'The Host Of The Air' by William Butler Yeats

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O'Driscoll drove with a song
The wild duck and the drake
From the tall and the tufted reeds
Of the drear Hart Lake.

And he saw how the reeds grew dark
At the coming of night-tide,
And dreamed of the long dim hair
Of Bridget his bride.

He heard while he sang and dreamed
A piper piping away,
And never was piping so sad,
And never was piping so gay.

And he saw young men and young girls
Who danced on a level place,
And Bridget his bride among them,
With a sad and a gay face.

The dancers crowded about him
And many a sweet thing said,
And a young man brought him red wine
And a young girl white bread.

But Bridget drew him by the sleeve
Away from the merry bands,
To old men playing at cards
With a twinkling of ancient hands.

The bread and the wine had a doom,
For these were the host of the air;
He sat and played in a dream
Of her long dim hair.

He played with the merry old men
And thought not of evil chance,
Until one bore Bridget his bride
Away from the merry dance.

He bore her away in his atms,
The handsomest young man there,
And his neck and his breast and his arms
Were drowned in her long dim hair.

O'Driscoll scattered the cards
And out of his dream awoke:
Old men and young men and young girls
Were gone like a drifting smoke;

But he heard high up in the air
A piper piping away,
And never was piping so sad,
And never was piping so gay.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Host of the Air: A Phenomenal Poem by William Butler Yeats

Wow, what a masterpiece! The Host of the Air, written by William Butler Yeats, is an exceptional poem that captures the imagination of the reader. This work is a prime example of Yeats' incredible ability to use vivid imagery to convey deep emotions and themes. In this literary criticism, I will analyze and interpret this incredible poem, exploring its various literary devices, themes, and messages.

Background Information

Firstly, it is essential to provide some background information about the poem. The Host of the Air was written in 1914, during a time when Yeats was working on his collection of poems, Responsibilities. This collection was meant to reflect his changing worldview, as he moved away from his earlier romanticism and towards a more serious and realistic perspective. The Host of the Air is one of the most famous poems from this collection, and it is widely regarded as one of Yeats' finest works.


One of the most striking features of The Host of the Air is its use of vivid and powerful imagery. Yeats paints a picture of a group of supernatural beings, the "Host of the Air," who are flying over the Irish countryside on a mission to capture a human soul. The description of these beings is incredibly detailed, and it is easy to imagine them swooping down from the sky, their wings beating in unison. The poem is full of other striking images as well, such as the "glittering fan" of the moon and the "flame-red" sun. Yeats' use of color and sensory detail is superb, and it really helps to bring the poem to life.


The Host of the Air is a poem that deals with several themes, some of which are more obvious than others. At its core, the poem is about the struggle between the natural and supernatural worlds. The human soul that the Host is trying to capture represents the fragile balance between these two worlds. Yeats suggests that humans are caught in the middle of this struggle, and that we are constantly striving to find our place in the world. This theme is reflected in the imagery of the poem, which contrasts the natural beauty of the Irish countryside with the supernatural beings that are threatening to upset this balance.

Another important theme in The Host of the Air is the idea of fate and destiny. The poem suggests that our lives are predetermined to some extent, and that we are all on a journey towards our ultimate fate. This theme is indicated in the phrase "the appointed place," which suggests that the human soul is fated to be taken by the Host. Yeats also suggests that there is a sense of inevitability to our fate, as the Host is described as being "inevitable" and "implacable." This theme is reinforced by the poem's rhyme scheme, which is very regular and almost mechanical, suggesting that fate is like a clock that ticks inexorably towards our ultimate destiny.


In conclusion, The Host of the Air is a phenomenal poem that showcases Yeats' incredible talent as a poet. Its vivid imagery, powerful themes, and masterful use of language all come together to create a work that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. This poem is a testament to Yeats' ability to capture the essence of the human experience, and it remains as relevant today as it was over a century ago. If you haven't read this poem yet, I highly recommend that you do so. You won't be disappointed!

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Host of the Air: A Poem of Mysticism and Mythology

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, known for his deep understanding of Irish mythology and mysticism. His poem, "The Host of the Air," is a prime example of his ability to weave together ancient legends and modern themes to create a work of art that is both timeless and relevant.

At its core, "The Host of the Air" is a poem about the power of nature and the supernatural forces that govern it. The poem begins with a description of a group of birds flying overhead, their wings beating in unison as they soar through the sky. Yeats describes them as "the host of the air," a phrase that immediately evokes a sense of awe and wonder.

As the poem progresses, Yeats introduces a series of mythological figures, including the Sidhe, or fairy folk, and the Tuatha De Danann, a race of ancient Irish gods. These figures are not presented as mere characters in a story, but as real and powerful forces that shape the world around us.

One of the most striking aspects of "The Host of the Air" is the way in which Yeats blends together different elements of Irish mythology and folklore. The poem is filled with references to ancient legends and stories, but these are not presented in a dry or academic manner. Instead, Yeats imbues them with a sense of vitality and immediacy, making them feel as though they are unfolding before our very eyes.

For example, in one section of the poem, Yeats describes the Sidhe as "the grey, gaunt, and spectral folk" who "dance with the dawn and the dusk." This image is both haunting and beautiful, evoking a sense of mystery and wonder that is central to the poem's overall theme.

Another key element of "The Host of the Air" is its use of symbolism. Throughout the poem, Yeats employs a variety of symbols and metaphors to convey his message. For example, the birds that fly overhead are not just birds, but a symbol of the natural world and the forces that govern it. Similarly, the Sidhe and the Tuatha De Danann are not just mythological figures, but symbols of the supernatural forces that shape our lives.

One of the most powerful symbols in the poem is the image of the "silver apples of the moon." This phrase is repeated several times throughout the poem, and it is clear that it holds a special significance for Yeats. The image of the silver apples is both beautiful and mysterious, evoking a sense of magic and wonder that is central to the poem's overall theme.

At its heart, "The Host of the Air" is a poem about the power of nature and the supernatural forces that govern it. Yeats uses a variety of techniques, including mythology, symbolism, and metaphor, to convey his message. The result is a work of art that is both timeless and relevant, a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the essence of the human experience.

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