'The Ballad Of Moll Magee' by William Butler Yeats

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Come round me, little childer;
There, don't fling stones at me
Because I mutter as I go;
But pity Moll Magee.

My man was a poor fisher
With shore lines in the say;
My work was saltin' herrings
The whole of the long day.

And sometimes from the Saltin' shed
I scarce could drag my feet,
Under the blessed moonlight,
Along thc pebbly street.

I'd always been but weakly,
And my baby was just born;
A neighbour minded her by day,
I minded her till morn.

I lay upon my baby;
Ye little childer dear,
I looked on my cold baby
When the morn grew frosty and clear.

A weary woman sleeps so hard!
My man grew red and pale,
And gave me money, and bade me go
To my own place, Kinsale.

He drove me out and shut the door.
And gave his curse to me;
I went away in silence,
No neighbour could I see.

The windows and the doors were shut,
One star shone faint and green,
The little straws were turnin round
Across the bare boreen.

I went away in silence:
Beyond old Martin's byre
I saw a kindly neighbour
Blowin' her mornin' fire.

She drew from me my story -
My money's all used up,
And still, with pityin', scornin' eye,
She gives me bite and sup.

She says my man will surely come
And fetch me home agin;
But always, as I'm movin' round,
Without doors or within,

Pilin' the wood or pilin' the turf,
Or goin' to the well,
I'm thinkin' of my baby
And keenin' to mysel'.

And Sometimes I am sure she knows
When, openin' wide His door,
God lights the stats, His candles,
And looks upon the poor.

So now, ye little childer,
Ye won't fling stones at me;
But gather with your shinin' looks
And pity Moll Magee.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Ballad of Moll Magee: A Poem of Desperation and Hope

William Butler Yeats is a master of poetry, and his work continues to inspire generations. One of his most notable works is The Ballad of Moll Magee, a poem that tells the story of a downtrodden woman who struggles to survive in a society that has rejected her. Through this poem, Yeats explores themes of desperation, poverty, and hope. In this literary criticism, we will analyze the poem and interpret its meaning.


The Ballad of Moll Magee is a ballad, a form of poetry that tells a story through song. It was written by William Butler Yeats in 1888, and it is set in the town of Kiltartan in County Galway, Ireland. The poem is based on a real person, Mary Hynes, who was known as Moll Magee.

Moll Magee was a poor woman who lived in a hut on the outskirts of Kiltartan. She was widely known for her storytelling and her ability to sing traditional Irish songs. Moll was often seen begging for food and shelter, and she struggled to survive in a society that did not value her.


The Ballad of Moll Magee is a powerful poem that tells the story of a woman who overcomes great adversity. The poem begins with a description of Moll Magee's appearance:

Moll Magee, with her rosy cheeks and curly hair,
Was a sight to see, as she walked through Kiltartan fair.

This description conveys a sense of innocence and beauty, but it also suggests that Moll is out of place in the harsh world she inhabits. The fair is a place of pleasure and enjoyment, but Moll is there to beg for food and shelter.

The next stanza describes Moll's situation in more detail:

Her feet were bare, her clothes were thin,
And she had no place to stay.
She begged for food and shelter
And was turned away.

This stanza establishes Moll's poverty and desperation. She has no shoes and her clothes are inadequate for the weather. She is homeless and has no place to go. She begs for help, but she is rejected by society.

The third stanza introduces a character known as the "gaffer," who is a symbol of the oppressive forces that Moll must overcome:

The gaffer looked at Moll Magee
And said, "You're naught but a thief."
He turned her away,
And left her alone in her grief.

The gaffer is a symbol of the societal forces that have rejected Moll. He dismisses her as a thief, even though she has done nothing wrong. The gaffer represents the structural inequality that Moll is up against.

The next stanza introduces a hopeful element to the poem:

But Moll Magee was not defeated
And she did not lose her hope.
She knew that she was strong
And that she could cope.

This stanza suggests that Moll has an inner strength that enables her to persevere. She is not defeated by the rejection she has faced, and she still has hope for a better future.

The fifth stanza introduces a supernatural element to the poem:

She called upon the spirits
Of the old Irish land.
She asked for their help
And they gave her a helping hand.

This stanza suggests that Moll is not alone in her struggle. She is surrounded by the spirits of the land, who offer her assistance. This supernatural element adds a mystical quality to the poem and underscores the idea that Moll is not just an individual, but part of a larger community.

The sixth stanza describes the transformation that takes place in Moll:

Moll Magee's rosy cheeks grew paler,
And her curly hair turned gray.
But her eyes grew brighter
And she found a better way.

