'Meditations In Time Of Civil War' by William Butler Yeats
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I. Ancestral Houses
Surely among a rich man's flowering lawns,
Amid the rustle of his planted hills,
Life overflows without ambitious pains;
And rains down life until the basin spills,
And mounts more dizzy high the more it rains
As though to choose whatever shape it wills
And never stoop to a mechanical
Or servile shape, at others' beck and call.
Mere dreams, mere dreams! Yet Homer had not Sung
Had he not found it certain beyond dreams
That out of life's own self-delight had sprung
The abounding glittering jet; though now it seems
As if some marvellous empty sea-shell flung
Out of the obscure dark of the rich streams,
And not a fountain, were the symbol which
Shadows the inherited glory of the rich.
Some violent bitter man, some powerful man
Called architect and artist in, that they,
Bitter and violent men, might rear in stone
The sweetness that all longed for night and day,
The gentleness none there had ever known;
But when the master's buried mice can play.
And maybe the great-grandson of that house,
For all its bronze and marble, 's but a mouse.
O what if gardens where the peacock strays
With delicate feet upon old terraces,
Or else all Juno from an urn displays
Before the indifferent garden deities;
O what if levelled lawns and gravelled ways
Where slippered Contemplation finds his ease
And Childhood a delight for every sense,
But take our greatness with our violence?
What if the glory of escutcheoned doors,
And buildings that a haughtier age designed,
The pacing to and fro on polished floors
Amid great chambers and long galleries, lined
With famous portraits of our ancestors;
What if those things the greatest of mankind
Consider most to magnify, or to bless,
But take our greatness with our bitterness?
II. My House
An ancient bridge, and a more ancient tower,
A farmhouse that is sheltered by its wall,
An acre of stony ground,
Where the symbolic rose can break in flower,
Old ragged elms, old thorns innumerable,
The sound of the rain or sound
Of every wind that blows;
The stilted water-hen
Crossing Stream again
Scared by the splashing of a dozen cows;
A winding stair, a chamber arched with stone,
A grey stone fireplace with an open hearth,
A candle and written page.
Il Penseroso's Platonist toiled on
In some like chamber, shadowing forth
How the daemonic rage
From markets and from fairs
Have seen his midnight candle glimmering.
Two men have founded here. A man-at-arms
Gathered a score of horse and spent his days
In this tumultuous spot,
Where through long wars and sudden night alarms
His dwinding score and he seemed castaways
Forgetting and forgot;
And I, that after me
My bodily heirs may find,
To exalt a lonely mind,
Befitting emblems of adversity.
III. My Table
Two heavy trestles, and a board
Where Sato's gift, a changeless sword,
By pen and paper lies,
That it may moralise
My days out of their aimlessness.
A bit of an embroidered dress
Covers its wooden sheath.
Chaucer had not drawn breath
When it was forged. In Sato's house,
Curved like new moon, moon-luminous
It lay five hundred years.
Yet if no change appears
No moon; only an aching heart
Conceives a changeless work of art.
Our learned men have urged
That when and where 'twas forged
A marvellous accomplishment,
In painting or in pottery, went
From father unto son
And through the centuries ran
And seemed unchanging like the sword.
Soul's beauty being most adored,
Men and their business took
Me soul's unchanging look;
For the most rich inheritor,
Knowing that none could pass Heaven's door,
That loved inferior art,
Had such an aching heart
That he, although a country's talk
For silken clothes and stately walk.
Had waking wits; it seemed
Juno's peacock screamed.
IV. My Descendants
Having inherited a vigorous mind
From my old fathers, I must nourish dreams
And leave a woman and a man behind
As vigorous of mind, and yet it seems
Life scarce can cast a fragrance on the wind,
Scarce spread a glory to the morning beams,
But the torn petals strew the garden plot;
And there's but common greenness after that.
And what if my descendants lose the flower
Through natural declension of the soul,
Through too much business with the passing hour,
Through too much play, or marriage with a fool?
May this laborious stair and this stark tower
Become a roofless min that the owl
May build in the cracked masonry and cry
Her desolation to the desolate sky.
The primum Mobile that fashioned us
Has made the very owls in circles move;
And I, that count myself most prosperous,
Seeing that love and friendship are enough,
For an old neighbour's friendship chose the house
And decked and altered it for a girl's love,
And know whatever flourish and decline
These stones remain their monument and mine.
V. The Road at My Door
An affable Irregular,
A heavily-built Falstaffian man,
Comes cracking jokes of civil war
As though to die by gunshot were
The finest play under the sun.
