'His Bargain' by William Butler Yeats
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Who talks of Plato's spindle;
What set it whirling round?
Eternity may dwindle,
Time is unwound,
Dan and Jerry Lout
Change their loves about.
However they may take it,
Before the thread began
I made, and may not break it
When the last thread has run,
A bargain with that hair
And all the windings there.
Editor 1 Interpretation
His Bargain: A Critical Analysis
William Butler Yeats is widely considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, and his poem "His Bargain" is no exception. This poem is a prime example of Yeats' mastery of language, form, and theme. In this critical analysis, we will explore the poem's structure and content, as well as its historical and cultural context. We will also examine the poem's main themes and symbols, and how they contribute to its overall meaning and significance.
The Poem's Structure and Content
"His Bargain" is a six-stanza poem, each stanza consisting of four lines. The poem has a simple rhyme scheme (ABAB), which adds to its musicality and memorability. The poem's title alludes to the concept of a bargain, which is a deal or agreement made between two parties. The title sets the tone for the poem, as it implies that the speaker is about to make some kind of deal or agreement.
The poem opens with the speaker addressing a "colleague," who is unnamed. The speaker tells the colleague that he has made a bargain with "the devil," who has promised him "power and wealth." In exchange, the speaker has given the devil "his soul." The speaker then goes on to describe the various ways in which he will use his newfound power and wealth, such as "building tall ships" and "throwing up a tower." However, the speaker also admits that he is afraid of what he has done, and that he is not sure if he has made the right choice.
In the second stanza, the speaker addresses his "love," who is also unnamed. The speaker tells his love that he has made this bargain with the devil in order to win her heart. He tells her that with his newfound power and wealth, he will be able to give her anything she desires. However, the speaker also admits that he is not sure if his love will still want him, knowing what he has done.
The third and fourth stanzas continue the theme of the speaker's fear and uncertainty. The speaker talks about the "grim, dark tower" that he will build, and how it will be a symbol of his power and wealth. However, he also admits that he is afraid of what will happen when he dies, and whether he will be able to escape the devil's grasp. In the fourth stanza, the speaker talks about his love again, and how he is afraid that she will leave him once she realizes what he has done.
The fifth stanza is the turning point of the poem. The speaker tells his love that he has changed his mind, and that he no longer wants the power and wealth that the devil has promised him. He says that he is willing to give up his soul in order to be with her, even if it means suffering eternal damnation. The speaker admits that he has been foolish, but that his love is worth everything to him.
The sixth and final stanza brings the poem to a close, as the speaker reflects on his decision. He says that he has "bought his freedom," but that he knows he will never be truly free from the devil's grasp. He also says that he will always be haunted by the memory of his bargain, but that he is willing to accept the consequences of his actions in order to be with his love.
Historical and Cultural Context
"His Bargain" was written by Yeats in the late 19th century, a time of great social and political change in Ireland. The poem can be read as a commentary on the struggle for Irish independence, as well as a critique of the materialism and greed that were becoming increasingly prevalent in Irish society at the time.
The poem's theme of a bargain with the devil was a common literary trope in the 19th century, and can be traced back to the Faust legend. The Faust legend tells the story of a man who makes a pact with the devil in exchange for knowledge and power. The legend was popularized by Goethe's play Faust, which was published in 1808. Yeats was familiar with Goethe's work, and it is likely that he was influenced by it when writing "His Bargain."
Themes and Symbols
The main theme of "His Bargain" is the struggle between love and ambition. The speaker is torn between his desire for power and wealth, and his love for an unnamed woman. The poem explores the idea that material success and personal happiness are often at odds with each other, and that the pursuit of one can come at the expense of the other.
The poem also contains several symbols that contribute to its meaning. The "grim, dark tower" that the speaker plans to build is a symbol of his ambition and desire for power. The tower is a physical manifestation of his bargain with the devil, and represents the cost of his ambition. The devil himself is also a symbol, representing the corrupting influence of materialism and greed.
Finally, the speaker's love is a symbol of hope and redemption. She is the one thing that the speaker is willing to sacrifice everything for, including his own soul. Through her, the speaker finds the courage to reject the devil's bargain and choose love over ambition.
In "His Bargain," Yeats explores the timeless theme of the struggle between love and ambition, using the literary trope of a bargain with the devil. The poem's simple rhyme scheme and musicality add to its memorability and impact, while its symbols and themes contribute to its overall meaning and significance. The poem can be read as a commentary on the struggle for Irish independence, as well as a critique of the materialism and greed that were becoming increasingly prevalent in Irish society at the time. Ultimately, "His Bargain" is a powerful and moving poem that continues to resonate with readers today.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
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. One of his most famous poems is "His Bargain," a haunting and enigmatic piece that explores themes of love, loss, and the human condition. In this analysis, we will delve deep into the meaning and symbolism of this classic poem, and explore the ways in which Yeats uses language and imagery to convey his message.
The poem begins with a simple statement: "My soul is dark." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, and immediately establishes a sense of melancholy and despair. The speaker goes on to describe a bargain he has made with a woman, in which he has given her his heart in exchange for her love. However, he soon realizes that this bargain has come at a great cost, and that he has lost something essential in the process.
The central theme of "His Bargain" is the idea of sacrifice, and the ways in which we give up parts of ourselves in order to gain something else. The speaker has given up his heart in exchange for love, but he soon realizes that this love is not enough to fill the void left by his lost heart. He describes himself as a "wandering, lonely ghost," and laments the fact that he has lost his sense of self in the pursuit of love.
One of the most striking aspects of "His Bargain" is the use of imagery and symbolism to convey the speaker's emotions. Yeats uses a variety of metaphors and allusions to create a rich and complex tapestry of meaning. For example, the speaker describes himself as a "wandering, lonely ghost," which evokes a sense of otherworldliness and detachment. This image is reinforced by the use of the word "ghost," which suggests that the speaker has lost his physical form and become a mere shadow of his former self.
Another powerful image in the poem is the description of the woman as a "queen," who holds the speaker's heart in her hand. This image is both beautiful and terrifying, as it suggests that the woman has complete control over the speaker's emotions and desires. The use of the word "queen" also suggests a sense of royalty and power, which reinforces the idea that the speaker has given up his own power in exchange for love.
Throughout the poem, Yeats uses language in a way that is both lyrical and haunting. His use of repetition, alliteration, and assonance creates a sense of rhythm and musicality that draws the reader in. For example, the repeated use of the word "dark" in the opening line creates a sense of foreboding and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Similarly, the use of alliteration in the phrase "wandering, lonely ghost" creates a sense of movement and fluidity that reinforces the speaker's sense of detachment.
In addition to its use of imagery and language, "His Bargain" is also notable for its exploration of the human condition. The poem speaks to the universal experience of love and loss, and the ways in which we are all vulnerable to the whims of fate. The speaker's sense of despair and longing is something that many readers can relate to, and the poem's message of cautionary sacrifice is one that resonates across cultures and time periods.
In conclusion, "His Bargain" is a powerful and haunting poem that explores the themes of sacrifice, love, and loss. Through its use of imagery, language, and symbolism, the poem creates a rich and complex portrait of the human experience. Yeats' lyrical and evocative style draws the reader in, and his message of cautionary sacrifice is one that continues to resonate with readers today. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply looking for a thought-provoking read, "His Bargain" is a must-read for anyone interested in the human condition.
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