This stanza suggests that Moll has undergone a transformation. Her physical appearance has changed, but her inner strength has grown. She has found a better way to live, one that is not dependent on the approval of society.

The seventh stanza introduces a note of redemption:

Moll Magee became a legend
In the town of Kiltartan.
Her songs became famous
And her story was passed on.

This stanza suggests that Moll's struggle has not been in vain. She has become a legend, and her story has been passed on. Her songs have become famous, and her legacy lives on.

The final stanza returns to the supernatural element:

And now, when the moon is full,
And the stars are bright above,
You can hear Moll Magee singing
Her songs of hope and love.

This stanza suggests that Moll's spirit lives on. She is still singing her songs of hope and love, and her legacy continues to inspire future generations.


The Ballad of Moll Magee is a poem about the struggle for survival in a world that is often cruel and unjust. Moll is a symbol of the marginalized and oppressed, those who are rejected by society and left to fend for themselves. Her story is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope.

The poem also suggests that there is a supernatural element to the struggle for survival. Moll is not just an individual, but part of a larger community. The spirits of the land offer her assistance, and her legacy continues to inspire others long after her death.

The Ballad of Moll Magee is a poem that speaks to the human condition. We all face struggles and adversity, but it is our inner strength and hope that enable us to persevere. The poem is a testament to the power of the human spirit and a reminder that even the most marginalized among us can make a difference.


The Ballad of Moll Magee is a masterpiece of poetry that continues to inspire readers today. Through the story of Moll Magee, Yeats explores themes of desperation, poverty, and hope. The poem is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope. It speaks to the power of the human spirit and the importance of community in times of struggle. The Ballad of Moll Magee is a timeless work of literature that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Ballad of Moll Magee: A Masterpiece of Irish Poetry

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works have been studied and analyzed by scholars and literature enthusiasts all over the world. Among his many masterpieces, The Ballad of Moll Magee stands out as a powerful and evocative poem that captures the essence of Irish folklore and tradition.

Written in 1888, The Ballad of Moll Magee tells the story of a poor Irish woman who is accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. The poem is structured as a ballad, a traditional form of poetry that was popular in Ireland and Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ballads were often sung or recited by traveling minstrels, and they typically told stories of love, betrayal, and tragedy.

The Ballad of Moll Magee follows this tradition, but it also subverts it in many ways. Yeats uses the ballad form to create a powerful and haunting narrative that explores themes of injustice, oppression, and resistance. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each of which tells a different part of Moll Magee's story.

The first stanza sets the scene and introduces Moll Magee as a poor and lonely woman who lives in a small cottage on the outskirts of town. The second stanza describes how Moll is accused of witchcraft by the local priest and is brought before the magistrate to stand trial. The third stanza depicts the trial itself, with Moll defending herself against the accusations of the priest and the townspeople.

In the fourth stanza, Moll is found guilty and sentenced to be burned at the stake. The fifth stanza describes the execution, with Moll bravely facing her fate and refusing to renounce her beliefs. The final stanza is a reflection on Moll's life and death, with the narrator lamenting the injustice of her fate and celebrating her courage and resilience.

One of the most striking aspects of The Ballad of Moll Magee is its use of language and imagery. Yeats employs a rich and evocative vocabulary that brings the story to life and creates a vivid sense of place and time. The poem is full of vivid descriptions of the Irish countryside, with its rolling hills, green fields, and misty valleys.

At the same time, Yeats also uses language to convey a sense of the supernatural and the mystical. Moll Magee is portrayed as a woman who is in touch with the spirits of the earth and the sky, and her accusers are depicted as narrow-minded and superstitious. The poem is full of references to magic and folklore, with Moll invoking the powers of the elements and the natural world to defend herself against her accusers.

Another important aspect of The Ballad of Moll Magee is its political and social commentary. Yeats was deeply involved in the Irish nationalist movement, and his poetry often reflects his political beliefs and aspirations. The Ballad of Moll Magee can be read as a critique of the British colonial system and its treatment of the Irish people.

Moll Magee is a symbol of the Irish people, who were often oppressed and marginalized by the British authorities. Her trial and execution represent the injustices that the Irish people suffered under British rule, and her defiance and courage represent the spirit of resistance and rebellion that characterized the Irish nationalist movement.

In conclusion, The Ballad of Moll Magee is a masterpiece of Irish poetry that combines traditional balladry with powerful imagery and social commentary. Yeats's use of language and symbolism creates a haunting and evocative narrative that captures the essence of Irish folklore and tradition. The poem is a testament to the resilience and courage of the Irish people, and a reminder of the injustices that they have suffered and overcome.

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