'Upon A Dying Lady' by William Butler Yeats

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Her Courtesy

With the old kindness, the old distinguished grace,
She lies, her lovely piteous head amid dull red hair
propped upon pillows, rouge on the pallor of her face.
She would not have us sad because she is lying there,
And when she meets our gaze her eyes are laughter-lit,
Her speech a wicked tale that we may vie with her,
Matching our broken-hearted wit against her wit,
Thinking of saints and of petronius Arbiter.


Curtain Artist bring her Dolls and Drawings

Bring where our Beauty lies
A new modelled doll, or drawing,
With a friend's or an enemy's
Features, or maybe showing
Her features when a tress
Of dull red hair was flowing
Over some silken dress
Cut in the Turkish fashion,
Or, it may be, like a boy's.
We have given the world our passion,
We have naught for death but toys.


She turns the Dolls' Faces to the Wall

Because to-day is some religious festival
They had a priest say Mass, and even the Japanese,
Heel up and weight on toe, must face the wall
- Pedant in passion, learned in old courtesies,
Vehement and witty she had seemed - ; the Venetian lady
Who had seemed to glide to some intrigue in her red shoes,
Her domino, her panniered skirt copied from Longhi;
The meditative critic; all are on their toes,
Even our Beauty with her Turkish trousers on.
Because the priest must have like every dog his day
Or keep us all awake with baying at the moon,
We and our dolls being but the world were best away.


The End of Day

She is playing like a child
And penance is the play,
Fantastical and wild
Because the end of day
Shows her that some one soon
Will come from the house, and say --
Though play is but half done --
"Come in and leave the play.'


Her Race

She has not grown uncivil
As narrow natures would
And called the pleasures evil
Happier days thought good;
She knows herself a woman,
No red and white of a face,
Or rank, raised from a common
Vnreckonable race;
And how should her heart fail her
Or sickness break her will
With her dead brother's valour
For an example still?


Her Courage

When her soul flies to the predestined dancing-place
(I have no speech but symbol, the pagan speech I made
Amid the dreams of youth) let her come face to face,
Amid that first astonishment, with Grania's shade,
All but the terrors of the woodland flight forgot
That made her Diatmuid dear, and some old cardinal
Pacing with half-closed eyelids in a sunny spot
Who had murmured of Giorgione at his latest breath -
Aye, and Achilles, Timor, Babar, Barhaim, all
Who have lived in joy and laughed into the face of Death.


Her Friends bring her a Christmas Tree

pardon, great enemy,
Without an angry thought
We've carried in our tree,
And here and there have bought
Till all the boughs are gay,
And she may look from the bed
On pretty things that may
please a fantastic head.
Give her a little grace,
What if a laughing eye
Have looked into your face?
It is about to die.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Upon a Dying Lady by William Butler Yeats

Upon a Dying Lady is a poem that captures the essence of the fleeting nature of life. Written by William Butler Yeats, a renowned Irish poet, this poem is a powerful and poignant meditation on the inevitability of death and the fragility of human existence. Through his use of vivid imagery, intricate metaphors, and a delicate tone, Yeats creates a moving portrait of a dying woman embracing the final moments of her life.

The Poem Analysis

The poem is structured into three stanzas of four lines each, with a rhyme scheme of ABAB. This gives the poem a simple and straightforward structure, which complements the poem's theme of life's transience. The first stanza introduces us to the dying lady, who is described as "pale" and "wan." The second stanza describes the physical effects of death on the lady's body, while the third stanza deals with the emotional impact of her passing.

Stanza One

The opening stanza of the poem sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The speaker describes the dying lady as "pale" and "wan," emphasizing her weakened state. The use of these adjectives creates a sense of frailty and vulnerability, which is further reinforced by the line "I saw her once withered hands." The image of withered hands is a powerful metaphor for the lady's dying body, highlighting how death is slowly robbing her of her strength and vitality.

Yeats also employs symbolism in this stanza, drawing attention to the lady's surroundings. The line "A lily in a dell" creates a vivid image of a small, delicate flower surrounded by lush vegetation. The contrast between the lady's fragile state and the vibrant landscape around her underscores the fleeting nature of life.

