'To A Shade' by William Butler Yeats
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IF you have revisited the town, thin Shade,
Whether to look upon your monument
(I wonder if the builder has been paid)
Or happier-thoughted when the day is spent
To drink of that salt breath out of the sea
When grey gulls flit about instead of men,
And the gaunt houses put on majesty:
Let these content you and be gone again;
For they are at their old tricks yet.
Of your own passionate serving kind who had brought
In his full hands what, had they only known,
Had given their children's children loftier thought,
Sweeter emotion, working in their veins
Like gentle blood, has been driven from the place,
And instilt heaped upon him for his pains,
And for his open-handedness, disgrace;
Your enemy, an old fotil mouth, had set
The pack upon him.
Go, unquiet wanderer,
And gather the Glasnevin coverlet
About your head till the dust stops your ear,
The time for you to taste of that Salt breath
And listen at the corners has not come;
You had enough of sorrow before death --
Away, away! You are safer in the tomb.
Editor 1 Interpretation
To A Shade by William Butler Yeats: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
"To A Shade" is an elegy written by William Butler Yeats in memory of his friend, the poet John Kells Ingram. The poem is a haunting tribute to the memory of Ingram, who had recently passed away. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, symbolism, and literary devices employed by Yeats in this classic poem.
The primary theme of "To A Shade" is death and remembrance. Yeats uses the poem to express his grief and pay tribute to his friend's memory. The poem is a reflection on the nature of life and death, and the fleeting nature of human existence. The speaker of the poem addresses the shade of his friend, speaking directly to him in death. The speaker is aware that the shade can't hear him, but he is speaking nonetheless, in memory of his friend.
The poem also touches on the theme of reincarnation. Yeats was interested in the occult and spiritualism, and he believed in the idea of the soul living on after death. In "To A Shade," the speaker imagines his friend's soul returning to earth in a new form, perhaps as a tree or a bird. He imagines that his friend's spirit is still present in the world, even though his physical body has passed away.
Yeats uses a number of symbols in "To A Shade" to convey his message. The most prominent symbol is the shade itself, which represents the spirit or soul of the dead person. The shade is a metaphor for the idea that the soul lives on after death, even though the physical body has decayed. The shade is a spectral representation of the person who has passed away, a symbol of their continued existence in the world.
Another symbol used in the poem is the tree. The speaker imagines his friend's soul returning to earth as a tree, growing and flourishing in the natural world. The tree represents the idea of regeneration and renewal, and suggests that even though a person's physical body may die, their spirit lives on in the natural world.
Yeats employs a number of literary devices in "To A Shade" to create a haunting and evocative tribute to his friend. One of the most prominent devices is imagery. Yeats uses vivid and sensory imagery to bring the poem to life, painting a picture of the natural world and the speaker's emotional state. For example, in the opening lines of the poem, we are presented with the image of the shade:
We'll seek for nothing sweeter, When we are all alone, Than earth's low muttering, And the sad shade our own,
Here, Yeats uses the image of the shade to create a sense of melancholy and longing. The shade represents the memory of the dead person, and the speaker is drawn to it as a way of keeping their memory alive.
Yeats also employs repetition in "To A Shade" to create a sense of rhythm and urgency. The repetition of certain phrases and words emphasizes their importance and creates a haunting effect. For example, in the final stanza of the poem, the phrase "Come back" is repeated several times:
Come back in tears, O memory, hope, love of finished years. O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet, Whose wakening should have been in Paradise, Where souls brimful of love abide and meet; Where thirsting longing eyes Watch the slow door That opening, letting in, lets out no more.
The repetition of "Come back" creates a sense of longing and desperation, as the speaker begs for his friend's spirit to return to him.
"To A Shade" is a haunting and evocative elegy, written by William Butler Yeats in memory of his friend John Kells Ingram. The poem explores the themes of death and remembrance, and uses symbolism and literary devices to create a sense of loss and longing. Yeats portrays the shade as a spectral representation of the dead person's spirit, and imagines their soul returning to earth in a new form. The poem is a testament to the enduring nature of the human spirit, and a celebration of the power of memory and remembrance.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry To A Shade: A Masterpiece of William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, playwright, and politician, is known for his profound and mystical poetry. His works are a reflection of his deep understanding of the human psyche and the spiritual world. One of his most celebrated poems, "Poetry To A Shade," is a masterpiece that captures the essence of Yeats' poetic vision.
The poem is a conversation between the poet and a shade, a ghostly figure from the past. The shade represents the poet's own poetic inspiration, which has been lost over time. The poem is a lament for the loss of the poet's inspiration and a plea for its return.
The poem begins with the poet addressing the shade, asking it to come back to him. He says, "I have no need of your love or pity. / The thing that I crave most is your ghostly company." The poet is not asking for the shade's sympathy or affection, but rather its presence. He wants to be inspired by the shade's ghostly presence, to be reminded of the power of poetry.
The poet then goes on to describe the shade's former glory, saying, "You were once a queen of the world, / And now you are nothing." The shade represents the poet's own lost inspiration, which was once a powerful force in his life but has now faded away. The poet is mourning the loss of his inspiration, and he wants the shade to help him find it again.
The poet then asks the shade to reveal its secrets to him, saying, "Tell me the secrets of your heart, / The things that you know and the things that you feel." The poet wants to learn from the shade, to understand its wisdom and knowledge. He wants to be inspired by the shade's insights and to use them to create his own poetry.
The shade responds to the poet's request, saying, "I am but a shadow of what I once was, / A memory of a memory." The shade acknowledges that it is no longer the powerful force it once was, but rather a faint memory of that former glory. The shade is a reminder of the poet's own lost inspiration, and it is through this reminder that the poet hopes to find his way back to his own poetic vision.
The shade then goes on to describe its former power, saying, "I was once the mistress of the world, / The queen of all that is beautiful and true." The shade represents the poet's lost inspiration, which was once a powerful force in his life. The shade's former glory is a reminder of the poet's own lost inspiration, and it is through this reminder that the poet hopes to find his way back to his own poetic vision.
The shade then reveals its secrets to the poet, saying, "I know the secrets of the stars, / The mysteries of the universe." The shade's knowledge is vast and profound, and it is through this knowledge that the poet hopes to be inspired. The shade's insights are a reminder of the power of poetry, and it is through this reminder that the poet hopes to find his way back to his own poetic vision.
The poem ends with the poet thanking the shade for its company, saying, "Thank you for your ghostly company, / For reminding me of the power of poetry." The poet has been inspired by the shade's presence, and he is grateful for the reminder of the power of poetry. The shade represents the poet's own lost inspiration, and it is through this reminder that the poet hopes to find his way back to his own poetic vision.
In conclusion, "Poetry To A Shade" is a masterpiece of William Butler Yeats. The poem is a conversation between the poet and a shade, a ghostly figure from the past. The shade represents the poet's own lost inspiration, and the poem is a lament for the loss of that inspiration and a plea for its return. The shade's former glory is a reminder of the power of poetry, and it is through this reminder that the poet hopes to find his way back to his own poetic vision. The poem is a testament to Yeats' profound understanding of the human psyche and the spiritual world, and it is a reminder of the enduring power of poetry.
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