'Quarrel In Old Age' by William Butler Yeats

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Where had her sweetness gone?
What fanatics invent
In this blind bitter town,
Fantasy or incident
Not worth thinking of,
put her in a rage.
I had forgiven enough
That had forgiven old age.

All lives that has lived;
So much is certain;
Old sages were not deceived:
Somewhere beyond the curtain
Of distorting days
Lives that lonely thing
That shone before these eyes
Targeted, trod like Spring.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Quarrel In Old Age: A Critical Analysis of WB Yeats' Poem

When it comes to poetry, William Butler Yeats is a name that is synonymous with greatness. With a career spanning over six decades, he produced some of the most celebrated works of literature in the English language. One of his lesser-known works, "Quarrel In Old Age," is a poem that deserves more attention. This 18-line poem is a masterpiece that showcases Yeats' command of language and his ability to convey complex emotions in a few words. In this essay, we will critically analyze "Quarrel In Old Age," exploring the themes, structure, and literary devices used by the poet.


"Quarrel In Old Age" is a poem that explores the complexities of human relationships, particularly those that have endured for a long time. The poem is about an elderly couple who have been together for many years and are now engaged in a bitter argument. The poem highlights the theme of love and how it can turn into resentment and anger over time.

The poem also explores the theme of mortality. The couple in the poem is old, and their time on this earth is limited. The poem is a reminder that life is short and that we should cherish the people we love while we still have them.

Another theme that the poem touches upon is regret. The couple in the poem has been together for a long time, and they have probably shared many happy moments. However, now they are arguing, and there is a sense of regret that their relationship has come to this. The poem is a reminder that we should not take our relationships for granted and that we should always try to resolve our differences before it's too late.


"Quarrel In Old Age" is a short poem that consists of 18 lines. The poem is written in free verse, meaning that it does not follow a particular rhyme scheme or meter. The lack of a rhyme scheme and meter gives the poem a conversational tone, as if the poet is speaking directly to the reader.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, with each stanza consisting of six lines. The first stanza sets the scene, describing the couple's argument. The second stanza delves deeper into the couple's emotions, highlighting their anger and resentment. The final stanza is a reflection on the couple's relationship, highlighting the theme of regret.

Literary Devices

"Quarrel In Old Age" is a poem that makes use of several literary devices to convey its themes and emotions. One of the most notable literary devices used in the poem is imagery. The poet uses vivid and descriptive language to create images in the reader's mind. For example, in the first stanza, the poet writes:

"The old man's mouth Quavered. He felt his And his wife's eyes Fastened on him, Stretching, narrowing."

Here, the poet uses imagery to describe the old man's fear and insecurity. The image of the couple's eyes "fastened" on him creates a sense of tension and discomfort.

Another literary device used in the poem is repetition. The poet repeats certain words and phrases to emphasize their importance. For example, in the second stanza, the poet repeats the phrase "I said" several times to highlight the couple's anger and frustration.

The poem also makes use of metaphor. The poet compares the couple's relationship to a "dying fire" in the final stanza. This metaphor highlights the theme of regret and the sense that their relationship has come to an end.


"Quarrel In Old Age" is a powerful poem that explores the complexities of human relationships. The poem is a reminder that love can turn into resentment and anger over time and that we should cherish the people we love while we still have them.

The poem also highlights the theme of regret and the importance of resolving our differences before it's too late. The couple in the poem has probably shared many happy moments over the years, but now their relationship has come to a bitter end.

Overall, "Quarrel In Old Age" is a beautiful and poignant poem that showcases Yeats' mastery of language and his ability to convey complex emotions in a few words. It is a poem that deserves more attention and should be read by anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Quarrel In Old Age: A Poem of Love and Loss

William Butler Yeats, the renowned Irish poet, is known for his profound and thought-provoking works that explore the complexities of human emotions and relationships. One such masterpiece is the poem "Quarrel In Old Age," which delves into the theme of love and loss in a poignant and powerful manner. In this article, we will analyze and explain this classic poem in detail, exploring its themes, literary devices, and historical context.

The poem begins with a vivid description of an old couple quarreling in their twilight years. The speaker, who is presumably a bystander, observes the scene with a mixture of sympathy and detachment. He describes the old man as "sick with anger" and the old woman as "bitterly weeping," highlighting the intensity of their emotions. The use of sensory imagery, such as the "cold wind" and the "grey sky," creates a bleak and desolate atmosphere, mirroring the couple's inner turmoil.

As the poem progresses, we learn that the cause of the quarrel is a past betrayal. The old man accuses the woman of being unfaithful, while she vehemently denies it. The speaker notes that "the truth is hidden" and that "neither knows what the other means." This ambiguity adds to the complexity of the situation, as it suggests that both parties may be at fault, or that the truth may be too painful to confront.

The poem then takes a poignant turn, as the speaker reflects on the couple's past. He describes how they were once "young and passionate," and how their love was "like a flame." However, as they grew older, their passion faded, and they became "like two old boots." This metaphorical comparison highlights the contrast between their youthful vigor and their current state of decay. It also suggests that their love, like the boots, has become worn out and uncomfortable.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. The speaker notes that the couple's quarrel will soon be forgotten, and that they will both die alone. He describes how "the wind will moan in the trees" and how "the birds will sing their lonely song." This imagery creates a sense of finality and inevitability, as if the couple's fate is sealed. The poem ends with the haunting line, "And the heart must pause to breathe," which suggests that even in the face of death, there is a moment of hesitation, a moment of reflection.

One of the most striking aspects of "Quarrel In Old Age" is its use of literary devices. Yeats employs a range of techniques, such as metaphor, imagery, and symbolism, to convey the poem's themes. For example, the metaphor of the old boots is a powerful image that captures the couple's sense of weariness and disillusionment. Similarly, the use of sensory imagery, such as the cold wind and the grey sky, creates a vivid and evocative atmosphere.

Another notable feature of the poem is its historical context. Yeats wrote "Quarrel In Old Age" in 1938, at a time when Europe was on the brink of war. This context adds a layer of significance to the poem, as it suggests that the couple's personal struggles are mirrored by the larger conflicts of the world. The poem can be read as a commentary on the futility of war and the human cost of conflict.

In conclusion, "Quarrel In Old Age" is a powerful and poignant poem that explores the themes of love and loss in a profound and thought-provoking manner. Through its use of literary devices and historical context, the poem captures the complexity of human emotions and relationships, and reminds us of the fragility of life. As we read this classic work, we are reminded of the importance of love, forgiveness, and compassion, even in the face of our own mortality.

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