'The Madness Of King Goll' by William Butler Yeats

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay

I sat on cushioned otter-skin:
My word was law from Ith to Emain,
And shook at Inver Amergin
The hearts of the world-troubling seamen,
And drove tumult and war away
From girl and boy and man and beast;
The fields grew fatter day by day,
The wild fowl of the air increased;
And every ancient Ollave said,
While he bent down his fading head.
'He drives away the Northern cold.'
They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

I sat and mused and drank sweet wine;
A herdsman came from inland valleys,
Crying, the pirates drove his swine
To fill their dark-beaked hollow galleys.
I called my battle-breaking men
And my loud brazen battle-cars
From rolling vale and rivery glen;
And under the blinking of the stars
Fell on the pirates by the deep,
And hurled them in the gulph of sleep:
These hands won many a torque of gold.
They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

But slowly, as I shouting slew
And trampled in the bubbling mire,
In my most secret spirit grew
A whirling and a wandering fire:
I stood: keen stars above me shone,
Around me shone keen eyes of men:
I laughed aloud and hurried on
By rocky shore and rushy fen;
I laughed because birds fluttered by,
And starlight gleamed, and clouds flew high,
And rushes waved and waters rolled.
They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

And now I wander in the woods
When summer gluts the golden bees,
Or in autumnal solitudes
Arise the leopard-coloured trees;
Or when along the wintry strands
The cormorants shiver on their rocks;
I wander on, and wave my hands,
And sing, and shake my heavy locks.
The grey wolf knows me; by one ear
I lead along the woodland deer;
The hares run by me growing bold.
They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

I came upon a little town
That slumbered in the harvest moon,
And passed a-tiptoe up and down,
Murmuring, to a fitful tune,
How I have followed, night and day,
A tramping of tremendous feet,
And saw where this old tympan lay
Deserted on a doorway seat,
And bore it to the woods with me;
Of some inhuman misery
Our married voices wildly trolled.
They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

I sang how, when day's toil is done,
Orchil shakes out her long dark hair
That hides away the dying sun
And sheds faint odours through the air:
When my hand passed from wire to wire
It quenched, with sound like falling dew
The whirling and the wandering fire;
But lift a mournful ulalu,
For the kind wires are torn and still,
And I must wander wood and hill
Through summer's heat and winter's cold.
They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Madness Of King Goll: A Literary Gem From Yeats

Have you ever read a poem that left you feeling like you just experienced a journey through time and space? That's what William Butler Yeats' "The Madness of King Goll" did to me. This poem is a literary gem that shines with its haunting imagery and mythical elements. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, symbolism, and literary techniques that Yeats used to create this masterpiece.

Background of the Poem

"The Madness of King Goll" was first published in Yeats' collection of poems, "The Wind Among the Reeds" in 1899. The poem tells the story of King Goll, a ruler of the Fomorians, a race of mythical beings in Irish folklore. According to legend, the Fomorians were a group of sea monsters who were often depicted as enemies of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a race of gods in Irish mythology.

The poem begins with a description of King Goll's madness, which is attributed to the influence of the "grey folk" who live in the hills. The madness drives him to kill his own son, and he is eventually killed by his own people. The poem ends with a lament for the loss of a great king, a symbol of Ireland's glorious past.

Themes in the Poem

There are several themes that run through "The Madness of King Goll." One of the most prominent themes is the idea of madness and its destructive power. King Goll's madness is not only a result of his encounter with the "grey folk," but it is also a metaphor for the madness that can afflict a society. The poem suggests that when a society loses touch with its past and its traditions, it becomes vulnerable to madness and self-destruction.

Another theme that is explored in the poem is the idea of power and its corrupting influence. King Goll is depicted as a powerful ruler who is ultimately undone by his own greed and desire for more power. His thirst for power leads him to kill his own son, a symbol of the destruction that power can bring.

The poem also explores the idea of sacrifice and redemption. King Goll's madness and his eventual death can be seen as a sacrifice that is necessary for the redemption of his people. His death allows for a new era to begin, one in which the people can move forward and build a better future.

Symbolism in the Poem

There are several symbols in "The Madness of King Goll" that add to its richness and depth. One of the most important symbols is the "grey folk" who live in the hills. The grey folk are mysterious beings who have the power to drive people mad. They represent the forces of chaos and destruction that threaten society.

Another symbol in the poem is the sea. The sea is often used in literature as a symbol of the unconscious mind, and in this poem, it represents the hidden depths of King Goll's psyche. The sea is also a symbol of the unknown, the mysterious forces that govern our lives.

The sword that King Goll uses to kill his son is another important symbol in the poem. The sword represents the destructive power of violence and the corrupting influence of power. It is a symbol of the madness that can take hold of a person when they become consumed by their desire for power.

