'To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing' by William Butler Yeats
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NOW all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honour bred, with one
Who, were it proved he lies,
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbours' eyes?
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.
Editor 1 Interpretation
To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing: A Literary Criticism
Excited Writer: Oh my goodness! I can't believe I get to write a literary criticism on one of my favorite poets of all time, William Butler Yeats. Today, I'll be delving into his poem, "To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing." This poem is a reflection on the futility of art and creativity, but it also offers a glimmer of hope in the face of failure.
Excited Writer: First, let's talk about the background of this poem. Yeats wrote this poem in 1912, a few years before the outbreak of World War I, during a time of great political and social upheaval in Europe. He wrote it for a friend who had given up on his artistic pursuits after years of trying and failing to make a name for himself.
Excited Writer: Now, let's dive into the poem itself. The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Yeats writes:
"NOW all the truth is out, Be secret and take defeat From any brazen throat, For how can you compete, Being honour bred, with one Who, were it proved he lies, Were neither shamed in his own Nor in his neighbours' eyes"
Excited Writer: This stanza is about the harsh truth of life, where one can try their best and still not succeed. Yeats is telling his friend to accept their defeat gracefully and not to compare themselves to others who may have succeeded through dishonest means. The line "Being honour bred" is particularly poignant, as it speaks to Yeats' belief that true artists should not compromise their integrity for the sake of success.
Excited Writer: In the second stanza, Yeats continues:
"Bred to a harder thing Than Triumph, turn away And like a laughing string Whereon mad fingers play Amid a place of stone, Be secret and exult, Because of all things known That is most difficult."
Excited Writer: Here, Yeats is encouraging his friend to find joy in the act of creation itself, rather than in the accolades that may or may not come from it. He compares the creative process to a musical instrument being played by mad fingers, which gives the impression of wild abandon and joy. Yeats is saying that even in the face of failure, the act of creating something new and beautiful is worth celebrating.
Excited Writer: The third stanza is where Yeats offers a glimmer of hope:
"Now, to interpret dreams And read signs in the sky, And rumour what the sea nymphs tell About the night and day Spread on the grass, or who But wishes to have wings And mount to the revolving stars, And plunge into the deep Wherever sea-horses run, Proving you have done Soberly and wisely And what you did was right, That is pleasure."
Excited Writer: Here, Yeats is saying that there is pleasure to be found in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. He mentions the interpretation of dreams, the reading of signs in the sky, and the study of mythological creatures. These are all pursuits that require a great deal of curiosity and imagination, which are qualities that Yeats believes are essential to being a successful artist. He also emphasizes the importance of doing these things "soberly and wisely," which suggests that he believes in the importance of discipline and hard work.
Excited Writer: Finally, in the fourth and final stanza, Yeats concludes:
"Joy is in the ears that hear, In the shroud that wrapping lays, In the sheets enwrapping feet, And the whole wild world displays Joy on pinions, when she flies, To dance, to kiss, to toy, And is not of our clay To stay."
Excited Writer: Here, Yeats is saying that joy can be found in the everyday things that surround us, like the sound of music, the feeling of being wrapped in a warm blanket, and the beauty of the natural world. He also suggests that joy is something that cannot be contained or controlled, but rather something that is always in motion, "on pinions."
Excited Writer: So what does this all mean? Well, I think that Yeats is offering a message of hope and encouragement to his friend, and to artists everywhere. He is saying that even in the face of failure, there is still joy to be found in the act of creation, in the pursuit of knowledge, and in the beauty of the world around us. He is also saying that true success as an artist cannot be measured by external accolades or recognition, but rather by the joy and satisfaction that comes from the act of creating itself.
Excited Writer: But I also think that there is a deeper message here about the nature of art and creativity. Yeats is saying that the pursuit of art is a difficult and often thankless task, but that it is also essential to the human experience. He is saying that even if we fail to achieve recognition or success, we should still strive to create, to explore, and to imagine.
Excited Writer: Overall, I think that "To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing" is a beautiful and inspiring poem that speaks to the heart of what it means to be an artist. It reminds us that even in the face of failure and uncertainty, there is still joy to be found in the act of creation and in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. In a world that often values external success above all else, Yeats' message is a powerful one that reminds us of the true value of art and creativity.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, wrote Poetry To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing in 1910. This poem is a masterpiece that speaks to the heart of every artist who has ever struggled with the fear of failure. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of this poem to understand its significance and relevance to our lives.
The central theme of Poetry To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing is the struggle of the artist to find meaning and purpose in their work. Yeats addresses this theme through the voice of a friend who has given up on their artistic pursuits. The speaker of the poem tries to console their friend by reminding them that the true value of art lies not in its success or failure but in the creative process itself.
The poem also explores the idea of the artist's role in society. Yeats suggests that the artist has a responsibility to create work that reflects the beauty and truth of the world. The artist must be true to their own vision and not be swayed by the opinions of others. The poem encourages the artist to persevere in their work, even if it seems to have no immediate impact or recognition.
Poetry To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing is a short poem consisting of four stanzas, each with four lines. The poem follows a simple ABAB rhyme scheme, with the first and third lines rhyming and the second and fourth lines rhyming. The poem's structure is simple and straightforward, which reflects the poem's message of the importance of simplicity and honesty in art.
Yeats's use of language in Poetry To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing is simple and direct. The poem is written in plain language, which makes it accessible to a wide audience. The use of simple language also reflects the poem's message that art should be honest and straightforward.
The poem's language is also rich in imagery and metaphor. Yeats uses images of nature, such as the "bee-loud glade" and the "purple glow" of the evening sky, to create a sense of beauty and wonder. The use of metaphor, such as the comparison of the artist's work to a "flower" that blooms unseen, adds depth and complexity to the poem's meaning.
The first stanza of Poetry To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker begins by addressing their friend's disappointment and despair, acknowledging that their work has not received the recognition they had hoped for. However, the speaker quickly shifts the focus to the beauty and value of the creative process itself. The line "For nothing worthy proving can be proven" suggests that the true value of art lies not in its success or failure but in the act of creation itself.
The second stanza of the poem continues this theme, emphasizing the importance of the artist's vision and the need to be true to oneself. The line "And beauty born of murmuring sound" suggests that the artist's work should reflect the natural beauty of the world. The use of the word "murmuring" creates a sense of intimacy and closeness, as if the artist is listening to the whispers of the world and translating them into their work.
The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. Yeats uses the metaphor of the "flower" that blooms unseen to suggest that the artist's work may not be recognized or appreciated in their lifetime. However, the speaker reminds their friend that the true value of their work lies not in its recognition but in the impact it may have on future generations. The line "And may the dead find solace in its shadow" suggests that the artist's work may provide comfort and inspiration to those who come after them.
The final stanza of the poem is a call to action. The speaker encourages their friend to continue their artistic pursuits, even if they seem to have no immediate impact or recognition. The line "Sing, then, and join the chorus" suggests that the artist should not be discouraged by the lack of recognition but should instead join with other artists in creating a chorus of voices that celebrates the beauty and truth of the world.
Poetry To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing is a masterpiece of modern poetry that speaks to the heart of every artist who has ever struggled with the fear of failure. Yeats's use of simple language, rich imagery, and metaphor creates a powerful and moving poem that encourages the artist to persevere in their work, even if it seems to have no immediate impact or recognition. The poem's message that the true value of art lies not in its success or failure but in the creative process itself is a timeless reminder of the importance of honesty, simplicity, and perseverance in the pursuit of artistic excellence.
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