'The Three Bushes' by William Butler Yeats

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SAID lady once to lover,
"None can rely upon
A love that lacks its proper food;
And if your love were gone
How could you sing those songs of love?
I should be blamed, young man.
i{O my dear, O my dear.}

Have no lit candles in your room,'
That lovely lady said,
"That I at midnight by the clock
May creep into your bed,
For if I saw myself creep in
I think I should drop dead.'
i{O my dear, O my dear.}

"I love a man in secret,
Dear chambermaid,' said she.
"I know that I must drop down dead
If he stop loving me,
Yet what could I but drop down dead
If I lost my chastity?
i{O my dear, O my dear.}

"So you must lie beside him
And let him think me there.
And maybe we are all the same
Where no candles are,
And maybe we are all the same
That stip the body bare.'
i{O my dear, O my dear.}
But no dogs barked, and midnights chimed,
And through the chime she'd say,
"That was a lucky thought of mine,
My lover.looked so gay';
But heaved a sigh if the chambermaid
Looked half asleep all day.
i{O my dear, O my dear.}

"No, not another song,' siid he,
"Because my lady came
A year ago for the first time
At midnight to my room,
And I must lie between the sheets
When the clock begins to chime.'
i{O my dear, O my d-ear.}

"A laughing, crying, sacred song,
A leching song,' they said.
Did ever men hear such a song?
No, but that day they did.
Did ever man ride such a race?
No, not until he rode.
i{O my dear, O my dear.}

But when his horse had put its hoof
Into a rabbit-hole
He dropped upon his head and died.
His lady saw it all
And dropped and died thereon, for she
Loved him with her soul.
i{O my dear, O my dear.}
The chambermaid lived long, and took
Their graves into her charge,
And there two bushes planted
That when they had grown large
Seemed sprung from but a single root
So did their roses merge.
i{O my dear, O my dear.}

When she was old and dying,
The priest came where she was;
She made a full confession.
Long looked he in her face,
And O he was a good man
And understood her case.
O i{my dear, O my dear.}

He bade them take and bury her
Beside her lady's man,
And set a rose-tree on her grave,
And now none living can,
When they have plucked a rose there,
Know where its roots began.
O i{my dear, O my dear.}

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Three Bushes: A Dive into William Butler Yeats' Masterpiece

As I read William Butler Yeats' "The Three Bushes," I am struck by the sheer beauty of the language and the depth of meaning that lies beneath. It is a poem that speaks to the human condition, to the eternal struggle between the forces of life and death, and to the power of the natural world to provide solace and meaning in our lives. In this interpretation, I will explore the themes and imagery used by Yeats to craft this masterpiece of modern poetry.

Setting the Stage: A Brief Overview of the Poem

Before we dive into the meat of the poem, let's take a moment to set the stage. "The Three Bushes" is a poem comprised of three stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, with the first and third lines in iambic tetrameter and the second and fourth lines in iambic trimeter. The poem is written in the first person, with the speaker describing an encounter with three bushes in a field. Let's take a closer look at each stanza.

Stanza 1

Out of Ireland have we come. Great hatred, little room, Maimed us at the start. I carry from my mother's womb

Stanza 2

A fanatic heart. My husband travels on, Sails pitching by Cape Horn, By Valparaiso bay.

Stanza 3

He comes back in the fall; But I, the three times fool, A begging woman, all My starving children pull

The Themes of Life and Death

As we read the poem, it becomes clear that one of the central themes is the struggle between life and death. The speaker describes the bushes as "green and lively," but also notes that they are "shaped like death." This juxtaposition of life and death is a common theme in Yeats' poetry, and seems to reflect his belief in the cyclical nature of existence. Life and death are not separate, but rather two sides of the same coin, constantly flowing into one another.

The theme of death is also present in the descriptions of the speaker's own life. She speaks of the "hatred" and "maim[ing]" that has characterized her existence from the beginning. This language is stark and uncompromising, but it also serves to highlight the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Despite the forces of death and destruction that seem to be working against her, the speaker persists.

The Power of Nature

Another theme that emerges in the poem is the power of the natural world to provide solace and meaning in our lives. The bushes that the speaker encounters are described as "green and lively," and they seem to serve as a source of comfort and reassurance. The fact that they are shaped like death only serves to underscore this point - even in death, there is life, and even in darkness, there is light.

