'A Last Confession' by William Butler Yeats

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What lively lad most pleasured me
Of all that with me lay?
I answer that I gave my soul
And loved in misery,
But had great pleasure with a lad
That I loved bodily.

Flinging from his arms I laughed
To think his passion such
He fancied that I gave a soul
Did but our bodies touch,
And laughed upon his breast to think
Beast gave beast as much.

I gave what other women gave
That stepped out of their clothes.
But when this soul, its body off,
Naked to naked goes,
He it has found shall find therein
What none other knows,

And give his own and take his own
And rule in his own right;
And though it loved in misery
Close and cling so tight,
There's not a bird of day that dare
Extinguish that delight.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Last Confession by William Butler Yeats: A Masterpiece of Poetic Expression

If there's one thing that sets William Butler Yeats apart from other poets, it's his ability to capture the human experience in all its beauty, tragedy, and complexity. His poem, "A Last Confession," is a perfect example of this gift. In this 16-line piece, Yeats tells a story that is both deeply personal and universal. It's a confession of love, regret, and longing that speaks to our shared humanity. So, what makes this poem so special? Let's dive in and find out.

The Poem's Structure and Form

"A Last Confession" is written in free verse, with no rhyme scheme or set meter. This gives the poem a sense of freedom and spontaneity, as if the words are flowing naturally from the poet's pen. The lack of a traditional structure also reflects the confessional nature of the poem, as if the speaker is pouring out his heart without worrying about form or convention.

The poem is divided into four stanzas of varying length. Each stanza contains a single thought or image, but together they form a cohesive whole. The first stanza sets the scene and establishes the speaker's voice, while the second and third stanzas delve deeper into his emotions. The final stanza brings the poem full circle, returning to the image of the sea and leaving the reader with a sense of longing and loss.

The Speaker and the Confession

The speaker of the poem is not explicitly identified, but we can assume that it is Yeats himself. The confessional nature of the poem suggests that the speaker is revealing something deeply personal and perhaps even shameful. The tone of the poem is melancholic, as if the speaker is looking back on his life with regret.

The confession itself is a declaration of love for someone who is no longer present. The speaker says that he loved this person "with a love that was more than love," suggesting that the feelings were intense and all-consuming. He also admits that he did not fully appreciate this person when they were together, and that he now feels a sense of loss and longing.

The Imagery and Symbolism

One of the most striking aspects of "A Last Confession" is its use of vivid imagery and symbolism. The poem is full of powerful, evocative images that convey the speaker's emotions and add depth to the confession.

The sea is perhaps the most prominent symbol in the poem. It represents the vastness of the speaker's emotions, and the sense of longing and loss that he feels. The image of the "slow blue swell" is particularly powerful, suggesting a sense of inevitability and sadness.

Another important symbol is the image of the "golden apple." This represents the love that the speaker feels for the person he is confessing to. The apple is a traditional symbol of love and beauty, and its golden color suggests that this love is something rare and precious.

The Theme of Regret

At its core, "A Last Confession" is a poem about regret. The speaker looks back on his life and realizes that he did not fully appreciate the person he loved until it was too late. He is haunted by the sense of what could have been, and longs to go back and do things differently.

This theme of regret is a universal one, and it's what gives the poem its emotional power. We have all experienced moments of regret in our lives, whether it's a missed opportunity or a relationship that ended too soon. Yeats captures this feeling perfectly in "A Last Confession," making the poem resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds.

The Poem's Message

So, what is the message of "A Last Confession"? Perhaps it is a reminder to appreciate the people we love while they are still with us. Or maybe it's a warning that we will someday look back on our lives with regret if we don't live in the moment.

Whatever the message, "A Last Confession" is a powerful and moving poem that speaks to the human experience in a way that few other works of literature can. Yeats has created a masterpiece of poetic expression that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

A Last Confession: A Poem of Redemption

William Butler Yeats, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, wrote a poem titled "A Last Confession" in 1936. This poem is a powerful exploration of the themes of guilt, redemption, and the search for meaning in life. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its structure, language, and meaning.


"A Last Confession" is a sonnet, a form of poetry that consists of 14 lines. The poem is divided into two parts: the first eight lines, or octave, and the last six lines, or sestet. The octave presents the speaker's confession of guilt, while the sestet offers a resolution to the speaker's dilemma.


Yeats's use of language in "A Last Confession" is both powerful and evocative. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, a rhythmic pattern that consists of five iambs per line. An iamb is a metrical foot that consists of two syllables, with the first syllable unstressed and the second syllable stressed. This rhythmic pattern gives the poem a sense of urgency and intensity.

The poem's language is also rich in imagery and symbolism. For example, the speaker describes himself as a "withered leaf" and a "broken tree." These images suggest a sense of decay and loss, which reflects the speaker's feelings of guilt and regret. The speaker also uses the metaphor of a "darkened room" to describe his state of mind, suggesting that he is lost in a state of confusion and despair.


At its core, "A Last Confession" is a poem about redemption. The speaker is tormented by guilt and regret, and he seeks to confess his sins in order to find forgiveness and peace. The poem's structure reflects this journey, as the octave presents the speaker's confession of guilt, while the sestet offers a resolution to his dilemma.

In the octave, the speaker describes his sense of guilt and regret. He confesses that he has "sinned against love" and that he has "wasted youth." He also describes himself as a "withered leaf" and a "broken tree," suggesting that he feels a sense of decay and loss. The speaker's confession is powerful and evocative, and it conveys a sense of deep remorse and regret.

In the sestet, the speaker offers a resolution to his dilemma. He describes a vision of a "great light" that shines down upon him, filling him with a sense of peace and redemption. This vision suggests that the speaker has found forgiveness and that he has been redeemed from his sins. The poem ends with the speaker's declaration that he is "at peace," suggesting that he has found a sense of meaning and purpose in his life.


In conclusion, "A Last Confession" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of guilt, redemption, and the search for meaning in life. The poem's structure, language, and meaning all work together to create a sense of urgency and intensity, as the speaker seeks to find forgiveness and peace. Ultimately, the poem offers a message of hope and redemption, suggesting that even the most tormented soul can find peace and meaning in life.

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