'The Tower' by William Butler Yeats
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What shall I do with this absurdity -
O heart, O troubled heart - this caricature,
Decrepit age that has been tied to me
As to a dog's tail?
Never had I more
Excited, passionate, fantastical
Imagination, nor an ear and eye
That more expected the impossible -
No, not in boyhood when with rod and fly,
Or the humbler worm, I climbed Ben Bulben's back
And had the livelong summer day to spend.
It seems that I must bid the Muse go pack,
Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend
Until imagination, ear and eye,
Can be content with argument and deal
In abstract things; or be derided by
A sort of battered kettle at the heel.
I pace upon the battlements and stare
On the foundations of a house, or where
Tree, like a sooty finger, starts from the earth;
And send imagination forth
Under the day's declining beam, and call
Images and memories
From ruin or from ancient trees,
For I would ask a question of them all.
Beyond that ridge lived Mrs. French, and once
When every silver candlestick or sconce
Lit up the dark mahogany and the wine.
A serving-man, that could divine
That most respected lady's every wish,
Ran and with the garden shears
Clipped an insolent farmer's ears
And brought them in a little covered dish.
Some few remembered still when I was young
A peasant girl commended by a Song,
Who'd lived somewhere upon that rocky place,
And praised the colour of her face,
And had the greater joy in praising her,
Remembering that, if walked she there,
Farmers jostled at the fair
So great a glory did the song confer.
And certain men, being maddened by those rhymes,
Or else by toasting her a score of times,
Rose from the table and declared it right
To test their fancy by their sight;
But they mistook the brightness of the moon
For the prosaic light of day -
Music had driven their wits astray -
And one was drowned in the great bog of Cloone.
Strange, but the man who made the song was blind;
Yet, now I have considered it, I find
That nothing strange; the tragedy began
With Homer that was a blind man,
And Helen has all living hearts betrayed.
O may the moon and sunlight seem
One inextricable beam,
For if I triumph I must make men mad.
And I myself created Hanrahan
And drove him drunk or sober through the dawn
From somewhere in the neighbouring cottages.
Caught by an old man's juggleries
He stumbled, tumbled, fumbled to and fro
And had but broken knees for hire
And horrible splendour of desire;
I thought it all out twenty years ago:
Good fellows shuffled cards in an old bawn;
And when that ancient ruffian's turn was on
He so bewitched the cards under his thumb
That all but the one card became
A pack of hounds and not a pack of cards,
And that he changed into a hare.
Hanrahan rose in frenzy there
And followed up those baying creatures towards -
O towards I have forgotten what - enough!
I must recall a man that neither love
Nor music nor an enemy's clipped ear
Could, he was so harried, cheer;
A figure that has grown so fabulous
There's not a neighbour left to say
When he finished his dog's day:
An ancient bankrupt master of this house.
Before that ruin came, for centuries,
Rough men-at-arms, cross-gartered to the knees
Or shod in iron, climbed the narrow stairs,
And certain men-at-arms there were
Whose images, in the Great Memory stored,
Come with loud cry and panting breast
To break upon a sleeper's rest
While their great wooden dice beat on the board.
As I would question all, come all who can;
Come old, necessitous. half-mounted man;
And bring beauty's blind rambling celebrant;
The red man the juggler sent
Through God-forsaken meadows; Mrs. French,
Gifted with so fine an ear;
The man drowned in a bog's mire,
When mocking Muses chose the country wench.
Did all old men and women, rich and poor,
Who trod upon these rocks or passed this door,
Whether in public or in secret rage
As I do now against old age?
But I have found an answer in those eyes
That are impatient to be gone;
Go therefore; but leave Hanrahan,
For I need all his mighty memories.
Old lecher with a love on every wind,
Bring up out of that deep considering mind
All that you have discovered in the grave,
For it is certain that you have
Reckoned up every unforeknown, unseeing
plunge, lured by a softening eye,
Or by a touch or a sigh,
Into the labyrinth of another's being;
Does the imagination dwell the most
Upon a woman won or woman lost?
If on the lost, admit you turned aside
From a great labyrinth out of pride,
Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought
Or anything called conscience once;
And that if memory recur, the sun's
Under eclipse and the day blotted out.
It is time that I wrote my will;
I choose upstanding men
That climb the streams until
The fountain leap, and at dawn
Drop their cast at the side
Of dripping stone; I declare
They shall inherit my pride,
The pride of people that were
Bound neither to Cause nor to State.