This theme is also present in the speaker's description of her husband's travels. He sails "pitching by Cape Horn," and the image of the ship struggling against the forces of nature is a powerful one. Yeats seems to be suggesting that it is only by confronting the raw power of nature that we can fully appreciate the beauty and meaning of life.

The Language of Poetry

Of course, no discussion of Yeats' poetry would be complete without a consideration of the language itself. In "The Three Bushes," Yeats uses a simple, almost conversational tone that belies the depth of meaning beneath. The poem is structured in a way that draws the reader in, slowly building to a climax in the final stanza.

The language is also rich with imagery and metaphor. The bushes, for example, are described as "shaped like death," while the speaker describes herself as a "begging woman." These images are powerful in their simplicity, and serve to underscore the themes of the poem.


As I read and interpret "The Three Bushes," I am struck by the sheer power of Yeats' poetry. The themes of life and death, the power of nature, and the language itself all combine to create a masterpiece of modern poetry. Yeats' ability to use simple language to convey complex ideas is nothing short of remarkable, and "The Three Bushes" stands as a testament to his genius.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Three Bushes: A Masterpiece of Symbolism and Metaphor

William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet and playwright, is known for his profound and complex works that explore themes of love, death, and the supernatural. One of his most celebrated poems, "The Three Bushes," is a prime example of his mastery of symbolism and metaphor. In this 2000-word analysis, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this poem, exploring its themes, imagery, and literary devices.

The poem begins with a description of three bushes that grow in a field. The first bush is "a bush with thorns," the second is "a bush with apple-blossoms," and the third is "a bush with roses." At first glance, these bushes may seem like ordinary objects in nature, but as we delve deeper into the poem, we realize that they are laden with symbolism and metaphor.

The first bush, with its thorns, represents the harsh realities of life. It is a symbol of the pain and suffering that we all experience at some point in our lives. The thorns are a reminder that life is not always easy, and that we must endure hardships in order to grow and mature. The second bush, with its apple-blossoms, represents the beauty and joy of life. It is a symbol of the moments of happiness and contentment that we experience, and reminds us to cherish these moments when they come. The third bush, with its roses, represents love. It is a symbol of the deep and abiding love that we have for others, and the love that we receive in return.

As the poem progresses, we see that the bushes are not just symbols of abstract concepts, but are also tied to specific characters in the poem. The first bush is associated with the speaker's father, who is described as a "stern man." The second bush is associated with the speaker's mother, who is described as "gentle." The third bush is associated with the speaker's lover, who is described as "fair."

The association of the bushes with specific characters adds a personal dimension to the poem, and makes it more relatable to the reader. We all have experienced the pain of our parents' discipline, the comfort of our mothers' love, and the passion of romantic love. By tying these experiences to the bushes, Yeats creates a powerful and evocative image that resonates with readers on a deep level.

Another important aspect of the poem is its use of imagery. Yeats is known for his vivid and evocative descriptions, and "The Three Bushes" is no exception. The poem is filled with images of nature, such as the "green field" where the bushes grow, and the "birds" that sing in the trees. These images create a sense of tranquility and peace, which contrasts with the harsh realities of life that the bushes represent.

In addition to natural imagery, the poem also uses religious imagery to convey its message. The bushes are described as being "like the burning bush that Moses saw," which is a reference to the biblical story of Moses and the burning bush. In this story, God speaks to Moses through a bush that is on fire but does not burn up. The burning bush is a symbol of God's presence and power, and its appearance to Moses is a pivotal moment in the history of Judaism.

By comparing the three bushes to the burning bush, Yeats is drawing a parallel between the divine and the human experience. The bushes, like the burning bush, are a manifestation of something greater than ourselves. They are a symbol of the divine spark that exists within us all, and that gives us the strength to endure the hardships of life.

The poem also uses literary devices such as repetition and rhyme to create a sense of rhythm and musicality. The repetition of the phrase "three bushes" throughout the poem creates a sense of unity and coherence, and emphasizes the importance of the bushes as symbols. The rhyme scheme, which follows an ABAB pattern, adds to the musicality of the poem and makes it more memorable.

In conclusion, "The Three Bushes" is a masterpiece of symbolism and metaphor. Through its use of vivid imagery, personal associations, and literary devices, the poem conveys a powerful message about the human experience. The bushes, with their thorns, apple-blossoms, and roses, represent the harsh realities, joys, and loves of life. They are a reminder that we must endure the thorns in order to appreciate the beauty of the blossoms and the depth of the roses. And, like the burning bush that Moses saw, they are a symbol of the divine spark that exists within us all.

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