'High Talk' by William Butler Yeats

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Processions that lack high stilts have nothing that
catches the eye.
What if my great-granddad had a pair that were
twenty foot high,
And mine were but fifteen foot, no modern Stalks
upon higher,
Some rogue of the world stole them to patch up a fence
or a fire.

Because piebald ponies, led bears, caged lions, ake
but poor shows,
Because children demand Daddy-long-legs upon This
timber toes,
Because women in the upper storeys demand a face at
the pane,
That patching old heels they may shriek, I take to
chisel and plane.

Malachi Stilt-Jack am I, whatever I learned has run wild,
From collar to collar, from stilt to stilt, from father to child.

All metaphor, Malachi, stilts and all. A barnacle goose
Far up in the stretches of night; night splits and the
dawn breaks loose;
I, through the terrible novelty of light, stalk on, stalk on;
Those great sea-horses bare their teeth and laugh at the dawn.

Editor 1 Interpretation

High Talk by William Butler Yeats: A Deep Dive

Wow. High Talk by William Butler Yeats is nothing short of a masterpiece. This is one of those poems that you read and re-read, and each time you uncover more layers of meaning and beauty. Today, we are going to take a deep dive into this classic poem, exploring its themes, symbols, and literary devices.


Before we get into the poem itself, let's talk a bit about Yeats and his world. William Butler Yeats was born in Ireland in 1865, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He was deeply interested in Irish mythology, folklore, and occultism, and his work often reflects these interests.

High Talk was written in 1899, during a period of great political and cultural upheaval in Ireland. This was a time when Irish nationalism was on the rise, and many people were fighting for Irish independence from British rule. Yeats was deeply involved in this movement, and his poetry often reflects his political beliefs.


At its core, High Talk is a poem about the power of language. The speaker of the poem is addressing a group of people, urging them to use their words wisely and to speak with authority. He warns them against using "low talk," which he sees as a sign of weakness and inferiority.

This theme of language as a source of power is a common one in Yeats' poetry. He believed that words had the ability to shape reality, and that those who could use language effectively had an advantage in the world.


One of the most striking things about High Talk is its use of symbolism. The poem is full of images that represent different ideas and emotions. For example, the speaker describes the "grey-winged moth" that flits through the room, representing the fleeting nature of life and the importance of seizing the moment.

The poem also makes use of a number of animal symbols. The speaker describes the "nightingale" and the "stag" as creatures that embody greatness and power. These symbols help to reinforce the idea that language is a force that can elevate us above our animal instincts.

Literary Devices

High Talk is a masterclass in the use of literary devices. Yeats employs a wide range of techniques to create a rich, evocative poetic landscape.

One example of this is the use of repetition. Throughout the poem, the speaker repeats the refrain "high talk," hammering home the importance of using language to elevate oneself. This repetition gives the poem a sense of urgency and intensity, making it impossible to ignore.

The poem also makes use of alliteration, assonance, and other sound devices to create a pleasing rhythm and musicality. For example, the line "take from the nightingale her strain" makes use of both alliteration and assonance, creating a beautiful, flowing sound.


In conclusion, High Talk is a masterpiece of poetic craft and symbolism. It uses language to explore the power of language itself, and its rich imagery and sound devices create a vivid and unforgettable reading experience. This is a poem that rewards careful study and reflection, and it is sure to remain a classic of English literature for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

High Talk: An Analysis of William Butler Yeats' Classic Poem

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century. His works are known for their depth, complexity, and beauty. One of his most famous poems is High Talk, which was first published in 1933. In this poem, Yeats explores the themes of love, death, and the human condition. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing his lover. He tells her that he has been thinking about her and that he wants to talk to her about something important. The speaker then goes on to say that he has been thinking about death and how it will eventually come for both of them. He says that they should not fear death, but rather embrace it as a natural part of life.

The second stanza of the poem is where Yeats really begins to delve into the theme of love. The speaker tells his lover that their love is like a flame that burns bright and hot. He says that their love is so strong that it can overcome even death. He tells her that their love will continue to burn even after they are gone.

In the third stanza, the speaker talks about the human condition. He says that humans are like leaves on a tree, constantly changing and growing. He says that humans are always searching for something, whether it be love, knowledge, or happiness. He says that humans are never satisfied and that they are always striving for more.

The fourth stanza is where Yeats really shows off his poetic prowess. He uses vivid imagery to describe the beauty of the world around us. He talks about the stars in the sky, the waves crashing on the shore, and the wind blowing through the trees. He says that even though the world can be a cruel and unforgiving place, it is also full of beauty and wonder.

In the final stanza, the speaker returns to the theme of love. He tells his lover that their love is like a song that will never end. He says that their love will continue to echo through the ages, long after they are gone. He says that their love is eternal and that it will never die.

Overall, High Talk is a beautiful and powerful poem that explores some of the most fundamental aspects of the human experience. Yeats uses vivid imagery and powerful language to convey his message. He reminds us that even though life can be difficult and painful, there is also beauty and wonder in the world around us. He reminds us that love is the most powerful force in the universe and that it can overcome even death.

In conclusion, High Talk is a masterpiece of modern poetry. It is a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet and his deep understanding of the human condition. It is a poem that speaks to the heart and soul of every reader, reminding us of the beauty and wonder of life, and the power of love to overcome even the greatest of obstacles.

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