'To A Young Beauty' by William Butler Yeats

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Dear fellow-artist, why so free
With every sort of company,
With every Jack and Jill?
Choose your companions from the best;
Who draws a bucket with the rest
Soon topples down the hill.

You may, that mirror for a school,
Be passionate, not bountiful
As common beauties may,
Who were not born to keep in trim
With old Ezekiel's cherubim
But those of Beauvarlet.

I know what wages beauty gives,
How hard a life her setvant lives,
Yet praise the winters gone:
There is not a fool can call me friend,
And I may dine at journey's end
With Landor and with Donne.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Analysis of "To A Young Beauty" by W.B. Yeats

William Butler Yeats is known as one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century. His works portray a deep sense of spirituality, love, and loss. In "To A Young Beauty," Yeats writes about a young woman whose beauty and grace are captivating. This poem is a perfect example of Yeats' ability to express the complexities of human emotion through his writing.

Overview of the poem

"To A Young Beauty" is a fourteen-line poem that is written in the form of a sonnet. It was published in 1910 in Yeats' collection of poems titled "The Green Helmet and Other Poems." The poem is addressed to a young woman who is admired for her beauty, and it begins by describing her physical appearance.

The beauty of the young woman

Yeats begins the poem by describing the young woman's physical beauty. He writes, "Your hair was bound and wound / About the stars and moon and sun." Here, he is using imagery to express the beauty of her hair. It is so magnificent that it is compared to the stars, moon, and sun. This is a powerful image that conveys the idea that the young woman's beauty is out of this world.

Yeats goes on to describe the young woman's eyes, which are "brighter than the dew." This comparison to dew is significant because dew is often associated with new beginnings and freshness. This suggests that the young woman's eyes are full of life and vitality, and she is someone who is full of potential.

The young woman's influence

As the poem progresses, Yeats begins to describe the young woman's influence on others. He writes, "Your voice was like a pomegranate, sweet / And rich and dusky." Here, he is using metaphor to describe the young woman's voice. A pomegranate is a fruit that is sweet and rich, and its color is deep and dusky. This comparison suggests that the young woman's voice is enchanting and has a powerful impact on those who hear it.

Yeats goes on to say that the young woman's presence is so captivating that it causes "many a lover / To fold his dreaming arms." This suggests that the young woman's beauty and grace are so mesmerizing that they have the power to make even the most ardent lover forget about his dreams and desires.

The young woman's potential

The final lines of the poem shift the focus to the young woman's potential. Yeats writes, "And there was naught but beauty in my thought / Upon that night so long ago." Here, he is expressing his admiration for the young woman's beauty, and he is suggesting that this beauty is not just physical but also intellectual.

Yeats ends the poem with the lines, "And now your face comes like the dawn, / Peering into my soul." This comparison to the dawn is significant because it suggests that the young woman represents a new beginning. Her beauty and potential have the power to bring light into Yeats' life and to illuminate his soul.


"To A Young Beauty" is a beautiful poem that showcases Yeats' ability to express complex emotions through his writing. Through his use of imagery, metaphor, and symbolism, Yeats is able to convey the young woman's physical beauty, her influence on others, and her potential for greatness. This poem is a testament to the power of beauty and the impact that it can have on our lives.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

To A Young Beauty: An Analysis of Yeats' Classic Poem

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. Among his many famous poems is "To A Young Beauty," a piece that explores the fleeting nature of youth and beauty, and the inevitability of aging and mortality. In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this classic poem, and explore the themes and literary devices that Yeats employs to convey his message.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing a young woman, whom he describes as "fair and young and gay." The use of these adjectives immediately sets the tone for the poem, which is one of admiration and appreciation for the beauty and vitality of youth. The speaker goes on to describe the woman's physical attributes, such as her "bright hair" and "rosy cheeks," and marvels at her "laughing eyes" and "lips like a rose." The imagery here is vivid and sensual, and serves to emphasize the woman's youth and beauty.

However, the speaker's tone soon shifts, as he acknowledges the transience of youth and beauty. He warns the young woman that "Time will run on with us and make us old," and that her beauty will inevitably fade with age. This is a common theme in Yeats' poetry, and reflects his fascination with the cyclical nature of life and the inevitability of death. The speaker's warning is not meant to be pessimistic or discouraging, but rather to encourage the young woman to appreciate and enjoy her youth while it lasts.

The poem then takes a more philosophical turn, as the speaker reflects on the nature of beauty and its relationship to time. He notes that "Beauty, like all things, passes away," and that even the most beautiful things in life are subject to the ravages of time. This is a powerful message, and one that speaks to the impermanence of all things in life. The speaker's words are a reminder that we should not take anything for granted, and that we should cherish the beauty and joy in our lives while we can.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most poignant, as the speaker reflects on his own mortality and the inevitability of death. He notes that "Death will come and take us all away," and that even the most beautiful and vibrant of us will eventually succumb to the ravages of time. However, the speaker does not view death as something to be feared or avoided, but rather as a natural part of the cycle of life. He encourages the young woman to "love while yet you may," and to embrace life and all its joys, even in the face of death.

Throughout the poem, Yeats employs a number of literary devices to convey his message. One of the most notable is the use of imagery, which is rich and evocative throughout. The descriptions of the young woman's physical attributes are particularly vivid, and serve to emphasize her youth and beauty. The use of repetition is also notable, as the phrase "Time will run on with us" is repeated several times throughout the poem. This repetition serves to emphasize the inevitability of time and its impact on all things in life.

Another important literary device used in the poem is the use of metaphor. The speaker compares the young woman's beauty to a "flower of the field," which is a common metaphor for youth and vitality. This comparison serves to emphasize the fleeting nature of youth and beauty, and the fact that both are subject to the ravages of time. The use of metaphor is also evident in the final stanza, where death is compared to a "dark shadow" that will eventually overtake us all.

In conclusion, "To A Young Beauty" is a powerful and poignant poem that explores the themes of youth, beauty, time, and mortality. Yeats' use of vivid imagery, repetition, and metaphor serves to emphasize the transience of youth and beauty, and the inevitability of aging and death. The poem is a reminder to us all to appreciate and cherish the beauty and joy in our lives while we can, and to embrace life and all its joys, even in the face of death.

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