'Lapis Lazuli' by William Butler Yeats
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(For Harry Clifton)
I HAVE heard that hysterical women say
They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow.
Of poets that are always gay,
For everybody knows or else should know
That if nothing drastic is done
Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out.
Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in
Until the town lie beaten flat.
All perform their tragic play,
There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,
That's Ophelia, that Cordelia;
Yet they, should the last scene be there,
The great stage curtain about to drop,
If worthy their prominent part in the play,
Do not break up their lines to weep.
They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;
Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.
All men have aimed at, found and lost;
Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:
Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.
Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,
And all the drop-scenes drop at once
Upon a hundred thousand stages,
It cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.
On their own feet they came, or On shipboard,'
Camel-back; horse-back, ass-back, mule-back,
Old civilisations put to the sword.
Then they and their wisdom went to rack:
No handiwork of Callimachus,
Who handled marble as if it were bronze,
Made draperies that seemed to rise
When sea-wind swept the corner, stands;
His long lamp-chimney shaped like the stem
Of a slender palm, stood but a day;
All things fall and are built again,
And those that build them again are gay.
Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
Are carved in lapis lazuli,
Over them flies a long-legged bird,
A symbol of longevity;
The third, doubtless a serving-man,
Carries a musical instmment.
Every discoloration of the stone,
Every accidental crack or dent,
Seems a water-course or an avalanche,
Or lofty slope where it still snows
Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch
Sweetens the little half-way house
Those Chinamen climb towards, and I
Delight to imagine them seated there;
There, on the mountain and the sky,
On all the tragic scene they stare.
One asks for mournful melodies;
Accomplished fingers begin to play.
Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Lapis Lazuli: A Masterpiece in William Butler Yeats' Repertoire
Oh, Lapis Lazuli! How can one not fall in love with the sheer beauty of this exquisite poem? William Butler Yeats outdid himself in this masterpiece, crafting a poem that delves into the human experience and the longing for transcendence. Reading Lapis Lazuli is an experience that leaves one mesmerized and in awe of Yeats' literary prowess. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we explore the depths of Lapis Lazuli, uncovering the themes, symbolism, and stylistic techniques used by Yeats to create this timeless piece.
Contextualizing Lapis Lazuli
It's crucial to contextualize Lapis Lazuli in Yeats' overall oeuvre. During the time of its composition in 1936, Yeats was in his sixties, and his poetry had evolved from his earlier romantic and mystic themes to a more philosophical and reflective tone. Lapis Lazuli comes at a time when Yeats was grappling with the reality of mortality, and the poem reflects this preoccupation with the transience of life and the human quest for meaning.
Lapis Lazuli is a poem that touches on several themes. The most prominent theme is the quest for transcendence. Yeats paints a picture of humanity's yearning to move beyond the physical realm and attain a spiritual state where they can find lasting peace. Yeats also explores the theme of mortality, highlighting the inevitability of death and the futility of human striving in the face of the inevitable.
The poem is also a commentary on the human condition. Yeats examines the paradoxical nature of human existence, where we are both trapped in the physical realm and yet long to transcend it. The poem highlights the tension between the material and the spiritual, between the worldly and the divine, and how this tension is at the heart of human experience.
Symbolism is a prominent feature of Lapis Lazuli, with Yeats employing various symbols to convey his message. The most significant symbol in the poem is the lapis lazuli stone. Yeats uses this stone to represent the spiritual state that humans long to attain. The stone is described as "blue" and "cool," and it symbolizes the calm and peace that humans seek. The stone is also significant because of its connection to the East, with Yeats using it to represent the spiritual wisdom of Eastern thought.
Another symbol used in the poem is the "merchant and the fisherman." These two characters represent the dual nature of human existence. The merchant is symbolic of the material world, with his focus on wealth and commerce. The fisherman, on the other hand, represents the spiritual realm, with his focus on the sea and the transcendent. The two characters are used to highlight the tension between the material and the spiritual, which is a central theme in the poem.
Yeats employs several stylistic techniques in Lapis Lazuli to convey his message. The most notable technique is the use of repetition. The opening stanza of the poem is repeated at the end, with only a few slight changes. This repetition creates a sense of cyclical nature, highlighting the inevitability of human existence and the nature of the human condition.
Yeats also uses imagery and metaphor to convey his message. The lapis lazuli stone is a central image in the poem, representing the spiritual state that humans long to attain. The sea is also used as a metaphor for the transcendent, with the fisherman representing those who seek to transcend the material world and attain spiritual enlightenment.
