'Hound Voice' by William Butler Yeats

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Because we love bare hills and stunted trees
And were the last to choose the settled ground,
Its boredom of the desk or of the spade, because
So many years companioned by a hound,
Our voices carry; and though slumber-bound,
Some few half wake and half renew their choice,
Give tongue, proclaim their hidden name -- 'hound voice.'

The women that I picked spoke sweet and low
And yet gave tongue. 'Hound voices' were they all.
We picked each other from afar and knew
What hour of terror comes to test the soul,
And in that terror's name obeyed the call,
And understood, what none have understood,
Those images that waken in the blood.

Some day we shall get up before the dawn
And find our ancient hounds before the door,
And wide awake know that the hunt is on;
Stumbling upon the blood-dark track once more,
Then stumbling to the kill beside the shore;
Then cleaning out and bandaging of wounds,
And chants of victory amid the encircling hounds.

Editor 1 Interpretation


Have you ever read a poem that just leaves you feeling completely haunted and spellbound? That's exactly how I feel every time I read William Butler Yeats' "Hound Voice." This poem is one of Yeats' most famous works, and for good reason. It's a stunning piece of literature that explores themes of death, the afterlife, and the power of nature - all in just a few short stanzas. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll dive deeper into the meaning behind Yeats' words and explore the ways in which he uses language to create a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere.


Before we dive into the poem itself, it's important to understand a bit of the historical and cultural context behind Yeats' work. Yeats was an Irish poet who lived from 1865 to 1939. He was a key figure in the Irish literary revival, which aimed to promote Irish culture and language in the face of English dominance over Ireland. Yeats was deeply interested in Irish mythology and folklore, and many of his poems draw on these themes. In "Hound Voice," we can see Yeats' fascination with the supernatural and the afterlife, as well as his love for the Irish landscape.


The poem begins with the speaker hearing a "hound voice" calling out to him from the mountains. This voice is described as "lonely" and "wild," and immediately creates a sense of unease and foreboding. We're not sure what this voice is, or what it wants, but we know that it's powerful and mysterious. This sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is full of eerie and suggestive imagery.

The second stanza continues this sense of unease, with the speaker describing how the voice "spoke of the supernatural:/ His speech, was like a burning coal." The fact that the voice speaks of the supernatural suggests that it may not be of this world, and the burning coal imagery creates a sense of danger and power. The speaker seems both fascinated and frightened by this voice, which is a common theme in Yeats' work - the idea of being drawn to the supernatural, even while recognizing its potential danger.

The third stanza brings in a new element - the idea of death and the afterlife. The speaker describes how the voice "said, 'I am that hart/ that lives by itself in the field of the frost.'" This hart, or deer, is often associated with Irish mythology and is seen as a symbol of power and freedom. Here, the voice seems to be identifying with this creature, suggesting that it too is free from the constraints of life and death. The line "lives by itself in the field of the frost" is particularly evocative, conjuring up images of a cold, desolate landscape that is both beautiful and dangerous.

The fourth stanza continues the theme of death, with the speaker describing how the voice "said, 'I am the voice of the cold wind/ that blows where no tree is."' This line suggests that the voice is not just a physical entity, but a force of nature - something that is both powerful and uncontrollable. The fact that it "blows where no tree is" adds to the sense of desolation and emptiness that has been building throughout the poem.

The fifth and final stanza brings the poem to a close, with the speaker describing how the voice "cried, and I heard/ A voice answer, crying, 'Sleep now/ And the feet of angels/ Will sound on the roofs of the sleepers.'" This final image is both beautiful and haunting, suggesting that death is not something to be feared, but rather a peaceful release from the cares of the world. The idea of angels' feet sounding on the roofs of the sleepers is a powerful image, conjuring up ideas of a heavenly realm that is just beyond our reach.


So what does it all mean? "Hound Voice" is a poem that is full of metaphor and symbolism, and there are many different ways to interpret its meaning. One possible interpretation is that the hound voice represents the call of the afterlife, beckoning the speaker to leave behind the cares of this world and enter into a new, more beautiful realm. The voice's identification with the hart and the cold wind suggests that it is a force of nature, something that is beyond human control and understanding.