A brown Lieutenant and his men,
Half dressed in national uniform,
Stand at my door, and I complain
Of the foul weather, hail and rain,
A pear-tree broken by the storm.
I count those feathered balls of soot
The moor-hen guides upon the stream.
To silence the envy in my thought;
And turn towards my chamber, caught
In the cold snows of a dream.
VI. The Stare's Nest by My Window
The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the state.
We are closed in, and the key is turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house burned,
Yet no clear fact to be discerned:
Come build in he empty house of the stare.
A barricade of stone or of wood;
Some fourteen days of civil war;
Last night they trundled down the road
That dead young soldier in his blood:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.
We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart's grown brutal from the fare;
More Substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.
VII. I see Phantoms of Hatred and of the Heart's
Fullness and of the Coming Emptiness
I climb to the tower-top and lean upon broken stone,
A mist that is like blown snow is sweeping over all,
Valley, river, and elms, under the light of a moon
That seems unlike itself, that seems unchangeable,
A glittering sword out of the east. A puff of wind
And those white glimmering fragments of the mist sweep by.
Frenzies bewilder, reveries perturb the mind;
Monstrous familiar images swim to the mind's eye.
'Vengeance upon the murderers,' the cry goes up,
'Vengeance for Jacques Molay.' In cloud-pale rags, or in lace,
The rage-driven, rage-tormented, and rage-hungry troop,
Trooper belabouring trooper, biting at arm or at face,
Plunges towards nothing, arms and fingers spreading wide
For the embrace of nothing; and I, my wits astray
Because of all that senseless tumult, all but cried
For vengeance on the murderers of Jacques Molay.
Their legs long, delicate and slender, aquamarine their eyes,
Magical unicorns bear ladies on their backs.
The ladies close their musing eyes. No prophecies,
Remembered out of Babylonian almanacs,
Have closed the ladies' eyes, their minds are but a pool
Where even longing drowns under its own excess;
Nothing but stillness can remain when hearts are full
Of their own sweetness, bodies of their loveliness.
The cloud-pale unicorns, the eyes of aquamarine,
The quivering half-closed eyelids, the rags of cloud or of lace,
Or eyes that rage has brightened, arms it has made lean,
Give place to an indifferent multitude, give place
To brazen hawks. Nor self-delighting reverie,
Nor hate of what's to come, nor pity for what's gone,
Nothing but grip of claw, and the eye's complacency,
The innumerable clanging wings that have put out the moon.
I turn away and shut the door, and on the stair
Wonder how many times I could have proved my worth
In something that all others understand or share;
But O! ambitious heart, had such a proof drawn forth
A company of friends, a conscience set at ease,
It had but made us pine the more. The abstract joy,
The half-read wisdom of daemonic images,
Suffice the ageing man as once the growing boy.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Meditations In Time Of Civil War by William Butler Yeats
Meditations In Time Of Civil War is a classic poem written by the renowned Irish poet, William Butler Yeats. The poem was written during the Irish Civil War and it reflects the poet's reaction to the political turmoil and violence that characterized the period. The poem is a powerful statement on war, politics, and the human condition. Through the use of vivid imagery, powerful language, and a unique style of writing, Yeats creates a powerful portrait of a world torn apart by conflict.
William Butler Yeats was one of the most prominent poets of the 20th century. Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1865, Yeats was deeply involved in the Irish nationalist movement and was a key figure in the Irish literary renaissance. His poetry is known for its powerful imagery, intense emotion, and unique style. Throughout his career, Yeats tackled a wide range of themes, including love, nature, mythology, and politics.
Meditations In Time Of Civil War was written in 1922, during the Irish Civil War. The conflict was a bitter struggle between Irish republicans and loyalists who supported British rule. The war led to the deaths of thousands of people and left Ireland deeply divided. Yeats, who was deeply committed to Irish nationalism, was deeply affected by the war and the political turmoil of the time. In this poem, he reflects on the violence, death, and destruction that characterized the period.
Meditations In Time Of Civil War is a complex and multifaceted poem that explores a wide range of themes and ideas. At its core, the poem is a meditation on the human condition, and the ways in which conflict and violence can shape our lives. Throughout the poem, Yeats uses vivid imagery and powerful language to create a portrait of a world torn apart by war.
The poem begins with a description of the aftermath of battle. Yeats describes a landscape that is desolate and barren, with "no marble, no conventional phrase." The use of the word "conventional" is significant here, as it suggests that Yeats is rejecting the traditional language of war and instead seeking to create his own, more powerful images.
