'Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland' by William Butler Yeats

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The old brown thorn-trees break in two high over Cummen Strand,
Under a bitter black wind that blows from the left hand;
Our courage breaks like an old tree in a black wind and dies,
But we have hidden in our hearts the flame out of the eyes
Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.

The wind has bundled up the clouds high over Knock- narea,
And thrown the thunder on the stones for all that Maeve can say.
Angers that are like noisy clouds have set our hearts abeat;
But we have all bent low and low and kissed the quiet feet
Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.

The yellow pool has overflowed high up on Clooth-na-Bare,
For the wet winds are blowing out of the clinging air;
Like heavy flooded waters our bodies and our blood;
But purer than a tall candle before the Holy Rood
Is Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Oh, how beautiful is the land of Ireland! And how wonderfully William Butler Yeats captured its essence in his poem, "Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland". This classic piece of literature is not just a mere description of the Irish landscape, but it is a profound reflection on the Irish soul and its deep connection to the land. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, symbols, and language of Yeats' poem, and try to understand its deeper meanings.

Historical and Cultural Context

Before delving into the poem itself, it is important to consider the historical and cultural context in which it was written. Yeats, one of the most prominent poets of the Irish literary revival, wrote "Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland" in 1902, a time when Ireland was still under British colonial rule. The Irish people were struggling to assert their national identity and to gain independence from British domination. Yeats, who was deeply committed to the Irish cause, used his poetry as a means of expressing his love for his country, and his desire to see it free from foreign rule.


The poem is primarily a celebration of the beauty and mystery of the Irish landscape. Yeats describes Ireland as a land of "hills and waters", "mist and rain", and "winds that blow from the west". He portrays it as a place of wildness and untamed nature, where the forces of the elements are constantly at play. The poem is suffused with a sense of wonder and awe at the natural world, and there is a strong sense that the land itself is alive and imbued with a spiritual power.

At the same time, however, the poem also deals with the theme of exile and longing. Red Hanrahan, the protagonist of the poem, is a wanderer who has been forced to leave his homeland and who yearns to return. He sings of the "soft turf" and the "magic air" of Ireland, and his words are suffused with a deep sense of nostalgia and longing. In this sense, the poem can be seen as a reflection on the experience of the Irish diaspora, and the longing of the exiled for their homeland.

Another important theme in the poem is the relationship between the Irish people and their land. Yeats portrays the Irish as a deeply rooted people, whose identity is intimately tied to their connection to the land. He speaks of "the ancient blood and manners of the land", and suggests that the Irish people draw their strength and vitality from their relationship to the natural world. In this sense, the poem can be seen as a celebration of the Irish national identity, and a call to arms for the Irish people to reclaim their land and their heritage.


The poem is rich in symbols and imagery, which help to deepen our understanding of its themes. One of the most prominent symbols in the poem is the sea. Yeats uses the sea as a metaphor for the Irish national identity, suggesting that the Irish people are like the waves, constantly ebbing and flowing, but always connected to their source. The sea also represents the vastness and mystery of the natural world, and the sense of awe and wonder that it inspires.

Another important symbol in the poem is the figure of Red Hanrahan himself. Red Hanrahan is a wandering poet, a figure who is often associated with the idea of the artist as outsider. He is a man who has been forced to leave his homeland, and who is therefore able to see it with a fresh perspective. In this sense, he represents the poet as seer, the individual who is able to see the world in a way that others cannot.


Finally, it is worth considering the language and style of the poem. Yeats is known for his use of rich, evocative language, and "Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland" is no exception. The poem is written in a lyrical, almost musical style, with a strong emphasis on rhythm and sound. Yeats uses a range of poetic techniques, such as alliteration, assonance, and repetition, to create a hypnotic effect that draws the reader into the world of the poem.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of dialect. Yeats uses a form of Irish English that is infused with local idioms and expressions, which give the poem a sense of authenticity and place. The use of dialect also serves to underscore the theme of the connection between the Irish people and their land, as it suggests that the language and identity of the Irish are intimately tied to the local environment.


"Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland" is a beautiful and evocative poem that captures the essence of the Irish landscape and the Irish national identity. Through its themes, symbols, and language, the poem speaks to the experience of exile and longing, the relationship between the Irish people and their land, and the role of the artist as seer. As such, it is a powerful expression of Yeats' love for his country, and his desire to see it free from foreign domination.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland: A Poetic Ode to the Emerald Isle

William Butler Yeats, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, was known for his deep love and admiration for Ireland. His poem, Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland, is a beautiful ode to the Emerald Isle, its people, and its rich cultural heritage. The poem is a lyrical masterpiece that captures the essence of Ireland's beauty, its history, and its people's struggles.

The poem is written in the voice of Red Hanrahan, a fictional character created by Yeats. Red Hanrahan is a wandering poet who roams the countryside, singing songs and reciting poems. He is a symbol of the Irish bardic tradition, which dates back to ancient times when poets were revered as the keepers of history and culture.

The poem begins with Red Hanrahan's description of Ireland's natural beauty. He talks about the rolling hills, the green fields, and the rugged coastline. He describes the misty mornings and the golden sunsets, painting a vivid picture of Ireland's stunning landscapes. He also talks about the rivers and the lakes, which are an integral part of Ireland's geography and culture.

Red Hanrahan's love for Ireland is evident in his words. He speaks of the land with reverence and admiration, as if it were a living, breathing entity. He sees Ireland as a place of magic and mystery, where the spirits of the ancient Celts still roam. He talks about the fairy forts and the ancient burial mounds, which are scattered throughout the land. These are the places where the spirits of the dead still linger, and where the magic of Ireland is most potent.

The poem also touches on Ireland's history and its people's struggles. Red Hanrahan talks about the wars and the battles that have been fought on Irish soil. He speaks of the brave men and women who fought for Ireland's freedom, and the sacrifices they made. He talks about the famine that ravaged the land, and the suffering of the Irish people. He also speaks of the resilience and the strength of the Irish people, who have endured so much and yet have never lost their spirit.

The poem is a celebration of Ireland's culture and heritage. Red Hanrahan talks about the music and the dance, which are an integral part of Irish culture. He speaks of the traditional Irish instruments, such as the harp and the fiddle, and the haunting melodies they produce. He also talks about the Irish language, which is still spoken in some parts of the country. He sees these cultural traditions as a source of pride and identity for the Irish people.

Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland is a beautiful poem that captures the essence of Ireland's beauty, its history, and its people's struggles. It is a tribute to the land and its people, and a celebration of their culture and heritage. The poem is a reminder of the magic and the mystery of Ireland, and the enduring spirit of its people. It is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the essence of a place and its people, and to inspire us to love and cherish them.

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