'His Dream' by William Butler Yeats
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I swayed upon the gaudy stem
The butt-end of a steering-oar,
And saw wherever I could turn
A crowd upon a shore.
And though I would have hushed the crowd,
There was no mother's son but said,
"What is the figure in a shroud
Upon a gaudy bed?'
And after running at the brim
Cried out upon that thing beneath
- It had such dignity of limb -
By the sweet name of Death.
Though I'd my finger on my lip,
What could I but take up the song?
And running crowd and gaudy ship
Cried out the whole night long,
Crying amid the glittering sea,
Naming it with ecstatic breath,
Because it had such dignity,
By the sweet name of Death.
Editor 1 Interpretation
His Dream by William Butler Yeats: A Deep Dive into Symbolism and Mythology
His Dream is a classic poem by William Butler Yeats, first published in 1919. The poem is a prime example of Yeats' style of using symbolic language and mythology to express his thoughts and emotions. The poem is a mystical journey into the subconscious mind of the speaker, who is trying to make sense of his dreams.
In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the symbolism, mythology, and themes of His Dream, and analyze how Yeats uses them to convey his message.
The Symbolism of His Dream
Symbolism is a key element of Yeats' poetry, and His Dream is no exception. The poem is full of symbols that represent different ideas and emotions. Let's take a closer look at some of the most prominent symbols in the poem:
The Silver Apples of the Moon
The opening line of the poem mentions "the silver apples of the moon", which is a symbol of the speaker's desire for something unattainable. The moon is often associated with femininity, mystery, and the unconscious mind, while the silver apples represent something shiny and beautiful but also out of reach. The speaker longs for this unattainable object, but he knows he can never have it.
The Golden Apples of the Sun
In contrast to the silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun represent something tangible and achievable. The sun is often associated with masculinity, clarity, and consciousness, while the golden apples represent knowledge, enlightenment, and wisdom. The speaker wants to reach this state of enlightenment, but he knows it requires effort and sacrifice.
The tower is a recurring symbol in Yeats' poetry, and it represents spiritual growth and transformation. In His Dream, the speaker sees a tower "mirrored in a lake", which suggests that his inner self is reflected in this symbol. The tower represents a journey from ignorance to knowledge, from darkness to light, from chaos to order.
The lake is another important symbol in the poem, and it represents the subconscious mind. The speaker sees his reflection in the lake, which suggests that he is trying to explore his inner self. The lake is also a symbol of mystery and depth, and it reflects the speaker's desire to understand the hidden meanings of his dreams.
Swans are a common symbol in Yeats' poetry, and they represent both beauty and danger. In His Dream, the speaker sees "nine and fifty swans" flying over the tower, which suggests that he is aware of the risks and challenges of his spiritual journey. The swans also represent the mystical and the transcendental, and they reflect the speaker's desire to reach a higher state of consciousness.
The Mythology of His Dream
Mythology is another important element of Yeats' poetry, and His Dream is full of references to Celtic and Greek myths. Let's take a closer look at some of the most prominent mythological references in the poem:
Leda and the Swan
The myth of Leda and the Swan is one of the most famous Greek myths, and it tells the story of Zeus, who disguised himself as a swan to seduce Leda, the wife of King Tyndareus. The result of this union was the birth of Helen of Troy, who became the cause of the Trojan War.
In His Dream, the speaker refers to this myth when he sees "a girl with apple blossom in her hair", who reminds him of Leda. This reference suggests that the speaker is aware of the dangers of desire and passion, and he knows that they can lead to destruction.
The Nine Muses
The Nine Muses are a group of goddesses in Greek mythology who preside over the arts and sciences. They were believed to inspire poets, musicians, and artists, and they were often depicted as beautiful maidens.
In His Dream, the speaker refers to the muses when he says, "I would wake from the dream of them". This reference suggests that the speaker is aware of the power of inspiration and creativity, and he wants to capture it in his waking life.
The Sidhe, also known as the Aos Sí, are a group of supernatural beings in Irish mythology who are often associated with the fairy realm. They are believed to live in the hills and the lakes, and they are known for their beauty and their powers of seduction.