Literary Techniques in the Poem

Yeats was a master of literary techniques, and "The Madness of King Goll" is a prime example of his skill. One of the most notable techniques used in the poem is repetition. The repetition of phrases such as "grey folk" and "King Goll went mad" creates a sense of rhythm and reinforces the central themes of the poem.

Another literary technique that Yeats employs in the poem is alliteration. The use of alliteration, such as in the phrase "King Goll, the Fomorian King," adds to the musical quality of the poem and gives it a sense of unity.

Yeats also uses imagery to great effect in the poem. The descriptions of King Goll's madness, such as "his eyes had grown dull as stone," create vivid pictures in the reader's mind and add to the overall impact of the poem.


"The Madness of King Goll" is a haunting and powerful poem that explores themes of madness, power, sacrifice, and redemption. Yeats' use of symbolism and literary techniques creates a work that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. The poem is a testament to Yeats' genius as a poet, and it remains a classic of Irish literature to this day.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Madness of King Goll: A Masterpiece of Yeatsian Poetry

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, known for his evocative and mystical works that explore the complexities of the human experience. Among his many masterpieces, "The Madness of King Goll" stands out as a haunting and powerful exploration of madness, power, and the human psyche.

First published in 1897, "The Madness of King Goll" tells the story of a powerful king who descends into madness and becomes a tyrant, ruling his kingdom with an iron fist and causing chaos and destruction wherever he goes. The poem is divided into three parts, each of which explores a different aspect of the king's madness and its impact on those around him.

In the first part of the poem, Yeats introduces us to King Goll and his court, painting a vivid picture of a powerful and wealthy ruler who is respected and feared by all who know him. However, as the poem progresses, we begin to see cracks in the king's facade, as he becomes increasingly paranoid and erratic in his behavior.

The second part of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as Yeats takes us deep into the heart of King Goll's madness. Here, we see the king's mind unraveling as he becomes consumed by his own delusions and fears. He sees enemies everywhere, and his once-loyal subjects begin to turn against him as they realize the extent of his madness.

Throughout this section of the poem, Yeats uses vivid and evocative language to capture the intensity of the king's madness. He describes the king's eyes as "wild and bright," and his voice as "hoarse and broken." We can almost feel the king's fear and desperation as he struggles to hold onto his power and control.

In the final part of the poem, Yeats brings the story to a dramatic conclusion as the king's madness reaches its peak. Here, we see the king's downfall as he is betrayed by those closest to him and ultimately brought to his knees. The poem ends on a note of tragedy and loss, as we are left to contemplate the destructive power of madness and the toll it can take on even the most powerful and respected individuals.

One of the most striking aspects of "The Madness of King Goll" is the way in which Yeats uses language to create a sense of atmosphere and mood. Throughout the poem, he employs vivid and evocative imagery to bring the story to life, painting a picture of a world that is both beautiful and terrifying.

For example, in the opening lines of the poem, Yeats describes the king's court as "a place of murmurous sound," where "the sea-wind in the trees / Is like a murmurous background." This creates a sense of tranquility and peace, but also hints at the underlying tensions and conflicts that will soon come to the surface.

Similarly, in the second part of the poem, Yeats uses language to create a sense of chaos and confusion as the king's madness takes hold. He describes the king's mind as a "whirlpool of the maddened moon," and his thoughts as "a chaos of delight." This creates a sense of disorientation and instability, as we are drawn into the king's world of delusion and fear.

Overall, "The Madness of King Goll" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores some of the most profound and complex aspects of the human experience. Through its vivid imagery and haunting language, it captures the destructive power of madness and the toll it can take on even the most powerful and respected individuals. As such, it remains a timeless masterpiece of Yeatsian poetry, and a testament to the enduring power of the written word.

Editor Recommended Sites

Speed Math: Practice rapid math training for fast mental arithmetic. Speed mathematics training software
Business Process Model and Notation - BPMN Tutorials & BPMN Training Videos: Learn how to notate your business and developer processes in a standardized way
Now Trending App:
DFW Education: Dallas fort worth education
Best Scifi Games - Highest Rated Scifi Games & Top Ranking Scifi Games: Find the best Scifi games of all time

Recommended Similar Analysis

The Dalliance Of The Eagles by Walt Whitman analysis
Morning at the Window by Thomas Stearns Eliot analysis
Ruth by William Wordsworth analysis
A Dead Rose by Elizabeth Barrett Browning analysis
Gentlemen -Rankers by Rudyard Kipling analysis
Peggy by Robert Burns analysis
A Far Cry From Africa by Derek Walcott analysis
A Poet's Epitaph by William Wordsworth analysis
Roosters by Elizabeth Bishop analysis
Our Bog Is Dood by Stevie Smith analysis