'Two Years Later' by William Butler Yeats

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HAS no one said those daring
Kind eyes should be more learn'd?
Or warned you how despairing
The moths are when they are burned?
I could have warned you; but you are young,
So we speak a different tongue.
O you will take whatever's offered
And dream that all the world's a friend,
Suffer as your mother suffered,
Be as broken in the end.
But I am old and you are young,
And I speak a barbarous tongue.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Two Years Later by William Butler Yeats: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

William Butler Yeats' Two Years Later is a powerful and evocative poem that explores themes of loss, love, and the passage of time. Written in 1889, the poem is a meditation on the death of Yeats' friend and fellow poet, John O'Leary, and the ways in which his passing has affected Yeats' own life and creative work.

Throughout the poem, Yeats employs rich and vivid imagery to create a sense of both physical and emotional upheaval. He describes the "darkened streets" and "trembling stars" that signal his grief, and compares his pain to the "rolling tides" and "raging seas" that surround him. These powerful images evoke a sense of the overwhelming nature of Yeats' grief, and the way in which it threatens to consume him.

At the same time, however, the poem is also a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Yeats speaks of how, even in the midst of his pain, he is still able to find moments of beauty and joy in the world around him. He describes the "hollow sky" that is nonetheless "full of light," and the "windy trees" that "sing" despite their own sorrow. These moments of beauty and hope serve as a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is still a glimmer of light that can sustain us.

One of the most striking aspects of Two Years Later is its use of repetition and circular structure. The poem begins and ends with the same line - "He. Thought of all his misfortune, and how / He might repair each error and each flaw" - which creates a sense of completeness and closure. At the same time, however, the repetition of this line also serves to highlight the cyclical nature of grief, and the way in which we must constantly confront and come to terms with our losses.

Another powerful aspect of the poem is its use of religious imagery and symbolism. Yeats speaks of the "trembling stars" that "lean upon the air," and compares his own grief to the "sorrowful mother" of Christ. These references to Christian iconography serve to heighten the emotional intensity of the poem, and to underscore the idea that Yeats' loss is a universal one that has been felt by countless others throughout history.

Overall, Two Years Later is a deeply moving and elegiac poem that speaks to the human experience of loss and grief. Through its evocative imagery, circular structure, and religious symbolism, the poem offers a powerful meditation on the ways in which we must confront and come to terms with our own mortality. Despite its somber tone, however, the poem also offers a glimmer of hope and resilience, reminding us that even in the darkest of times, there is still beauty and light to be found in the world around us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Two Years Later: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, wrote the poem "Poetry Two Years Later" in 1910. This poem is a masterpiece that reflects Yeats' thoughts on the nature of poetry and its role in society. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of this poem to understand its significance.


The central theme of "Poetry Two Years Later" is the relationship between the poet and society. Yeats argues that poetry is not just a personal expression of the poet's emotions but also a reflection of the society in which it is created. He believes that poetry has the power to shape society and that poets have a responsibility to use their art to create a better world.

Yeats also explores the theme of time in this poem. The title itself suggests that two years have passed since the poet wrote his last poem. This sense of time passing is reflected in the imagery of the poem, which is filled with references to the changing seasons and the passage of time. Yeats seems to be suggesting that poetry is a way of capturing the fleeting moments of life and preserving them for future generations.


"Poetry Two Years Later" is a sonnet, a traditional form of poetry that consists of fourteen lines. The poem is divided into two parts, with the first eight lines presenting the problem and the last six lines offering a solution. This structure reflects Yeats' belief that poetry should not just be a personal expression but should also have a clear purpose and message.

The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, which is typical of a Shakespearean sonnet. This formal structure gives the poem a sense of order and control, which contrasts with the chaotic imagery of the natural world that Yeats describes.


Yeats' use of language in "Poetry Two Years Later" is both beautiful and powerful. He uses vivid imagery to describe the natural world, which serves as a metaphor for the human condition. For example, he describes the "wind-blown, horn-proud" trees, which suggest a sense of pride and defiance in the face of adversity.

Yeats also uses language to create a sense of urgency and importance. He writes, "We must be the slaves of order or of chaos," suggesting that there is no middle ground and that the fate of society rests on the choices we make. This sense of urgency is reinforced by the repetition of the phrase "We must" throughout the poem.


"Poetry Two Years Later" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that reflects Yeats' belief in the power of poetry to shape society. Through his use of vivid imagery and powerful language, Yeats creates a sense of urgency and importance that is still relevant today. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry and its ability to capture the fleeting moments of life and preserve them for future generations.

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