'Responsibilities - Closing' by William Butler Yeats
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While I, that reed-throated whisperer
Who comes at need, although not now as once
A clear articulation in the air,
But inwardly, surmise companions
Beyond the fling of the dull ass's hoof
- Ben Johnson's phrase - and find when June is come
At Kyle-na-no under that ancient roof
A sterner conscience and a friendlier home,
I can forgive even that wrong of wrongs,
Those undreamt accidents that have made me
- Seeing that Fame has perished that long while,
Being but a part of ancient ceremony -
Notorious, till all my priceless things
Are but a post the passing dogs defile.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Responsibilities - Closing by William Butler Yeats
Wow, just wow! That's the feeling that comes to my mind after reading the poem "Responsibilities - Closing" by the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats. This poem is not only a masterpiece of literature but also a philosophical masterpiece that showcases Yeats' deep understanding of life and human nature. In this literary analysis, I will explore the themes, symbolism, and poetic devices used by Yeats to create this captivating work of art.
Yeats wrote "Responsibilities - Closing" in 1914, at a time when he was deeply concerned about the future of his country, Ireland. The poem is part of a collection of poems also titled "Responsibilities," which Yeats wrote as a response to the political and social issues of the time. This poem, in particular, is the closing poem of the collection and is a reflection of Yeats' thoughts on responsibility, duty, and the role of the artist in society.
One of the primary themes of "Responsibilities - Closing" is the idea of responsibility. Yeats believed that every individual has a duty and responsibility to society, and that duty is not just limited to political or social responsibilities but also extends to the artistic sphere. Yeats believed that artists have a responsibility to create art that reflects the values and aspirations of society.
In the poem, Yeats writes, "Our master Caesar is in the tent / Where the maps are spread." This line refers to the Roman leader Julius Caesar, who was responsible for leading his army to victory. Yeats uses this reference as a metaphor for the artist's responsibility to lead society towards progress and growth. The artist, like Caesar, must have a clear vision and a sense of direction to guide society towards a better future.
Another theme that emerges in the poem is the idea of sacrifice. Yeats believed that sacrifice was an essential aspect of responsibility. In the poem, he writes, "We have tested and tasted too much, lover- / Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder." This line refers to the idea that individuals must sacrifice their personal desires and pleasures to achieve greatness. Yeats believed that individuals who seek too much pleasure or comfort lose their sense of wonder and purpose.
Yeats uses powerful symbolism in "Responsibilities - Closing" to convey his ideas and themes. One of the most striking symbols in the poem is the image of the sphinx. The sphinx is a mythological creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. In the poem, Yeats writes, "We have no gift to set a statesman right; / He has had enough of meddling who can please / A young girl in the indolence of her youth, / Or an old man upon a winter's night."
The sphinx is a symbol of mystery, enigma, and ambiguity. Yeats uses the image of the sphinx to suggest that the role of the artist is to create work that is open to interpretation and that challenges the status quo. The artist must be like the sphinx, mysterious, and enigmatic, leaving the audience to ponder and explore the meaning of their work.
Another powerful symbol used in the poem is that of the "indolent youth" and "old man." These two symbols represent the opposite ends of the spectrum of human experience. The youth represents the endless possibilities and potential of life, while the old man represents the wisdom and experience that comes with age. Yeats uses these symbols to suggest that the artist must create work that speaks to both the young and old, inspiring hope and challenging complacency.
Yeats uses a variety of poetic devices in "Responsibilities - Closing" to create a sense of depth and complexity. One of the most striking poetic devices used in the poem is the repetition of the phrase "too much." Yeats repeats this phrase throughout the poem to suggest that excess leads to a loss of wonder and purpose. The repetition creates a sense of urgency and reinforces the theme of sacrifice.
Another poetic device used in the poem is the use of parallelism. Yeats writes, "We must be the slaves of Gold / Or of its lack thereof, / Proud of our wealth, but generous / Or we will perish utterly." The parallel structure of this passage creates a sense of balance and harmony while emphasizing the importance of generosity and sacrifice.
Finally, Yeats uses metaphor to create vivid and striking images in the poem. He writes, "We have loved the wrong love / And now must lose thereby." This metaphor emphasizes the importance of making the right choices in life and the consequences of our actions.
In conclusion, "Responsibilities - Closing" is a remarkable work of literature that showcases Yeats' deep understanding of life and human nature. The themes of responsibility, sacrifice, and the role of the artist in society are conveyed through powerful symbolism and poetic devices. The poem challenges us to explore our own sense of purpose and responsibility and to strive for greatness in all aspects of our lives. It's a poem that continues to resonate with readers today, and its message is as relevant now as it was when it was first written.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Responsibilities - Closing: A Poem of Reflection and Responsibility
William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his poem Responsibilities - Closing is a testament to his mastery of the craft. This poem is a reflection on the responsibilities that come with age and experience, and it is a call to action for those who have the power to make a difference in the world. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in this poem to gain a deeper understanding of its meaning and significance.
The poem begins with the speaker reflecting on his youth and the carefree days of his past. He remembers the times when he was free to do as he pleased, without the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. However, as he has grown older, he has come to realize that with age comes responsibility. He acknowledges that he has a duty to use his experience and knowledge to make a positive impact on the world.
The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker reflects on the fleeting nature of youth and the inevitability of aging. He writes, "An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick, unless / Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing / For every tatter in its mortal dress." This imagery of an aged man as a "tattered coat upon a stick" is a powerful metaphor for the fragility of life and the importance of finding meaning and purpose in our existence.
The second stanza of the poem is a call to action for those who have the power to make a difference in the world. The speaker urges those who have the ability to effect change to take responsibility for their actions and to use their power for good. He writes, "Nor is there singing school but studying / Monuments of its own magnificence; / And therefore I have sailed the seas and come / To the holy city of Byzantium." This stanza is a reminder that we all have a responsibility to use our talents and abilities to make a positive impact on the world.
The third stanza of the poem is a reflection on the power of art and creativity to inspire change. The speaker writes, "O sages standing in God's holy fire / As in the gold mosaic of a wall, / Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, / And be the singing-masters of my soul." This stanza is a call to the sages and artists of the world to use their creativity to inspire change and to be the "singing-masters" of our souls.
The fourth and final stanza of the poem is a reflection on the fleeting nature of life and the importance of making the most of our time on earth. The speaker writes, "Once out of nature I shall never take / My bodily form from any natural thing, / But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make / Of hammered gold and gold enamelling." This stanza is a reminder that our time on earth is limited, and that we must make the most of it by using our talents and abilities to make a positive impact on the world.
In terms of language, Yeats uses a variety of poetic techniques to convey his message. The use of metaphor and imagery is particularly effective in this poem, as it allows the reader to visualize the concepts being discussed. For example, the metaphor of the "tattered coat upon a stick" is a powerful image that conveys the fragility of life and the importance of finding meaning and purpose in our existence.
The use of repetition is also effective in this poem, as it emphasizes the importance of the themes being discussed. For example, the repetition of the word "sing" in the first stanza emphasizes the importance of using our voices to make a positive impact on the world.
In conclusion, Responsibilities - Closing is a powerful poem that reflects on the responsibilities that come with age and experience. It is a call to action for those who have the power to make a difference in the world, and a reminder that we all have a responsibility to use our talents and abilities to make a positive impact on the world. Through its use of metaphor, imagery, and repetition, this poem conveys a powerful message that is as relevant today as it was when it was written over a century ago.
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