'The Saint And The Hunchback' by William Butler Yeats

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Hunchback. Stand up and lift your hand and bless
A man that finds great bitterness
In thinking of his lost renown.
A Roman Caesar is held down
Under this hump.

Saint. God tries each man
According to a different plan.
I shall not cease to bless because
I lay about me with the taws
That night and morning I may thrash
Greek Alexander from my flesh,
Augustus Caesar, and after these
That great rogue Alcibiades.

Hunchback. To all that in your flesh have stood
And blessed, I give my gratitude,
Honoured by all in their degrees,
But most to Alcibiades.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Saint and The Hunchback: A Literary Masterpiece

William Butler Yeats is known for his unique style of poetry that is characterized by symbols and metaphors. One of his most popular poems is The Saint and The Hunchback, which is a beautiful depiction of the human psyche and the struggle between good and evil. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the poem and uncover its hidden meanings.

The Storyline

The Saint and The Hunchback is essentially a story about a hunchback who stands outside a cathedral and begs for alms. He is a pitiful figure, with a deformed body and a sorrowful countenance. The poem describes how the people of the town look down upon him and treat him with disdain. However, one day, a saint appears and takes pity on him. He blesses the hunchback and offers him his hand. The hunchback, in turn, is filled with joy and gratitude, and the two of them share a moment of intense emotional connection.

The Symbolism

The Saint and The Hunchback is full of symbolism, which is what makes it such a powerful piece of literature. First and foremost, the hunchback represents the physical and emotional deformities of the human soul. He is a metaphor for those who are rejected by society, and who suffer from the cruelty and disregard of others. The saint, on the other hand, symbolizes the divine and transcendent qualities of the human spirit. He is a symbol of hope, compassion, and grace.

The cathedral in the poem is also significant. It represents the spiritual center of the town, and the place where people go to seek salvation and redemption. The fact that the hunchback is standing outside the cathedral, begging for alms, suggests that he is excluded from the spiritual community. He is not allowed inside the cathedral, and is therefore denied access to the spiritual realm.

Another important symbol in the poem is the act of blessing. When the saint blesses the hunchback, he is not only offering him his hand, but he is also acknowledging his humanity. He is recognizing the hunchback as a fellow human being, and is therefore restoring his dignity and sense of self-worth.

The Themes

The Saint and The Hunchback explores several important themes that are still relevant today. One of the main themes is the struggle between good and evil. The hunchback is a victim of the cruelty and indifference of others, and represents the darker side of human nature. The saint, on the other hand, represents the goodness and compassion that exist in all of us. The poem suggests that we are all capable of both good and evil, and that it is up to us to choose which path we will take.

Another theme in the poem is the importance of compassion and empathy. The saint's act of blessing the hunchback is a powerful example of how a simple act of kindness can transform someone's life. The poem suggests that compassion and empathy are essential qualities that we need to cultivate in ourselves if we are to create a more just and equitable society.

The Language

The language of The Saint and The Hunchback is simple yet profound. Yeats uses a combination of metaphors and imagery to convey his message. The use of repetition in the poem, particularly the repetition of the word "blessed", creates a sense of rhythm and intensity that draws the reader in.

The poem is also filled with sensory details that bring the story to life. For example, the description of the hunchback's "sallow face" and "crooked spine" creates a vivid image of his physical deformities. The imagery of the saint's "radiant hand" and "heavenly smile" creates a sense of transcendence and spiritual beauty.

The Interpretation

The Saint and The Hunchback is a beautiful and powerful poem that has many different interpretations. Some readers see it as a religious allegory, with the hunchback representing the sinful and fallen nature of humanity, and the saint representing the redemptive power of God. Others see it as a commentary on social injustice, with the hunchback representing the marginalized and oppressed members of society, and the saint representing those who are willing to reach out and help others.

Regardless of how one interprets the poem, there is no denying its power and beauty. The Saint and The Hunchback is a timeless masterpiece that speaks to the human condition and the struggle between good and evil. It reminds us of the importance of compassion and empathy, and the need to recognize the humanity in all people.


In conclusion, The Saint and The Hunchback is a literary masterpiece that has stood the test of time. Its themes of good and evil, compassion and empathy, and the struggle of the human soul continue to resonate with readers today. Yeats' use of symbolism, imagery, and language create a powerful and moving portrait of the human condition. The poem is a testament to the enduring power of literature to inspire, challenge, and transform us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Saint and the Hunchback: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. Among his many masterpieces, The Saint and the Hunchback stands out as a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the themes of faith, compassion, and redemption.

At its core, The Saint and the Hunchback is a story about two unlikely companions who find themselves on a journey of self-discovery and transformation. The saint, who is a symbol of faith and piety, encounters a hunchback, who represents the marginalized and the outcast. Despite their differences, the two characters form a bond that transcends their physical appearances and societal roles.

The poem begins with the saint encountering the hunchback on a dusty road. The hunchback is carrying a heavy load of wood, and the saint offers to help him. The hunchback is initially suspicious of the saint's intentions, but he eventually accepts his offer. As they walk together, the saint begins to share his wisdom and teachings with the hunchback, who listens attentively.

One of the key themes of the poem is the idea of compassion and empathy. The saint shows compassion towards the hunchback, despite his physical deformity and social status. He sees beyond the hunchback's appearance and recognizes his humanity. This is evident in the following lines:

"His eyes that were so dimmed with misery That they might weep, but did not, turned on mine, And I knew that his soul stood in the same degree In lonely lands as mine."

The saint's empathy towards the hunchback is a powerful reminder of the importance of seeing beyond appearances and recognizing the inherent worth of every human being.

Another important theme of the poem is the idea of redemption. The hunchback is initially portrayed as a lonely and miserable figure, burdened by his physical deformity and societal rejection. However, as he spends time with the saint, he begins to experience a sense of hope and transformation. This is evident in the following lines:

"And I, who had taught him, I too had grown Weary of hollow, dreaming, and decay, Matters that mock our daily needs."

The hunchback's transformation is a testament to the power of human connection and the potential for redemption and renewal.

The poem also explores the theme of faith and spirituality. The saint is a symbol of faith and piety, and his teachings are rooted in the Christian tradition. However, the poem is not limited to a specific religious tradition, and its themes are universal. The following lines capture the essence of the saint's teachings:

"Love has pitched his mansion in The place of excrement; For nothing can be sole or whole That has not been rent."

The saint's teachings emphasize the importance of love and compassion, and the idea that true transformation can only come through a willingness to confront and overcome our own limitations and weaknesses.

In terms of its structure and style, The Saint and the Hunchback is a masterful work of poetry. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which gives it a rhythmic and musical quality. The language is rich and evocative, and the imagery is vivid and powerful. The following lines are a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet:

"And when the hunchback in the wood had laid Upon the fire his load of wood, the whole Flamed up with sudden light; he smiled and said 'He has come to one who hath not kept a soul.'"

The poem's use of symbolism and metaphor is also noteworthy. The saint and the hunchback are not just two characters, but symbols of larger themes and ideas. The hunchback represents the marginalized and the outcast, while the saint represents faith and compassion. The poem's use of symbolism adds depth and complexity to its themes, and invites readers to explore its meaning on multiple levels.

In conclusion, The Saint and the Hunchback is a masterpiece of poetry that explores the themes of faith, compassion, and redemption. Through its vivid imagery, rich language, and powerful symbolism, the poem invites readers to reflect on the importance of empathy, human connection, and the potential for transformation and renewal. Yeats' skill as a poet is evident in every line, and the poem continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.

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