Neither to slaves that were spat on,
Nor to the tyrants that spat,
The people of Burke and of Grattan
That gave, though free to refuse -
pride, like that of the morn,
When the headlong light is loose,
Or that of the fabulous horn,
Or that of the sudden shower
When all streams are dry,
Or that of the hour
When the swan must fix his eye
Upon a fading gleam,
Float out upon a long
Last reach of glittering stream
And there sing his last song.
And I declare my faith:
I mock plotinus' thought
And cry in plato's teeth,
Death and life were not
Till man made up the whole,
Made lock, stock and barrel
Out of his bitter soul,
Aye, sun and moon and star, all,
And further add to that
That, being dead, we rise,
Dream and so create
I have prepared my peace
With learned Italian things
And the proud stones of Greece,
And memories of love,
Memories of the words of women,
All those things whereof
Man makes a superhuman,
As at the loophole there
The daws chatter and scream,
And drop twigs layer upon layer.
When they have mounted up,
The mother bird will rest
On their hollow top,
And so warm her wild nest.
I leave both faith and pride
To young upstanding men
Climbing the mountain-side,
That under bursting dawn
They may drop a fly;
Being of that metal made
Till it was broken by
This sedentary trade.
Now shall I make my soul,
Compelling it to study
In a learned school
Till the wreck of body,
Slow decay of blood,
Or dull decrepitude,
Or what worse evil come -
The death of friends, or death
Of every brilliant eye
That made a catch in the breath -
Seem but the clouds of the sky
When the horizon fades;
Or a bird's sleepy cry
Among the deepening shades.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Tower: A Literary Masterpiece
William Butler Yeats' "The Tower" is a classic poem that defies easy interpretation. It is a complex work that reveals the poet's deep understanding of human nature and the human condition. The poem is a meditation on the nature of time, memory, and the human desire for meaning and transcendence. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, imagery, and structure of "The Tower" and how they contribute to the poem's overall meaning.
Overview of the Poem
"The Tower" is a long and complex poem composed of twenty-two stanzas, each containing four lines. The poem is divided into two parts, with the first thirteen stanzas focusing on the physical structure of the tower, while the remaining nine stanzas explore the poet's personal journey and his search for meaning and transcendence. The poem is written in the first person, and the speaker is clearly Yeats himself.
One of the central themes of "The Tower" is the nature of time and memory. Yeats explores the ways in which we try to hold onto the past, even as time marches on relentlessly. The tower itself is a symbol of this attempt to preserve the past, as it stands as a monument to the ancient past. The poet contrasts this with the fleeting nature of human life, which is mere "water and shade" in comparison.
Another important theme in the poem is the search for transcendence and meaning. The poet longs for something beyond the mundane world of everyday life, and he sees the tower as a symbol of this search. He describes the tower as a "place of endless contemplation," where one can transcend the limitations of time and space and reach a higher plane of existence.
The poem also explores the theme of art and creativity. Yeats sees the tower as a work of art, created by ancient craftsmen who poured their souls into the building. The poet sees his own work as part of this ancient tradition, and he hopes that his poems will endure beyond his own lifetime.
Yeats uses a variety of vivid and evocative images throughout the poem to convey his themes. The tower itself is a powerful image, representing both the ancient past and the human desire for transcendence. The tower is described as "pinnacled," "tall," and "still." These images convey a sense of grandeur and timelessness, as if the tower has stood for centuries and will continue to stand for centuries to come.
The poet also uses images of nature to contrast with the tower. He describes the "water and shade" of human life, which are fleeting and transitory. He also describes the "wind-blown" trees, which are constantly changing and growing, in contrast to the static and unchanging tower.
Another powerful image in the poem is the "gyres," which Yeats uses to represent the cycles of history and the human condition. The gyres are described as "widening" and "closing," and they represent the movement of history from one age to another. The poet sees himself as caught in the "outer gyre," which represents the decline and degeneration of human civilization.
The structure of "The Tower" is complex and multi-layered, reflecting the poem's themes and imagery. The poem is divided into two parts, with the first thirteen stanzas focusing on the physical structure of the tower, while the remaining nine stanzas explore the poet's personal journey and his search for meaning and transcendence.
Within each stanza, Yeats uses a simple rhyme scheme (ABAB) and a regular meter to create a sense of order and stability. This contrasts with the themes of transience and change that pervade the poem. The regular structure of the stanzas also serves to highlight the moments where the poet breaks from this structure, using enjambment or varying the meter to create a sense of urgency or emotional intensity.
"The Tower" is a complex and multi-layered poem that defies easy interpretation. At its core, however, the poem is a meditation on the nature of time, memory, and the human search for meaning and transcendence.
