'Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation' by William Butler Yeats

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How should the world be luckier if this house,
Where passion and precision have been one
Time out of mind, became too ruinous
To breed the lidleSs eye that loves the sun?
And the sweet laughing eagle thoughts that grow
Where wings have memory of wings, and all
That comes of the best knit to the best? Although
Mean roof-trees were the sturdier for its fall.
How should their luck run high enough to reach
The gifts that govern men, and after these
To gradual Time's last gift, a written speech
Wrought of high laughter, loveliness and ease?

Editor 1 Interpretation

Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

William Butler Yeats, a prominent Irish poet, wrote "Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation" during a period of social and political turmoil in Ireland. The poem was published in his collection, "The Green Helmet and Other Poems," in 1910. The poem describes the unsettling experience of living in a house that is being shaken by the land agitation, a movement that sought to redistribute land from wealthy landlords to poor farmers.

In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the key themes, literary devices, and historical context of Yeats' poem. We will also examine how the poem reflects the poet's personal and political views, and how it relates to the broader literary and cultural landscape of the time.

Historical Context

To understand "Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation," it is important to understand the historical context in which it was written. At the time, Ireland was experiencing a period of political and social unrest, which was fueled in large part by the land question. For centuries, wealthy English landlords had owned much of the land in Ireland, and had rented it out to Irish tenant farmers. This system was widely regarded as unjust, as the landlords often charged exorbitant rents and evicted farmers who could not pay.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the land question became a major political issue in Ireland. There were widespread protests and demonstrations, and the Irish National Land League was formed to advocate for land reform. The government responded with a series of land acts, which aimed to redistribute land from the landlords to the farmers. However, progress was slow, and many farmers continued to live in poverty and insecurity.


One of the key themes of "Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation" is the idea of instability and uncertainty. The poem describes a house that is literally being shaken by the land agitation, with the walls and roof trembling and creaking. This creates a sense of unease and danger, as the occupants of the house are unsure whether it will collapse or remain standing.

Another theme is the idea of social and political upheaval. The land agitation is portrayed as a powerful force that is disrupting the established order of things. The wealthy landlords are losing their grip on the land, and the farmers are gaining more power and autonomy. The poem suggests that this upheaval is both necessary and inevitable, but also frightening and unsettling.

A third theme is the idea of resistance and resilience. The occupants of the house are portrayed as brave and determined, refusing to give in to fear or despair. They cling to each other and to the structure of the house, even as it is being shaken to its core. This suggests that, even in the face of great adversity, people have the capacity to endure and overcome.

Literary Devices

Yeats employs a number of literary devices in "Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation" to convey the themes of the poem. One of the most striking is the use of personification. The house is portrayed as a living thing, with walls that "shudder" and "groan," and a roof that "trembles" and "creaks." This gives the poem a sense of movement and immediacy, as if the house is a participant in the drama of the land agitation.

Another device is the use of imagery. Yeats uses vivid imagery to describe the physical sensations of being in a house that is being shaken. The occupants feel as if they are "at sea," and the room is filled with "dancing shadows" and "dust." This creates a sense of disorientation and instability, as if the world itself is in flux.

Yeats also uses repetition to create a sense of rhythm and momentum in the poem. The phrase "till everything seemed to quiver and fade" is repeated throughout the poem, emphasizing the sense of uncertainty and impermanence. The repetition of the phrase "But now" also creates a sense of contrast and progression, as if the poem is moving from one state of being to another.


"Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation" can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on the reader's perspective. One possible interpretation is that the poem is a metaphor for Ireland itself, which was undergoing a period of intense social and political upheaval. The "house" represents the Irish nation, and the land agitation represents the forces that were shaking it to its core. The poem suggests that Ireland is on the brink of collapse, but also that it has the resilience to endure.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the human condition more broadly. The "house" represents the human body and mind, which can be shaken by illness, trauma, or other forms of adversity. The poem suggests that, even in the face of these challenges, people have the capacity to endure and overcome.

Finally, the poem can be interpreted as a reflection of Yeats' personal and political views. Yeats was a passionate advocate for Irish nationalism and cultural revival, and his poetry often reflects these themes. "Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation" can be seen as a commentary on the struggle of the Irish people to gain control over their own land and destiny. It is a powerful statement of solidarity with the poor farmers who were fighting for their rights.


"Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation" is a powerful and evocative poem that captures the sense of uncertainty and upheaval that characterized early 20th-century Ireland. Through the use of vivid imagery, repetition, and personification, Yeats creates a sense of movement and immediacy that draws the reader into the drama of the land agitation. The poem can be interpreted in a number of ways, but its central themes of instability, upheaval, and resilience resonate with readers today as much as they did over a century ago.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation: A Poem of Political Turmoil and Personal Reflection

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, known for his evocative and complex works that explore themes of love, loss, and the human condition. Among his many poems, "Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation" stands out as a powerful and poignant reflection on the political turmoil of his time, as well as a personal meditation on the fragility of life and the inevitability of change.

Written in 1902, "Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation" was inspired by the ongoing struggle for Irish independence and the violent clashes between Irish nationalists and British forces. The poem begins with a vivid description of a house that has been shaken by the land agitation, a term that refers to the movement to redistribute land from wealthy landlords to tenant farmers. The house is described as "shaken" and "torn," with its walls and roof "rent and shaken" by the violence of the agitation.

Yeats uses this image of a house in turmoil to explore the larger political and social upheavals of his time. The land agitation was a deeply divisive issue in Ireland, with many farmers and peasants demanding greater rights and ownership over the land they worked on. At the same time, the British government was determined to maintain its control over Ireland and suppress any attempts at rebellion or revolution. The result was a violent and bloody conflict that lasted for decades, and that left many Irish people feeling disillusioned and hopeless.

In "Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation," Yeats captures this sense of despair and uncertainty, as he reflects on the fragility of human life and the inevitability of change. The poem's second stanza begins with the lines, "An old man's thoughts are thin and gray, / His hair is white, his beard is wavy." These lines suggest a sense of weariness and resignation, as the old man reflects on the passing of time and the transience of all things.

Yet despite this sense of sadness and loss, Yeats also finds hope and beauty in the midst of the turmoil. In the poem's final stanza, he writes, "The beauty that all hard things have / That test our courage and our love." These lines suggest that even in the midst of struggle and hardship, there is a kind of beauty and grace that can be found. Yeats seems to be suggesting that it is through facing adversity and overcoming challenges that we are able to grow and develop as human beings.

Overall, "Upon A House Shaken By The Land Agitation" is a powerful and moving poem that captures the complex emotions and experiences of a tumultuous time in Irish history. Through his vivid imagery and lyrical language, Yeats is able to convey both the pain and the beauty of life, and to offer a message of hope and resilience in the face of adversity. As such, this poem remains a timeless and enduring work of literature, one that continues to inspire and move readers today.

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