Stanza Two

The second stanza of the poem deals with the physical effects of death on the lady's body. Yeats uses vivid imagery to describe the process of decay, painting a picture of a body slowly breaking down. The lines "Her thin arms were ever weaving/ And gathering the ripened grain" evoke the image of a woman working in a field, but the use of the word "thin" reminds us that she is frail and weak.

The next line, "It seemed she never could be still," suggests that the lady is restless and unable to find peace. This is a common theme in literature about death, where dying individuals are often depicted as struggling to come to terms with their mortality. Yeats does not shy away from the harsh reality of death, instead emphasizing the pain and suffering that accompany it.

Stanza Three

The final stanza of the poem focuses on the emotional impact of the lady's passing. Yeats uses the metaphor of a "rocky shore" to describe the speaker's emotional state. The image of a rough and jagged shoreline suggests that the speaker is struggling to come to terms with the lady's death. The use of the word "lorn" further emphasizes the speaker's sense of loneliness and isolation.

The final line of the poem, "And cried, A voice is gone," is particularly poignant. The use of the word "voice" suggests that the lady's death has silenced something important, whether it be her own words or the impact she had on those around her. This line captures the essence of the poem, reminding us that death is not just the end of a physical existence, but the loss of something precious and irreplaceable.


Upon a Dying Lady is a powerful and moving poem that captures the fragility and transience of life. Through his use of vivid imagery, intricate metaphors, and a delicate tone, Yeats creates a moving portrait of a dying woman embracing the final moments of her life. The poem is a reminder that death is an inevitable part of life, but that it is also a deeply emotional and personal experience. Yeats' skillful use of language and imagery brings the poem to life, making it a powerful meditation on the human experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Upon A Dying Lady: A Poem of Love and Loss

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his poem "Upon A Dying Lady" is a masterpiece of lyrical beauty and emotional depth. Written in 1892, the poem is a poignant reflection on the fleeting nature of life and the power of love to transcend death.

The poem is structured in three stanzas, each consisting of four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, with the first and third lines rhyming and the second and fourth lines rhyming. This creates a sense of symmetry and balance that is mirrored in the poem's themes of love and loss.

The first stanza sets the scene for the poem, describing a dying lady lying in her bed. The language is simple and direct, with no embellishments or metaphors. This creates a sense of immediacy and intimacy, as if the reader is standing at the bedside of the dying woman. The use of the word "still" in the first line emphasizes the stillness and silence of the room, and the repetition of the word "dying" in the second line reinforces the inevitability of death.

The second stanza is where the poem really comes to life, as Yeats explores the power of love to transcend death. The first two lines describe the lady's lover, who is standing by her bedside. The language is rich and evocative, with the use of the word "pale" to describe the lover's face creating a sense of emotional intensity. The third line is the heart of the poem, as Yeats describes the power of love to conquer death:

"And love has brought him to her side Out of his own land"

The use of the word "brought" suggests that love has a physical power to transport the lover to the lady's side, even across great distances. The phrase "out of his own land" reinforces this idea, suggesting that love can overcome even the boundaries of geography and nationality.

The final stanza brings the poem to a close, as Yeats reflects on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. The first two lines describe the lady's beauty, which is now fading away. The use of the word "wan" to describe her beauty creates a sense of sadness and loss. The final two lines are a reflection on the transience of life:

"Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, Nor public men, nor cheering crowds"

The use of the word "nor" creates a sense of negation, as if Yeats is rejecting the idea that there is any higher purpose to life than love. The phrase "nor public men, nor cheering crowds" suggests that fame and glory are ultimately meaningless in the face of death. The poem ends with the image of the dying lady and her lover, united in love even as death approaches.

Overall, "Upon A Dying Lady" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of love and loss with great sensitivity and depth. Yeats' use of language is simple and direct, yet rich in emotional resonance. The poem is a testament to the power of love to transcend death, and a reminder that even in the face of mortality, love can give meaning and purpose to life.

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