'The Wild Old Wicked Man' by William Butler Yeats

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Because I am mad about women
I am mad about the hills,'
Said that wild old wicked man
Who travels where God wills.
"Not to die on the straw at home.
Those hands to close these eyes,
That is all I ask, my dear,
From the old man in the skies.
i{Daybreak and a candle-end.}

"Kind are all your words, my dear,
Do not the rest withhold.
Who can know the year, my dear,
when an old man's blood grows cold? '
I have what no young man can have
Because he loves too much.
Words I have that can pierce the heart,
But what can he do but touch?'
i{Daybreak and a candle-end.}

Then Said she to that wild old man,
His stout stick under his hand,
"Love to give or to withhold
Is not at my command.
I gave it all to an older man:
That old man in the skies.
Hands that are busy with His beads
Can never close those eyes.'
i{Daybreak and a candle-end.}

"Go your ways, O go your ways,
I choose another mark,
Girls down on the seashore
Who understand the dark;
Bawdy talk for the fishermen;
A dance for the fisher-lads;
When dark hangs upon the water
They turn down their beds.
i{Daybreak and a candle-end.}

"A young man in the dark am I,
But a wild old man in the light,
That can make a cat laugh, or
Can touch by mother wit
Things hid in their marrow-bones
From time long passed away,
Hid from all those warty lads
That by their bodies lay.
i{Dayhreak and a candle-end.}

"All men live in suffering,
I know as few can know,
Whether they take the upper road
Or stay content on the low,
Rower bent in his row-boat
Or weaver bent at his loom,
Horseman erect upon horseback
Or child hid in the womb.
i{Daybreak and a candlc-cnd.}

"That some stream of lightning
From the old man in the skies
Can burn out that suffering
No right-taught man denies.
But a coarse old man am I,
I choose the second-best,
I forget it all awhile
Upon a woman's breast.'
i{Daybreak and a candlc-end.}

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Wild Old Wicked Man by William Butler Yeats: A Masterpiece of Symbolism and Metaphor

Have you ever come across a poem that you can't seem to get out of your head? That you keep coming back to, like a moth to a flame? For me, that poem is "The Wild Old Wicked Man" by William Butler Yeats.

Yeats is a master of symbolism and metaphor, and this poem is a prime example of his artistry. It's a short but powerful piece that explores themes of aging, mortality, and the search for meaning in life.

So, let's dive in and explore this masterpiece of a poem.

Structure and Form

Before we dive into the meaning of the poem, let's take a moment to appreciate its structure and form.

"The Wild Old Wicked Man" is a six-stanza poem, with each stanza consisting of four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter, which means that each line consists of four iambs (an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable).

The straightforward structure and form of the poem provide a sense of stability and order that contrasts with the wild, chaotic imagery of the poem's subject matter.

The Wild Old Wicked Man

The title of the poem sets the stage for what is to come. "The Wild Old Wicked Man" is a powerful image, evoking a sense of danger and unpredictability. The word "wild" suggests a lack of control, while "old" and "wicked" suggest a lifetime of experience and perhaps even malevolence.

In the first stanza, we see the wild old wicked man "plucking a red flower" and "singing alone." The image of the man alone in the wilderness, singing to himself and plucking flowers, is both beautiful and haunting. It suggests a man who has withdrawn from society, perhaps in search of something deeper and more meaningful.

The second stanza introduces the theme of mortality. The wild old wicked man is "gazing up at the dusky moon" and thinking about his own mortality. He wonders if he will "live to see his face/ In a terrible glass." The image of seeing one's own face in a "terrible glass" suggests a fear of death and the unknown.

The third stanza introduces the idea of rebirth and renewal. The wild old wicked man sees a "blackbird upon a stalk" and wonders if the bird is "the bird that called his name/ With such a sweet voice." The image of the bird calling the man's name suggests a sense of familiarity and connection. The idea of rebirth and renewal is reinforced by the image of the blackbird on a stalk, which suggests new growth and life.

The fourth stanza introduces the idea of the search for meaning in life. The wild old wicked man wonders if he will find "in what poor a house/ So rich a fragrance." The image of a rich fragrance in a poor house suggests that beauty and meaning can be found in unexpected places.

