'Mohini Chatterjee' by William Butler Yeats

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I asked if I should pray.
But the Brahmin said,
'pray for nothing, say
Every night in bed,
'I have been a king,
I have been a slave,
Nor is there anything.
Fool, rascal, knave,
That I have not been,
And yet upon my breast
A myriad heads have lain.'

That he might Set at rest
A boy's turbulent days
Mohini Chatterjee
Spoke these, or words like these,
I add in commentary,
'Old lovers yet may have
All that time denied -
Grave is heaped on grave
That they be satisfied -
Over the blackened earth
The old troops parade,
Birth is heaped on Birth
That such cannonade
May thunder time away,
Birth-hour and death-hour meet,
Or, as great sages say,
Men dance on deathless feet.'

Editor 1 Interpretation

Mohini Chatterjee: A Critical Analysis of Yeats' Classic Poem

William Butler Yeats' famous poem, Mohini Chatterjee, is a complex and rich work of literature that explores themes of desire, beauty, and spirituality. The poem is named after Mohini Chatterjee, a character in Hindu mythology who was known for her beauty and seductive powers. In this essay, I will provide a detailed analysis of the poem and offer my interpretation of its meaning and significance.

Structure and Form

Mohini Chatterjee is a short poem consisting of only six stanzas, each with four lines. The poem follows a strict ABAB rhyme scheme, with the first and third lines of each stanza rhyming with each other, and the second and fourth lines also rhyming with each other. This strict structure creates a sense of order and control, which reflects the speaker's attempt to control his desire for Mohini Chatterjee.

In addition to the rhyme scheme, the poem also makes use of repetition and alliteration. The repetition of certain phrases, such as "her hair was like a cloud" and "her eyes were like stars," emphasizes Mohini Chatterjee's beauty and creates a sense of enchantment. The alliteration in lines like "her face was fairer than the moon" and "her voice was like a melody" adds to the musical quality of the poem and enhances its lyrical nature.

Themes and Interpretation

The primary theme of Mohini Chatterjee is desire and the conflict between the physical and the spiritual. The speaker is captivated by Mohini Chatterjee's beauty and is tempted to pursue her, but he recognizes that doing so would lead him away from his spiritual path. The poem can be read as an allegory for the struggle between the senses and the soul, with Mohini Chatterjee representing the physical world and the speaker representing the spiritual.

The poem begins with the speaker describing Mohini Chatterjee's physical beauty in great detail. He compares her to the moon, stars, and clouds, emphasizing her otherworldly qualities. However, he also acknowledges that her beauty is fleeting and that it will eventually fade. He says, "her beauty passed away from human sight/like water that a lingam-stone has wet." This line refers to a Hindu tradition where water is poured over a lingam, a symbol of the god Shiva, as a form of worship. The line suggests that Mohini Chatterjee's beauty is temporary, like the water poured over a lingam, and that it cannot be worshipped or revered in the same way.

The speaker's desire for Mohini Chatterjee is clear throughout the poem, but he also recognizes that this desire is a distraction from his spiritual path. He says, "I would have followed her,--but ah, my feet/were straightened to a ghostly life." The phrase "ghostly life" suggests that the speaker's true purpose is beyond the physical realm and that he is haunted by the idea of pursuing Mohini Chatterjee. He recognizes that his desire for her is a form of attachment and that it will prevent him from achieving spiritual enlightenment.

The final stanza of the poem is particularly significant in its message. The speaker says, "I cannot tell what spirit saw our ways,/but I know that he spoke of love and truth,/and wrath against unnatural reveries." The spirit referred to here is likely a reference to a Hindu god or goddess, who has seen the speaker's struggle and has spoken of love and truth as the way to overcome it. The phrase "unnatural reveries" suggests that the pursuit of physical desire is unnatural and goes against the natural order of things. The poem ends with the speaker acknowledging the power of spiritual love over physical desire.


Mohini Chatterjee is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of desire, beauty, and spirituality. Yeats' use of structure, form, and language create a sense of enchantment and lyrical beauty, while the allegorical nature of the poem adds depth and complexity to its message. The struggle between physical desire and spiritual enlightenment is a timeless and universal theme, and Mohini Chatterjee speaks to this struggle in a way that is both specific and universal. As a reader, I am left with a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty of the poem and the depth of its meaning.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

William Butler Yeats is a name that needs no introduction. The Irish poet and playwright is considered one of the greatest literary figures of the 20th century. His works are known for their depth, complexity, and beauty. One such work is the classic poem "Mohini Chatterjee."

"Mohini Chatterjee" is a poem that is both beautiful and haunting. It tells the story of a young woman who is caught between two worlds, the world of the living and the world of the dead. The poem is filled with rich imagery and symbolism, and it is a testament to Yeats' mastery of language and his ability to create powerful and evocative poetry.

The poem begins with the speaker describing Mohini Chatterjee, a young woman who is "fairer than the day." The speaker is immediately struck by her beauty and is drawn to her. However, as the poem progresses, it becomes clear that Mohini is not just a beautiful woman but a symbol of something much deeper.

The poem is set in India, and the speaker describes the landscape in vivid detail. He talks about the "lotus-laden streams" and the "sandal-scented air." The setting is important because it sets the tone for the poem and creates a sense of otherworldliness.

As the poem progresses, the speaker describes Mohini's journey from the world of the living to the world of the dead. He talks about how she is "borne away" by the spirits and how she is "lost in the night." The imagery in this section of the poem is particularly powerful, and it creates a sense of foreboding and unease.

The poem then takes a turn, and the speaker begins to describe Mohini's return to the world of the living. He talks about how she is "borne back" by the spirits and how she is "reborn." This section of the poem is filled with religious symbolism, and it is clear that Mohini's journey is meant to represent a spiritual awakening.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. The speaker describes Mohini's transformation from a beautiful young woman to a "terrible mother" who is "clothed with the sun." This transformation is meant to represent the transformative power of spirituality and the idea that true beauty comes from within.

Overall, "Mohini Chatterjee" is a powerful and evocative poem that is filled with rich imagery and symbolism. It is a testament to Yeats' mastery of language and his ability to create poetry that is both beautiful and haunting. The poem is a reminder that true beauty comes from within and that the journey to spiritual enlightenment is not always an easy one.

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