In His Dream, the speaker refers to the Sidhe when he sees "the Sidhe among the trees". This reference suggests that the speaker is aware of the allure of the supernatural and the mystical, and he knows that they can be both enchanting and dangerous.
The Themes of His Dream
The themes of His Dream are closely related to the symbols and mythology of the poem. Let's take a closer look at some of the most prominent themes:
The Quest for Knowledge
One of the main themes of the poem is the quest for knowledge and enlightenment. The speaker is aware of his own ignorance and limitations, and he longs to reach a higher state of consciousness. He knows that this requires effort and sacrifice, and he is willing to undertake this journey.
The Duality of Desire
Another important theme of the poem is the duality of desire. The speaker is aware of the opposing forces of attraction and repulsion, of love and hate, of beauty and danger. He knows that desire can lead to both pleasure and pain, and he struggles to find a balance between these forces.
The Power of Symbolism and Mythology
The final theme of the poem is the power of symbolism and mythology. The speaker is aware of the symbolic language and the mythological references in his dreams, and he knows that they can reveal hidden meanings and emotions. He uses these symbols and myths to express his thoughts and emotions, and he trusts that they can help him understand himself and the world around him.
In conclusion, His Dream is a classic poem by William Butler Yeats, full of symbolism, mythology, and themes. The poem is a mystical journey into the subconscious mind of the speaker, who is trying to make sense of his dreams. Through the use of symbols and myths, Yeats conveys his message of the quest for knowledge, the duality of desire, and the power of symbolism and mythology. His Dream is a timeless masterpiece that continues to inspire and fascinate 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 Dream," a haunting and evocative piece that explores the themes of love, loss, and the passage of time.
At its core, "His Dream" is a meditation on the transience of life and the inevitability of death. The poem tells the story of a man who dreams of his lost love, a woman who has passed away. In his dream, the man sees his beloved as she was in life, young and beautiful, and he is filled with a sense of longing and regret.
The poem begins with the lines, "I swayed upon the gaudy stern / The butt-end of a steering-oar, / And saw wherever I could turn / A crowd upon a shore." These lines set the scene for the dream that follows, with the speaker standing on the deck of a ship and looking out at a crowd of people on the shore. The use of the word "gaudy" to describe the stern of the ship suggests a sense of artificiality or superficiality, as if the speaker is aware that the dream is not entirely real.
As the dream unfolds, the man sees his lost love standing on the shore, and he is filled with a sense of longing and regret. He describes her as "young and beautiful," and he is struck by the fact that she has not aged or changed in any way since he last saw her. This sense of timelessness is a recurring theme in the poem, as the man is acutely aware of the passage of time and the fact that he can never recapture the past.
The man's sense of loss and regret is further emphasized in the lines, "I heard the old, old men say, / 'Everything alters, / And one by one we drop away.'" These lines suggest that the man is aware of his own mortality, and that he is haunted by the knowledge that he will one day die and be separated from his beloved forever.
Despite the melancholy tone of the poem, there is also a sense of hope and redemption that runs throughout. The man's dream is a reminder that even in the face of loss and death, there is still beauty and joy to be found in life. The fact that his beloved appears to him as she was in life suggests that her memory and spirit live on, and that she continues to be a source of comfort and inspiration for him.
The poem also explores the theme of love and its enduring power. The man's love for his lost love is so strong that it transcends death and time, and he is able to find solace in the memory of their love even as he mourns her passing. This idea is captured in the lines, "And I would cry and kiss her feet, / And wet them with my tears; / But with a ghostly swift deceit / Betwixt us he was spread."
The "ghostly swift deceit" that comes between the man and his beloved is a reminder that even the strongest love can be thwarted by the passage of time and the inevitability of death. However, the fact that the man is able to dream of his beloved and find comfort in her memory suggests that love can also be a source of strength and resilience in the face of loss and grief.
In conclusion, "His Dream" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of love, loss, and the passage of time. Through the man's dream of his lost love, Yeats reminds us of the enduring power of love and the importance of cherishing the moments we have with those we love. The poem is a poignant reminder that even in the face of death and loss, there is still beauty and joy to be found in life, and that the memory of those we have loved and lost can continue to inspire and comfort us long after they are gone.
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