'Fergus And The Druid' by William Butler Yeats
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Fergus. This whole day have I followed in the rocks,
And you have changed and flowed from shape to shape,
First as a raven on whose ancient wings
Scarcely a feather lingered, then you seemed
A weasel moving on from stone to stone,
And now at last you wear a human shape,
A thin grey man half lost in gathering night.
Druid. What would you, king of the proud Red Branch kings?
Fergus. This would I say, most wise of living souls:
Young subtle Conchubar sat close by me
When I gave judgment, and his words were wise,
And what to me was burden without end,
To him seemed easy, so I laid the crown
Upon his head to cast away my sorrow.
Druid. What would you, king of the proud Red Branch kings?
Fergus. A king and proud! and that is my despair.
I feast amid my people on the hill,
And pace the woods, and drive my chariot-wheels
In the white border of the murmuring sea;
And still I feel the crown upon my head
Druid. What would you, Fergus?
Fergus. Be no more a king
But learn the dreaming wisdom that is yours.
Druid. Look on my thin grey hair and hollow cheeks
And on these hands that may not lift the sword,
This body trembling like a wind-blown reed.
No woman's loved me, no man sought my help.
Fergus. A king is but a foolish labourer
Who wastes his blood to be another's dream.
Druid. Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams;
Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round.
Fergus. I see my life go drifting like a river
From change to change; I have been many things -
A green drop in the surge, a gleam of light
Upon a sword, a fir-tree on a hill,
An old slave grinding at a heavy quern,
A king sitting upon a chair of gold -
And all these things were wonderful and great;
But now I have grown nothing, knowing all.
Ah! Druid, Druid, how great webs of sorrow
Lay hidden in the small slate-coloured thing!
Editor 1 Interpretation
Fergus And The Druid: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
William Butler Yeats is a renowned Irish poet who has left a lasting impact on the world of literature. Among his numerous works, Fergus And The Druid stands out as a classic poem that captures the essence of Irish mythology and folklore. This poem tells the story of Fergus, a legendary figure in Irish mythology, and his encounter with a powerful druid. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will analyze the poem's themes, symbols, and language to uncover the deeper meaning behind Yeats's words.
Summary of the Poem
Before delving into the analysis, let us first summarize Fergus And The Druid. The poem begins with Fergus sitting by a river, feeling nostalgic about his youth. He remembers his glory days as a warrior and king, which have now passed. Suddenly, he hears a voice calling out to him, and he turns to see a druid standing on the other bank of the river. The druid invites Fergus to come to him, promising him a vision of his lost youth.
Fergus is hesitant at first, but the druid convinces him to cross the river by performing a magic spell. As Fergus approaches the druid, he sees a vision of his past, where he was a powerful king with a beautiful queen by his side. However, the vision fades away, and Fergus realizes that he has been deceived. The druid reveals that he has tricked Fergus and that he cannot return to his youth. Fergus is saddened by this realization and decides to return to his current life, accepting his old age.
One of the central themes of Fergus And The Druid is the concept of time and aging. Fergus's nostalgia for his youth and his longing to return to it is a universal human experience. Yeats captures this feeling through his vivid description of Fergus sitting by the river, lost in thought. However, the poem also teaches us that we must come to terms with the reality of aging and accept it gracefully, as Fergus does in the end.
Another theme that emerges from the poem is the power of magic and illusion. The druid uses his magic to deceive Fergus into believing that he can return to his youth. This theme is also linked to the idea of temptation and the dangers of giving in to our desires. Fergus is initially hesitant to cross the river, but the druid's promises are too tempting to resist.
Yeats's use of symbols is one of the most striking aspects of Fergus And The Druid. The river, for instance, represents the boundary between youth and old age. Fergus is sitting on one side of the river, looking back at his youth, while the druid is standing on the other side, promising him a vision of it. The river is also a symbol of the passage of time, which we cannot stop or reverse.
The druid is another powerful symbol in the poem. He represents the forces of temptation and deception that are always present in our lives. His magic spell is an allegory for the enticement of our desires, which can lead us down a path of illusion and disappointment.
Finally, Fergus himself is a symbol of the human condition. His nostalgia for his youth is a universal experience that we can all relate to. His journey to the other side of the river and his subsequent return symbolize the journey of life, with its joys and sorrows, successes and failures.
Yeats's language in Fergus And The Druid is rich in imagery and symbolism. His use of metaphors and allusions adds depth and complexity to the poem. For example, when Fergus is reminiscing about his youth, he compares himself to a "cloud-pale" warrior. This metaphor not only describes Fergus's physical appearance but also suggests the fleeting and transient nature of youth.
The language in the poem is also musical, with its use of alliteration and assonance. For instance, the repetition of the letters "s" and "w" in the line "With swaying arms and swooning and surrendering hair" creates a rhythmic quality to the verse. This musicality adds to the poem's dreamlike quality, which is central to its overall theme.
Fergus And The Druid is a timeless poem that speaks to the human experience of aging and nostalgia. It teaches us that while it is natural to long for our youth, we must accept our current reality and age gracefully. The poem also reminds us that the world is full of illusions and temptations, which can lead us down a path of disappointment and regret.