The fifth stanza introduces the theme of memory. The wild old wicked man "remember[s] an ancient dance" and wonders if he will "find the peace in the old refrain/ Or

mindless joy in a dog's bark." The image of an ancient dance suggests a connection to the past, while the idea of finding peace or joy in unexpected places suggests that meaning and happiness can be found in even the most mundane things.

The sixth and final stanza brings the poem full circle. The wild old wicked man is "singing, singing alone" once again, but this time there is a sense of acceptance and peace. The final line of the poem, "The wild old wicked man/ Is seeking peace." suggests that the search for meaning and purpose in life is ultimately a search for peace.

Symbolism and Metaphor

The beauty of "The Wild Old Wicked Man" lies in its rich symbolism and metaphor. Every image and idea in the poem is layered with meaning, inviting the reader to explore and interpret.

The red flower that the wild old wicked man plucks in the first stanza could symbolize passion, desire, or even blood. The dusky moon that he gazes up at in the second stanza could symbolize the unknown and the mysterious. The blackbird on a stalk in the third stanza could symbolize rebirth and renewal.

The ancient dance that the wild old wicked man remembers in the fifth stanza could symbolize tradition and connection to the past. The peace that he seeks in the final line of the poem could symbolize acceptance and contentment.

The use of metaphor is also powerful in this poem. The idea of seeing one's own face in a "terrible glass" could be interpreted as a metaphor for the fear of death and the unknown. The image of finding a "rich fragrance" in a poor house could be a metaphor for finding meaning and beauty in unexpected places.


"The Wild Old Wicked Man" is a masterpiece of symbolism and metaphor. It explores themes of aging, mortality, and the search for meaning in life. The poem's structure and form provide a sense of stability and order that contrasts with the wild, chaotic imagery of its subject matter.

Every image and idea in this poem is layered with meaning, inviting the reader to explore and interpret. It's a poem that stays with you long after you've read it, haunting you with its beauty and its questions.

If you haven't read "The Wild Old Wicked Man" yet, I urge you to do so. It's a poem that will leave you breathless and wondering, and that's what great poetry is all about.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Wild Old Wicked Man: A Poetic Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, is known for his profound and thought-provoking works that explore the complexities of human nature and the mysteries of life. Among his many masterpieces, "The Wild Old Wicked Man" stands out as a powerful and evocative poem that captures the essence of human desire and the eternal struggle between good and evil.

At its core, "The Wild Old Wicked Man" is a poem about the human condition and the quest for meaning and purpose in life. The poem begins with a vivid description of an old man who is wild and wicked, yet full of life and vitality. The speaker of the poem, who is presumably Yeats himself, is drawn to this man and is fascinated by his energy and passion.

The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, with its vivid imagery and powerful language. The old man is described as "wild" and "wicked," yet he is also "full of laughter and the joy of life." This contrast between good and evil, light and dark, is a recurring theme throughout the poem and reflects Yeats' belief that human nature is inherently complex and contradictory.

In the second stanza, the speaker describes how he is drawn to the old man and how he longs to be like him. He says, "I would that I could be / The peacock of the world." This line is significant because it highlights the speaker's desire to be noticed and admired, to be the center of attention. It also reflects the human desire for power and influence, which is a recurring theme in Yeats' poetry.

The third stanza is perhaps the most powerful and evocative in the entire poem. Here, the speaker describes how the old man is able to "charm the birds out of the trees" and how he is "master of all these." This imagery is both beautiful and haunting, as it suggests that the old man has a kind of supernatural power over the natural world. It also reflects Yeats' belief in the power of the imagination and the human ability to create and shape the world around us.

The fourth stanza is more introspective, as the speaker reflects on his own mortality and the fleeting nature of life. He says, "But I, being poor, have only my dreams; / I have spread my dreams under your feet; / Tread softly because you tread on my dreams." This final line is perhaps the most famous in the entire poem and has become a kind of mantra for dreamers and poets everywhere. It is a reminder that our dreams and aspirations are fragile and precious, and that we must be careful not to trample on them.

Overall, "The Wild Old Wicked Man" is a powerful and evocative poem that captures the essence of human desire and the eternal struggle between good and evil. It is a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet and his ability to capture the complexities of human nature in a few short lines. Whether you are a lover of poetry or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of language, this poem is sure to leave a lasting impression.

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