Another possible interpretation is that the voice represents the power of the natural world, which is often seen as a force that is both beautiful and destructive. The desolate landscape that the voice inhabits is a reminder of the harshness of nature, and the fact that it speaks of the supernatural suggests that there are forces at work in the world that are beyond our understanding.

Finally, the poem can be seen as a meditation on death and the afterlife, with the voice representing the peaceful release that comes with leaving behind the cares of this world. The idea of angels' feet sounding on the roofs of the sleepers is a beautiful image that suggests a heavenly realm just beyond our reach.


In conclusion, "Hound Voice" is a stunning example of William Butler Yeats' prowess as a poet. It's a hauntingly beautiful poem that explores themes of death, the afterlife, and the power of nature in just a few short stanzas. The metaphor and symbolism are rich and evocative, and the language is both beautiful and haunting. Whether you interpret the hound voice as a call to the afterlife or as a symbol of the power of nature, there's no denying the power and beauty of Yeats' words.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Hound Voice: A Classic Poem by William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century. His works are known for their deep symbolism, rich imagery, and lyrical beauty. Among his many poems, "Hound Voice" stands out as a masterpiece that captures the essence of his poetic vision. In this article, we will analyze and explain this classic poem in detail, exploring its themes, symbols, and literary devices.

The poem begins with a vivid description of a hound's voice that echoes through the night. The speaker of the poem is drawn to this sound, which seems to come from a distant land. The hound's voice is described as "lonely" and "wild," evoking a sense of mystery and longing. The speaker is captivated by this voice and feels a deep connection to it, as if it were calling out to him personally.

The hound's voice is a powerful symbol in the poem, representing the primal, instinctual nature of the human psyche. It is a reminder of our animalistic roots, our connection to the natural world, and our yearning for freedom and adventure. The hound's voice is also a symbol of the poet's own creative impulse, which he hears as a call to explore the depths of his imagination and express his innermost thoughts and feelings.

As the poem progresses, the speaker reflects on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. He compares the hound's voice to the sound of a dying man's last breath, suggesting that both are equally haunting and poignant. The speaker seems to be contemplating his own mortality, and the hound's voice serves as a reminder that life is short and precious.

The theme of mortality is a recurring motif in Yeats' poetry, and it is often linked to the idea of transformation and rebirth. In "Hound Voice," the speaker suggests that death is not an end but a beginning, a gateway to a new realm of existence. He imagines the hound's voice leading him to a place where he can shed his earthly limitations and become one with the universe. This idea of transcendence is a central theme in Yeats' poetry, and it reflects his belief in the power of the human spirit to overcome the limitations of the physical world.

The poem also contains several literary devices that enhance its meaning and beauty. One of these is the use of repetition, which creates a hypnotic rhythm and reinforces the theme of the hound's voice as a persistent, haunting presence. The repetition of the phrase "lonely hound's cry" also emphasizes the speaker's emotional connection to the sound, as if he is trying to capture its essence and hold onto it forever.

Another literary device used in the poem is imagery, which creates vivid and evocative pictures in the reader's mind. The image of the hound's voice echoing through the night is particularly striking, as it suggests a vast, open landscape and a sense of infinite possibility. The image of the dying man's last breath is also powerful, as it evokes a sense of finality and inevitability.

The poem's structure is also worth noting, as it is divided into three stanzas of equal length. This creates a sense of balance and symmetry, and it also reinforces the idea of the hound's voice as a persistent, recurring presence. The use of enjambment, or the continuation of a sentence or phrase from one line to the next, also creates a sense of fluidity and movement, as if the poem is flowing like a river.

In conclusion, "Hound Voice" is a classic poem that captures the essence of Yeats' poetic vision. It is a haunting and evocative work that explores themes of mortality, transformation, and the power of the human spirit. The hound's voice is a powerful symbol that represents the primal, instinctual nature of the human psyche, and it serves as a reminder of our connection to the natural world and our yearning for freedom and adventure. The poem's use of repetition, imagery, and structure enhances its meaning and beauty, creating a work of art that is both timeless and universal.

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