In conclusion, Fergus And The Druid is a masterful work of literature that captures the essence of Irish mythology and folklore. Through its themes, symbols, and language, Yeats creates a poem that is both beautiful and profound. It is a testament to his genius as a poet and his ability to speak to the human condition in a way that is both timeless and universal.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Fergus And The Druid: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, is known for his profound and mystical poetry that explores the themes of love, death, and the supernatural. Among his many works, "Fergus And The Druid" stands out as a masterpiece that showcases Yeats' poetic genius and his deep understanding of Irish mythology and folklore.
The poem tells the story of Fergus, a legendary hero of Irish mythology, who is visited by a druid in his old age. The druid offers Fergus the chance to relive his youth and regain his strength, but at a terrible cost. Fergus must sacrifice his love for his wife and his loyalty to his king, and become a wandering exile, forever haunted by his past.
The poem is rich in symbolism and imagery, and it explores many themes that are central to Yeats' poetry. In this analysis, we will examine the poem in detail, exploring its meaning, its structure, and its significance in the context of Yeats' work.
The Structure of the Poem
"Fergus And The Druid" is a ballad, a form of poetry that tells a story in a simple and direct way. The poem consists of six stanzas, each with four lines, and follows a strict rhyme scheme (ABCB). The simplicity of the form belies the complexity of the poem's themes and imagery, and Yeats uses the ballad form to great effect, creating a haunting and memorable narrative.
The poem begins with a description of Fergus, who is "old and gray and full of sleep." The opening line sets the tone for the poem, suggesting that Fergus is tired and weary, and that he has lived a long and eventful life. The second line introduces the druid, who appears "out of the air," suggesting that he is a supernatural being. The druid offers Fergus a chance to regain his youth and strength, but at a terrible cost.
The third and fourth lines of the first stanza introduce the central conflict of the poem. Fergus must choose between his love for his wife and his loyalty to his king, and the druid offers him a way to escape this dilemma. The second stanza explores Fergus' decision, as he weighs the benefits of the druid's offer against the cost of his loyalty and love.
The third stanza is the turning point of the poem, as Fergus accepts the druid's offer and becomes young again. The imagery in this stanza is particularly striking, as Fergus is described as "a flame of blue and gold," suggesting that he has been transformed into a supernatural being. The fourth stanza explores the consequences of Fergus' decision, as he becomes a wandering exile, forever haunted by his past.
The fifth stanza is the most poignant of the poem, as Fergus reflects on his lost love and his lost loyalty. The imagery in this stanza is particularly powerful, as Fergus is described as "a shadow of cloud on the stream," suggesting that he is a ghostly figure, forever separated from the world of the living. The final stanza brings the poem to a close, as Fergus reflects on his fate and the price he has paid for his youth and strength.
The Themes of the Poem
"Fergus And The Druid" explores many themes that are central to Yeats' poetry. The most obvious theme is the theme of aging and mortality. Fergus is an old man, tired and weary, and he longs to regain his youth and strength. The druid offers him a way to do this, but at a terrible cost. The poem suggests that youth and strength are fleeting, and that they come at a price.
Another theme that is central to the poem is the theme of love and loyalty. Fergus must choose between his love for his wife and his loyalty to his king, and the druid offers him a way to escape this dilemma. The poem suggests that love and loyalty are often in conflict, and that it is difficult to reconcile them.
The poem also explores the theme of the supernatural. The druid is a supernatural being, and Fergus is transformed into a supernatural being when he accepts the druid's offer. The poem suggests that there is a world beyond the world of the living, and that it is possible to cross over into this world.
The Imagery of the Poem
The imagery in "Fergus And The Druid" is particularly striking, and it adds to the haunting and mystical quality of the poem. The opening line, which describes Fergus as "old and gray and full of sleep," sets the tone for the poem, suggesting that Fergus is tired and weary. The druid, who appears "out of the air," is described as a supernatural being, and his offer to Fergus is both tempting and ominous.
The imagery in the third stanza, which describes Fergus' transformation, is particularly powerful. Fergus is described as "a flame of blue and gold," suggesting that he has been transformed into a supernatural being. The imagery in the fifth stanza is also particularly poignant, as Fergus is described as "a shadow of cloud on the stream," suggesting that he is a ghostly figure, forever separated from the world of the living.
The Significance of the Poem
"Fergus And The Druid" is a masterpiece of Irish poetry, and it is significant in the context of Yeats' work. The poem explores many of the themes that are central to Yeats' poetry, including aging and mortality, love and loyalty, and the supernatural. The poem is also significant in the context of Irish mythology and folklore, as it draws on the legends of Fergus and the druids.
The poem is also significant in the context of Yeats' career. Yeats was deeply interested in Irish mythology and folklore, and he drew on these sources throughout his career. "Fergus And The Druid" is one of his most successful attempts to incorporate these sources into his poetry, and it showcases his poetic genius and his deep understanding of Irish culture.
"Fergus And The Druid" is a masterpiece of Irish poetry, and it showcases Yeats' poetic genius and his deep understanding of Irish mythology and folklore. The poem explores many themes that are central to Yeats' poetry, including aging and mortality, love and loyalty, and the supernatural. The imagery in the poem is particularly striking, and it adds to the haunting and mystical quality of the poem. Overall, "Fergus And The Druid" is a powerful and memorable poem that continues to resonate with readers today.
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