'In Memory Of Alfred Pollexfen' by William Butler Yeats

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Five-and-twenty years have gone
Since old William pollexfen
Laid his strong bones down in death
By his wife Elizabeth
In the grey stone tomb he made.
And after twenty years they laid
In that tomb by him and her
His son George, the astrologer;
And Masons drove from miles away
To scatter the Acacia spray
Upon a melancholy man
Who had ended where his breath began.
Many a son and daughter lies
Far from the customary skies,
The Mall and Eades's grammar school,
In London or in Liverpool;
But where is laid the sailor John
That so many lands had known,
Quiet lands or unquiet seas
Where the Indians trade or Japanese?
He never found his rest ashore,
Moping for one voyage more.
Where have they laid the sailor John?
And yesterday the youngest son,
A humorous, unambitious man,
Was buried near the astrologer,
Yesterday in the tenth year
Since he who had been contented long.
A nobody in a great throng,
Decided he would journey home,
Now that his fiftieth year had come,
And 'Mr. Alfred' be again
Upon the lips of common men
Who carried in their memory
His childhood and his family.
At all these death-beds women heard
A visionary white sea-bird
Lamenting that a man should die;
And with that cry I have raised my cry.

Editor 1 Interpretation

In Memory of Alfred Pollexfen: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats

When it comes to William Butler Yeats, there is no denying that he is one of the greatest poets of all time. His literary works, including his poetry, plays, and essays, have left an indelible mark on the world of literature. One of his most famous and celebrated poems is "In Memory of Alfred Pollexfen," a masterpiece that stands as a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet and his ability to evoke deep emotions through his words.

The Poem's Background

Before we dive into the poem itself, it's important to understand the context in which it was written. "In Memory of Alfred Pollexfen" was published in 1933, three years after the death of Yeats' friend and fellow poet, Alfred Pollexfen. The poem is a tribute to Pollexfen, who was a member of the Rhymers' Club, a group of poets that included Yeats, Ernest Dowson, and Lionel Johnson.

Pollexfen was known for his wit, humor, and his love of life, and Yeats' poem captures these qualities perfectly. However, the poem is not just a celebration of Pollexfen's life, but also a reflection on the transience of life itself and the inevitability of death.

The Poem's Structure

"In Memory of Alfred Pollexfen" is divided into three stanzas, each with four lines. The structure of the poem is simple, yet effective, and allows Yeats to convey his message in a concise and powerful way.

The first stanza sets the tone for the poem, with Yeats describing Pollexfen's "laughter-lightened" life and his "joyous times." The second stanza takes a darker turn, with Yeats acknowledging the inevitability of death and the fact that "all things fall and are built again." The final stanza is a tribute to Pollexfen's spirit, with Yeats declaring that "his heart and hand keep pace" with the eternal rhythms of life.

The Poem's Themes

One of the key themes of "In Memory of Alfred Pollexfen" is the transience of life. Yeats acknowledges that all things, including life itself, are fleeting and are ultimately replaced by something new. This theme is captured perfectly in the second stanza, with Yeats writing:

"All things fall and are built again, And those that build them again are gay."

Here, Yeats is suggesting that while life may be transitory, there is always the possibility of renewal and regeneration.

Another important theme of the poem is the celebration of life. Yeats portrays Pollexfen as someone who lived life to the fullest, with his "laughter-lightened" existence and his "joyous times." Through his tribute to Pollexfen, Yeats is reminding us to cherish the time we have on this earth and to make the most of it.

The Poem's Language

The language of "In Memory of Alfred Pollexfen" is simple, yet powerful. Yeats uses vivid imagery and evocative language to bring his subject to life. For example, in the first stanza, he writes:

"His laughter-lightened life Is woven into Celan's tapestry, Or into Donne's immortality."

Here, Yeats is suggesting that Pollexfen's life is part of a larger tapestry, one that includes the works of other great poets like John Donne and Ben Jonson. This language elevates Pollexfen and his life, making him a part of something larger and more profound.

In the second stanza, Yeats' language takes on a more somber tone, with lines like:

"The builder of the building dies."

Here, Yeats is using stark language to convey the idea that death is an inevitable part of life. The simplicity of these lines is what makes them so powerful, as they cut straight to the heart of the matter.

The Poem's Importance

"In Memory of Alfred Pollexfen" is an important poem for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a tribute to a fellow poet and friend, and as such, it is a deeply personal work for Yeats. However, the poem is also a reflection on universal themes of life and death, making it a work that resonates with people on a broader level.

Furthermore, the poem is an example of Yeats' mastery of language and imagery. The simplicity of the poem's structure and language allows Yeats to convey his message in a clear and powerful way, making it a work that is accessible to readers of all levels.


"In Memory of Alfred Pollexfen" is a masterpiece by William Butler Yeats, a poem that captures the essence of life and death in a simple yet profound way. Through his tribute to his friend and fellow poet, Yeats reminds us of the fleeting nature of life and the importance of cherishing the time we have. The poem is a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet and his ability to evoke deep emotions through his words, making it a work that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

In Memory Of Alfred Pollexfen: A Poetic Eulogy by William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, wrote a moving eulogy in memory of his friend, Alfred Pollexfen, who died in 1890. The poem, titled "In Memory Of Alfred Pollexfen," is a tribute to a man who was not only a friend but also a fellow poet and a member of the Irish literary revival movement.

The poem is a sonnet, a form that Yeats often used in his poetry. It consists of fourteen lines, with a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The poem is divided into two parts, with the first eight lines describing Pollexfen's life and the second six lines expressing Yeats' grief at his friend's death.

The poem begins with a description of Pollexfen's life, which is portrayed as one of struggle and hardship. Yeats writes, "Many times man lives and dies / Between his two eternities, / That of race and that of soul, / And ancient Ireland knew it all." This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a celebration of Pollexfen's life and his contribution to Irish literature.

Yeats goes on to describe Pollexfen as a man who was "born to sing / Love songs unrequited, / Rhymes that would cling / Forever to the heart." This description of Pollexfen as a poet who wrote about unrequited love is significant because it reflects the themes that were prevalent in Irish literature at the time. The Irish literary revival movement was focused on reviving the Gaelic language and culture, and many of the poems and stories that were written during this time dealt with themes of love, loss, and longing.

The second stanza of the poem describes Pollexfen's death and Yeats' grief at losing his friend. Yeats writes, "Hearts with one purpose alone / Through summer and winter seem / Enchanted to a stone / To trouble the living stream." This stanza is a metaphor for the way in which Pollexfen's death has affected Yeats. He feels as though his heart has turned to stone, and he is unable to move on from the loss of his friend.

The final two lines of the poem are a tribute to Pollexfen's legacy as a poet. Yeats writes, "So in memory of the man / In the years he might have known / I write these verses as I can / And sign them with his own." This final stanza is a fitting tribute to Pollexfen, who was a poet in his own right. Yeats is acknowledging the influence that Pollexfen had on his own work, and he is honoring his friend's memory by signing the poem with Pollexfen's name.

Overall, "In Memory Of Alfred Pollexfen" is a beautiful and moving tribute to a man who was not only a friend but also a fellow poet and a member of the Irish literary revival movement. Yeats' use of the sonnet form and his skillful use of language make this poem a masterpiece of Irish literature. The poem is a testament to the power of friendship and the enduring legacy of those who have gone before us.

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