The tower itself represents the human desire to hold onto the past and to transcend the limitations of time and space. The poet sees his own work as part of this ancient tradition, and he hopes that his poems will endure beyond his own lifetime.
At the same time, however, the poem acknowledges the transience and impermanence of human life. The images of water, shade, and wind-blown trees all emphasize the fleeting nature of human existence. The gyres also serve to highlight the cycles of history and the inevitability of decline and degeneration.
Ultimately, the poem suggests that while the search for meaning and transcendence may be an elusive and difficult pursuit, it is nevertheless a worthy one. The tower may be a symbol of human hubris and the desire for immortality, but it is also a testament to the human spirit and our capacity for creativity and self-expression.
In conclusion, "The Tower" is a complex and multi-layered poem that explores the nature of time, memory, and the human search for meaning and transcendence. The poem's themes, imagery, and structure all contribute to its overall meaning, which is both profound and elusive. Yeats' poem is a literary masterpiece that continues to challenge and inspire readers today.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Tower: A Masterpiece of William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, wrote The Tower in 1928. This poem is considered one of his most famous works, and it is a masterpiece that reflects Yeats' deep understanding of life, death, and the human condition. The Tower is a complex and multi-layered poem that requires careful analysis to fully appreciate its beauty and significance. In this article, we will explore the themes, symbols, and literary devices used in The Tower to understand its meaning and significance.
The Tower is a poem that explores the themes of aging, mortality, and the passing of time. Yeats was in his sixties when he wrote this poem, and he was acutely aware of his own mortality. The poem is a reflection on the inevitability of death and the passing of time, and it is a meditation on the meaning of life and the human condition. The poem is divided into sixteen stanzas, each of which contains four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter, which gives the poem a musical quality.
The poem begins with the image of an old man, who is described as "an aged man is but a paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick." This image sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a meditation on the frailty of human life and the inevitability of death. The old man is compared to a "tattered coat," which suggests that he is worn out and no longer useful. The image of the "stick" suggests that he is weak and vulnerable, and that he is dependent on others for support.
The Tower is also a poem about the search for meaning and purpose in life. Yeats suggests that the search for meaning is a lifelong quest, and that it is never fully resolved. The poem is full of images of searching and seeking, such as "I sought a theme and sought for it in vain," and "I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see." These images suggest that the search for meaning is a difficult and elusive task, and that it requires a great deal of effort and perseverance.
The Tower is also a poem about the power of memory and the importance of the past. Yeats suggests that the past is a source of wisdom and inspiration, and that it can help us to understand the present and the future. The poem is full of references to the past, such as "the ancient stones," "the old men," and "the ghosts." These images suggest that the past is a living presence that continues to influence the present.
The Tower is also a poem about the power of imagination and the importance of creativity. Yeats suggests that the imagination is a powerful force that can help us to transcend the limitations of our physical existence. The poem is full of images of imagination and creativity, such as "the singing masters of my soul," and "the light of evening, Lissadell." These images suggest that the imagination is a source of beauty and inspiration, and that it can help us to find meaning and purpose in life.
The Tower is also a poem about the power of language and the importance of poetry. Yeats suggests that poetry is a powerful tool for expressing the deepest emotions and thoughts, and that it can help us to understand ourselves and the world around us. The poem is full of beautiful and evocative language, such as "the silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun," and "the deep heart's core." These images suggest that language is a source of beauty and inspiration, and that it can help us to connect with the deepest parts of ourselves.
The Tower is also a poem about the power of nature and the importance of the natural world. Yeats suggests that nature is a source of beauty and inspiration, and that it can help us to find meaning and purpose in life. The poem is full of images of nature, such as "the hawk, the lonely hunter," and "the bee-loud glade." These images suggest that nature is a living presence that can help us to connect with the deepest parts of ourselves.
The Tower is also a poem about the power of love and the importance of human relationships. Yeats suggests that love is a powerful force that can help us to transcend the limitations of our physical existence. The poem is full of images of love, such as "the lover's heart," and "the heart of the young." These images suggest that love is a source of beauty and inspiration, and that it can help us to find meaning and purpose in life.
In conclusion, The Tower is a masterpiece of William Butler Yeats that explores the themes of aging, mortality, and the passing of time. The poem is a meditation on the meaning of life and the human condition, and it is full of images of searching, seeking, and imagining. The Tower is also a poem about the power of memory, creativity, language, nature, and love. It is a beautiful and evocative poem that continues to inspire and move readers today.
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