Lapis Lazuli is a poem that leaves the reader with a sense of longing and contemplation. Yeats' use of symbolism and stylistic techniques creates a layered and complex piece that invites interpretation. At its core, the poem is a meditation on the human condition and the quest for transcendence.
The lapis lazuli stone is a potent symbol in the poem, representing the spiritual state that humans long to attain. The stone is described as "blue" and "cool," evoking a sense of calm and peace. This description creates an image of a state of being that is beyond the physical realm, a state of spiritual enlightenment. Yeats uses the lapis lazuli stone to convey the idea that humans are not content with the physical world and are always striving for something more significant.
The tension between the material and the spiritual is a central theme in the poem. Yeats employs the characters of the merchant and fisherman to highlight this tension. The merchant is focused on the material world, seeking to accumulate wealth and power. The fisherman, on the other hand, is focused on the transcendent, seeking to connect with something greater than himself. The tension between these two characters represents the tension between the material and the spiritual that is at the heart of the human experience.
The sea is another potent symbol in the poem, representing the transcendent. The fisherman is described as someone who seeks to connect with the sea, representing the human quest for transcendence. The sea is also described as "deep," evoking a sense of mystery and the unknown. This description creates an image of something that is beyond the physical realm, something that humans can only long for but never fully understand.
Finally, the repetition of the opening stanza at the end of the poem creates a sense of cyclical nature. This repetition highlights the inevitability of human existence and the nature of the human condition. Yeats is suggesting that humans are trapped in a cycle of life and death, always longing for something more significant but never fully attaining it.
Lapis Lazuli is a masterpiece in William Butler Yeats' oeuvre, a poem that delves into the human experience and the longing for transcendence. Yeats employs powerful symbols and stylistic techniques to convey his message, creating a layered and complex piece that invites interpretation. The poem is a meditation on the human condition and the quest for something greater than ourselves. Reading Lapis Lazuli is an experience that leaves one mesmerized and in awe of Yeats' literary prowess.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Lapis Lazuli: A Masterpiece of Poetic Artistry
William Butler Yeats, the renowned Irish poet, has left an indelible mark on the world of literature with his masterful use of language and imagery. One of his most celebrated works is the poem "Lapis Lazuli," which is a reflection on the nature of art, life, and death. This poem is a true masterpiece of poetic artistry, and in this article, we will explore its themes, symbolism, and literary devices.
The poem begins with a description of a group of merchants sailing across the sea, carrying precious stones and other treasures. Yeats uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of the scene, with the "blue and gold" of the sea and the "purple glow" of the sails. The merchants are described as "grave men," who are "old and learned," suggesting that they are wise and experienced in the ways of the world.
As the merchants sail on, they come across an island where a group of artists are gathered. These artists are also described in detail, with their "long hair" and "flowing robes." They are engaged in the creation of a work of art, which is described as a "lapis lazuli" stone. This stone is a symbol of the artistic process, and Yeats uses it to explore the nature of art itself.
The first stanza of the poem sets the stage for the exploration of the themes of life and death. The merchants represent the world of commerce and materialism, while the artists represent the world of creativity and imagination. The contrast between these two worlds is a central theme of the poem, and Yeats uses it to explore the nature of human existence.
In the second stanza, Yeats introduces the idea of death, describing it as a "darkness" that "gathers" around us. He suggests that death is an inevitable part of life, and that we must all face it eventually. However, he also suggests that there is a way to transcend death through the creation of art. The lapis lazuli stone represents this transcendence, as it is a work of art that will outlast the artists who created it.
The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as Yeats uses it to explore the nature of art itself. He suggests that art is a way of transcending the limitations of human existence, and that it allows us to connect with something greater than ourselves. He describes the lapis lazuli stone as a "moment's monument," suggesting that it captures a moment in time and preserves it for eternity.
Yeats also suggests that art is a way of expressing the deepest emotions and experiences of the human soul. He describes the stone as "a living word," suggesting that it speaks to us in a way that words cannot. He suggests that art is a way of communicating with the divine, and that it allows us to glimpse the mysteries of the universe.
In the final stanza of the poem, Yeats returns to the theme of death, suggesting that even in the face of death, we can find meaning and purpose in life. He suggests that the lapis lazuli stone represents a kind of immortality, as it will continue to exist long after the artists who created it have passed away. He suggests that art is a way of transcending the limitations of human existence, and that it allows us to connect with something greater than ourselves.
Overall, "Lapis Lazuli" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the nature of art, life, and death. Yeats uses vivid imagery and powerful language to create a work of art that is itself a testament to the power of creativity and imagination. This poem is a true masterpiece of poetic artistry, and it continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.
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