fades away, there is a sense of renewal and rebirth, as the "spring" brings new life and growth.

Language and Imagery

As with all of Yeats' poetry, "Reconciliation" is marked by its vivid language and imagery. His use of metaphor and symbolism creates a rich and evocative portrait of the natural world, while also conveying profound truths about the human condition.

One of the most striking examples of this is in the second stanza, where Yeats describes the moon as a "white-headed seedling of the sky." This image not only captures the moon's physical appearance, but also hints at its symbolic significance as a seed of life and renewal.

Another powerful image is in the fourth stanza, where Yeats describes how the "sorrowful, unsleeping" sea "remembers" the dead. This image creates a sense of continuity and connection between the living and the dead, as if the sea is a repository of all our memories and experiences.

Interpretation and Analysis

So what is the deeper meaning of "Reconciliation"? At its core, the poem is a meditation on the inevitability of death, and the need to find acceptance and peace in the face of mortality. But it is also a celebration of life, and of the infinite possibilities that exist within the natural world.

One possible interpretation of the poem is that it represents Yeats' own struggle to come to terms with his mortality. As he grew older, he became increasingly preoccupied with the idea of death, and his poetry reflected this preoccupation. "Reconciliation" can be seen as a kind of spiritual reckoning, as Yeats confronts the reality of his own mortality and tries to find a way to reconcile himself to it.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a reflection of the broader cultural and political context in which it was written. Ireland at the turn of the 20th century was a place of great uncertainty and upheaval, as the country struggled to redefine itself and establish a new identity. "Reconciliation" can be seen as a kind of meditation on the cyclical nature of history, and on the need to find a way to reconcile the past with the present.


In conclusion, "Reconciliation" is a true masterpiece of poetic expression, combining vivid language and imagery with profound insights into the human condition. Its themes of life, death, and acceptance are universal, and its imagery of the sea, the moon, and the changing seasons create a sense of interconnectedness and continuity that speaks to the deepest parts of our being.

As Yeats himself wrote, "In dreams begins responsibility." And so it is with "Reconciliation," a dream of acceptance and peace that reminds us of our own responsibility to live fully and bravely in the face of mortality.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Reconciliation: A Poem of Hope and Forgiveness

William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, wrote a poem called "Reconciliation" that speaks to the heart of humanity. This poem is a powerful reminder of the importance of forgiveness and the healing power of love. In this article, we will explore the meaning and significance of this classic poem.

The poem begins with a description of a landscape that is both beautiful and haunting. The speaker describes a place where "the trees are in their autumn beauty" and "the woodland paths are dry." This setting creates a sense of melancholy and nostalgia, as if the speaker is reflecting on a past that is now gone.

However, the poem quickly shifts from this sense of loss to one of hope. The speaker describes a moment of reconciliation between two people who have been estranged. He writes, "We had fed the heart on fantasies, / The heart's grown brutal from the fare." This line suggests that the two people had been living in a world of illusions, and that this had caused them to become hardened and bitter.

But then, something changes. The speaker writes, "More substance in our enmities / Than in our love." This line suggests that the two people had been holding onto their anger and resentment for so long that it had become more real to them than their love for each other. However, the next line is a turning point: "O honey-bees / Come build in the empty house of the stare."

This line is a metaphor for the power of love to heal and transform. The speaker is calling on the honey-bees, which are symbols of sweetness and harmony, to come and fill the empty space that has been created by the estrangement between the two people. This is a powerful image of reconciliation, as the bees are building a new home in a place that was once empty and barren.

The poem continues with a description of the two people coming together in a moment of forgiveness. The speaker writes, "We are resolved into the supreme air, / We are made one with what we touch and see." This line suggests that the two people have transcended their differences and have become one with the world around them. They have let go of their anger and bitterness and have embraced the beauty and wonder of life.

The final lines of the poem are a celebration of this moment of reconciliation. The speaker writes, "Joy is upon the mountains, / Joy in the fields of air." This line suggests that the joy of reconciliation is not just limited to the two people involved, but is something that is felt throughout the world. The joy of forgiveness and love is contagious, and it spreads to all those around us.

In conclusion, "Reconciliation" is a poem that speaks to the heart of humanity. It is a powerful reminder of the importance of forgiveness and the healing power of love. The poem is a celebration of the human spirit and the capacity for transformation and renewal. It is a call to all of us to let go of our anger and bitterness and to embrace the beauty and wonder of life. As Yeats writes, "Come let us mock at the great / That had such burdens on the mind / And toiled so hard and late / To leave some monument behind, / Nor thought of the levelling wind." Let us not be burdened by the past, but let us embrace the present and the future with open hearts and minds.

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