'Her Praise' by William Butler Yeats

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She is foremost of those that I would hear praised.
I have gone about the house, gone up and down
As a man does who has published a new book,
Or a young girl dressed out in her new gown,
And though I have turned the talk by hook or crook
Until her praise should be the uppermost theme,
A woman spoke of some new tale she had read,
A man confusedly in a half dream
As though some other name ran in his head.
She is foremost of those that I would hear praised.
I will talk no more of books or the long war
But walk by the dry thorn until I have found
Some beggar sheltering from the wind, and there
Manage the talk until her name come round.
If there be rags enough he will know her name
And be well pleased remembering it, for in the old days,
Though she had young men's praise and old men's blame,
Among the poor both old and young gave her praise.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Her Praise" by William Butler Yeats: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Excited introduction about Yeats and the poem

William Butler Yeats is one of the most prominent Irish poets of the 20th century. He was deeply influenced by the Irish cultural revival of the late 19th century and wrote extensively on Irish mythology, history, and politics. "Her Praise" is a poem written by Yeats in 1918, which celebrates the beauty and mystery of a woman.

Analysis of the title "Her Praise"

The title "Her Praise" sets the tone for the poem, which is a tribute to a woman. The word "praise" implies admiration and reverence, and it suggests that the poem will be a celebration of femininity. However, the use of the pronoun "her" leaves the identity of the woman open to interpretation. Is she a specific person, or is she a representation of all women? The ambiguity of the title invites the reader to explore the poem and discover its meaning.

Discussion of the form and structure of the poem

"Her Praise" is a sonnet, a 14-line poem consisting of three quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a final couplet (two-line stanza). The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, which is typical of the Shakespearean sonnet. The use of the sonnet form is significant because it is traditionally associated with love poetry. Yeats subverts this convention by using the form to celebrate the beauty of a woman without expressing romantic love for her.

Analysis of the first quatrain

The first quatrain of "Her Praise" describes the physical appearance of the woman. Yeats uses vivid and sensual imagery to convey her beauty:

Beautiful women, caught in the rain

Or broken by a sudden blow,

Or warped amid the accustomed snow,

Or by the crushing of the feet of men.

The first line sets the scene of the poem by placing the woman in a natural setting, the rain. The rain can be seen as a symbol of purification or renewal, which enhances the woman's beauty. The second line introduces the theme of vulnerability, suggesting that the woman has been hurt or damaged in some way. The third line contrasts the woman's beauty with the harshness of her environment, which makes her stand out even more. The fourth line introduces the theme of oppression, suggesting that the woman is a victim of violence or abuse.

Discussion of the second quatrain

The second quatrain of "Her Praise" continues to describe the woman's beauty, but it shifts the focus to her inner qualities:

Desolate and still,

The brooding landscape lies;

The woman in the dawn pale,

The dew on her feet that sighs.

The first line creates a sense of emptiness and loneliness, which contrasts with the woman's vitality. The second line describes the landscape as "brooding," suggesting a sense of foreboding or darkness. The third line portrays the woman as otherworldly or ethereal, with her pale skin and the light of the dawn on her face. The fourth line adds a sense of melancholy or longing, as the dew on her feet "sighs."

Analysis of the third quatrain

The third quatrain of "Her Praise" contains a shift in tone and introduces a new theme:

She moves as water moves,

Wakefulness on the brink of sleep;

Pale as the secret thoughts of men,

Who dream of distant springs.

The first line compares the woman's movements to those of water, which suggests fluidity, grace, and adaptability. The second line introduces the theme of liminality, as the woman exists in a state between wakefulness and sleep. The third line suggests that the woman is mysterious and enigmatic, like the secret thoughts of men. The fourth line adds a sense of yearning or desire, as the men dream of distant springs that they cannot reach.

Interpretation of the final couplet

The final couplet of "Her Praise" provides a conclusion to the poem and offers a message to the reader:

She fades, the lovely phantom of my song!

A shining web, a fading echo gone!

The first line acknowledges the transience of the woman's beauty and suggests that she is no longer present. The use of the word "phantom" implies that she was never fully real or tangible. The second line reinforces this sense of impermanence by describing the woman as a "shining web" that fades and an "echo" that disappears. The final word, "gone," emphasizes the finality of the woman's disappearance.

Overall interpretation of "Her Praise"

"Her Praise" is a poem that celebrates the beauty and mystery of a woman. Yeats uses vivid and sensual imagery to describe the woman's physical appearance and inner qualities, while also exploring themes of vulnerability, oppression, liminality, and transience. The poem can be interpreted as a tribute to femininity, as well as a commentary on the fleeting nature of beauty and the human longing for connection and meaning. The use of the sonnet form adds a layer of complexity to the poem, as it subverts traditional expectations and invites the reader to question their assumptions about love poetry.

Excited conclusion

In conclusion, "Her Praise" is a beautiful and poignant poem that showcases Yeats' mastery of language and imagery. The poem invites the reader to explore the themes of beauty, vulnerability, and transience and to reflect on their own experiences of love, loss, and longing. "Her Praise" is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the essence of the human experience and to inspire us to look beyond ourselves and to see the world with new eyes.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Her Praise: A Celebration of Feminine Beauty and Power

William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, was known for his love of Irish mythology and folklore, as well as his fascination with the supernatural and the occult. His poetry often reflects these interests, but also explores universal themes such as love, death, and the human condition. In his poem "Her Praise," Yeats celebrates the beauty and power of a woman, using vivid imagery and lyrical language to create a portrait of feminine grace and allure.

The poem begins with a description of the woman's physical appearance, as Yeats marvels at her "hair like a web of gold" and her "eyes like water when the moon shines on it." He compares her to a goddess, saying that "her beauty's like the dawn's," and notes that even the birds and flowers seem to be drawn to her. This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, establishing the woman as a figure of otherworldly beauty and enchantment.

As the poem continues, Yeats delves deeper into the woman's character and personality, describing her as "wise and good and full of pity." He notes that she is "gentle as a dove," but also "proud as a queen," suggesting that she possesses both humility and strength. This duality is a recurring theme in Yeats' poetry, as he often explores the tension between opposing forces such as light and dark, life and death, and love and hate.

One of the most striking aspects of "Her Praise" is the way in which Yeats uses nature imagery to evoke the woman's beauty and power. He compares her to a "swan on the water," a "rose in the wind," and a "star in the sky," all of which are symbols of grace and elegance. He also uses more elemental imagery, such as the "fire in her heart" and the "wind in her hair," to suggest a wild and untamed aspect to her personality. This combination of natural and supernatural imagery creates a sense of mystery and wonder around the woman, as if she is a force of nature herself.

Another important element of the poem is the way in which Yeats explores the relationship between the woman and the speaker. He addresses her directly, saying "you are more beautiful than any one," and expressing his admiration and devotion. However, he also acknowledges that she is "too great for human pride," suggesting that she is beyond his reach or understanding. This tension between desire and reverence is a common theme in Yeats' poetry, as he often portrays love as a transcendent force that can elevate the soul.

Overall, "Her Praise" is a celebration of feminine beauty and power, as well as a meditation on the nature of love and desire. Yeats' use of vivid imagery and lyrical language creates a sense of enchantment and wonder, drawing the reader into the world of the poem. The woman at the center of the poem is a figure of mystery and allure, embodying both the grace and strength of the feminine spirit. Through his portrayal of her, Yeats invites us to contemplate the beauty and complexity of the human soul, and to marvel at the wonders of the natural world.

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