As the poem continues, Yeats reflects on the nature of conflict and the ways in which it can shape our lives. He writes that "the innocent and the beautiful have no enemy but time," suggesting that even the most pure and innocent among us can be destroyed by the ravages of war. This idea is reinforced by the powerful image of the "young men lying by the roadside," which suggests that even the most promising and talented among us can be cut down before their time.
Throughout the poem, Yeats also explores the theme of death and the ways in which it can be both beautiful and terrifying. He writes that "it is easy to be dead" and describes death as a kind of release from the suffering and pain of life. However, he also acknowledges the fear and uncertainty that comes with death, writing that "we know their dream enough to know they dreamed and are dead."
At its core, Meditations In Time Of Civil War is a deeply personal poem that reflects Yeats' own views on war, politics, and the human condition. Throughout the poem, he expresses a deep sense of sadness and frustration at the violence and destruction that surrounds him. However, he also acknowledges the beauty and power of the human spirit, writing that "we have come to a quiet place and have won our peace."
Meditations In Time Of Civil War is a powerful and evocative poem that continues to resonate with readers today. The poem is a meditation on the human condition and the ways in which conflict and violence can shape our lives. Through the use of vivid imagery and powerful language, Yeats creates a portrait of a world torn apart by war.
At its core, the poem is a reflection of Yeats' own views on war and politics. As a committed nationalist, Yeats was deeply involved in the Irish independence movement and was deeply affected by the violence and turmoil of the time. Through this poem, he expresses his frustration and sadness at the destruction that surrounds him, but he also acknowledges the beauty and power of the human spirit.
Overall, Meditations In Time Of Civil War is a powerful and moving poem that continues to inspire readers today. Through the use of vivid imagery, powerful language, and a unique style of writing, Yeats creates a powerful portrait of a world torn apart by conflict.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Meditations In Time Of Civil War: A Poem of Hope and Despair
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, wrote the poem "Meditations In Time Of Civil War" in 1922, during the Irish Civil War. The poem is a reflection of Yeats' personal and political struggles during that time, as well as a commentary on the larger themes of war, violence, and human suffering. In this analysis, we will explore the poem's themes, structure, and language, and how they contribute to its overall meaning.
The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with six lines. The first stanza sets the tone for the poem, with Yeats expressing his despair and hopelessness in the face of the violence and chaos of the civil war. He describes the "wind that shakes the barley" as a metaphor for the destruction and death that surrounds him. The image of the "dying generations" is a powerful one, as it suggests that the violence is not just affecting the present, but also the future. The line "And the sickle's edge, that cuts the corn, / Shall cut the breathers of the dawn" is particularly haunting, as it suggests that the violence will continue to spread and affect even those who are not directly involved in the conflict.
In the second stanza, Yeats shifts his focus to the larger themes of war and violence. He describes the "blood-dimmed tide" as a metaphor for the chaos and destruction that war brings. The image of the "ceremony of innocence" being drowned out by the "bestiality" of war is a powerful one, as it suggests that war destroys not just lives, but also the very fabric of society. The line "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" is perhaps the most famous line in the poem, and has been interpreted in many different ways. Some see it as a reference to the biblical story of the birth of Jesus, while others see it as a metaphor for the rise of fascism and totalitarianism in Europe at the time. Whatever its meaning, it is a powerful and evocative image that captures the sense of dread and foreboding that Yeats felt during this time.
The third stanza is perhaps the most hopeful of the three, as Yeats turns his attention to the future. He describes the "terrible beauty" of the violence and chaos, suggesting that even in the midst of destruction, there is something beautiful and awe-inspiring about the human spirit. The line "That woman's days were spent / In ignorant good-will, / Her nights in argument / Until her voice grew shrill" is a reference to Maud Gonne, Yeats' longtime love and muse, who was a prominent figure in the Irish independence movement. The image of her arguing passionately for her beliefs, even as the world around her crumbles, is a powerful one, and suggests that even in the darkest of times, there is hope for a better future.
The language of the poem is rich and evocative, with Yeats using powerful metaphors and imagery to convey his message. The use of the wind and the barley as metaphors for the violence and destruction of war is particularly effective, as it suggests that these forces are natural and inevitable, like the changing of the seasons. The image of the "rough beast" slouching towards Bethlehem is also a powerful one, as it suggests that the forces of evil and destruction are always lurking just beneath the surface of society, waiting for their moment to strike.
In conclusion, "Meditations In Time Of Civil War" is a powerful and evocative poem that captures the sense of despair and hopelessness that Yeats felt during the Irish Civil War. Through its use of powerful metaphors and imagery, the poem explores the larger themes of war, violence, and human suffering, while also offering a glimmer of hope for a better future. It is a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet that the poem still resonates with readers today, nearly a century after it was written.
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