'The Realists' by William Butler Yeats
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HOPE that you may understand!
What can books of men that wive
In a dragon-guarded land,
paintings of the dolphin-drawn
Sea-nymphs in their pearly wagons
Do, but awake a hope to live
That had gone
With the dragons?
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Realists: A Criticism and Interpretation
As I delved into William Butler Yeats' collection of poems, one work that stood out to me was "The Realists". This poem's title alone is enough to capture one's interest. What does Yeats mean by this title? What is he trying to convey through his words? In this literary criticism and interpretation, I aim to explore Yeats' "The Realists" and unravel its meanings.
Before we dive into the poem itself, it is important to understand the context in which Yeats wrote "The Realists". The poem was published in his 1895 collection, "The Rose", which was a turning point in Yeats' career. It was during this time that he began to move away from his earlier romantic style and embrace a more modernist approach to poetry.
The Realism movement, which emerged in the late 19th century, was characterized by its emphasis on objective reality and rejection of romanticism and idealism. It was a response to the rapid industrialization and social change that was happening at the time. Realists sought to represent life as it truly was, warts and all.
With this background in mind, we can now turn to Yeats' "The Realists". The poem begins with the speaker describing a scene of poverty and despair:
The realists, hurrying through the streets, Observing the freshness and the poverty, The loaded spindles, the emptied hods, And noting one with the long straw coloured hair Heavily against the white walls of the houses, (They have stopped with their load beside the door) Let the day pass, and be forgetful of all Except their labours, and their loves, and food.
Here, Yeats is painting a picture of the realists hurrying through the streets, taking note of the poverty and hardship around them. The loaded spindles and emptied hods suggest a factory or construction site, where the workers are toiling away for a meager living. The mention of the long straw coloured hair is interesting as it suggests that the realists are taking note of even the smallest details of their surroundings.
The realists, according to the speaker, are focused solely on their labors, loves, and food. There is a sense of resignation and acceptance in this description - the workers have accepted their lot in life and are simply going through the motions.
The second stanza of the poem takes a more critical tone:
But let them be, they're happy in their toil, That's all they ask, their meal and their sleep, And that the earth should bear them all away Who knows if Radcliffe's pious cursing miss'd, And that from these poor bodies, broken and black, From these abandon'd fields, the crucial spring Of all that makes for righteousness and freedom Shall come' and till'd again by better men Shall thrive a little time and pass away, And fall again under the conqueror's sword.
Here, the speaker seems to be questioning the realists' contentment with their lot in life. Is it enough to be happy in one's toil, without striving for something more? The mention of Radcliffe's pious cursing is interesting - Radcliffe was a wealthy landowner who believed that the poverty and misery around him was the result of the workers' laziness and immorality. The speaker seems to be suggesting here that the realists are not to blame for their situation - they are simply victims of a system that oppresses them.
The final lines of the stanza are particularly powerful. The speaker suggests that from these abandoned fields and broken bodies, the "crucial spring" of righteousness and freedom will emerge. This suggests that despite the bleakness of the situation, there is still hope for a better future.
The final stanza of the poem takes a more hopeful tone:
But let them be, they're happy in their toil, The mason forges, and the peasant digs, The poet writes for those that love his songs. He will not leave his humble trade of love For the more courtly praise and garmented things, Those things that every poet has desir'd, And leaves till all that's sweet in life has fled. Nor will he be a pedant to the schools, But he will learn from the green forest-woods, And teach beside the lonely streams and rills.
Here, the speaker seems to be suggesting that there is value in the humble trades of the mason and peasant, as well as in the more artistic pursuits of the poet. The poet, in particular, is praised for his refusal to seek courtly praise and garmented things. Instead, he remains true to his humble trade of love, and continues to learn from the natural world around him.
The final lines of the poem are particularly beautiful. The poet is not a pedant to the schools - he does not seek knowledge from the conventional sources. Instead, he learns from the green forest-woods and the lonely streams and rills. This suggests that there is a deeper, more spiritual source of knowledge that cannot be found in books or institutions.
So, what can we take away from "The Realists"? At its core, the poem is a critique of the Realism movement and its emphasis on objective reality. The speaker seems to be suggesting that there is more to life than just the material world - that there is a deeper, more spiritual source of knowledge and meaning.
The realists themselves are portrayed as resigned and accepting of their lot in life. They are happy in their toil, but the speaker questions whether this is enough. Is it enough to simply go through the motions of life without striving for something more?
The poet, on the other hand, is portrayed as someone who is in touch with the natural world and is able to find meaning and beauty in even the most humble of trades. The poet is not a pedant to the schools - he does not seek knowledge from conventional sources. Instead, he learns from the green forest-woods and the lonely streams and rills.
Overall, "The Realists" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that raises important questions about the nature of reality and the human condition. It is a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet that he is able to convey such complex ideas in such concise and beautiful language.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry The Realists: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, the renowned Irish poet, is known for his exceptional contribution to the world of literature. His works are a reflection of his deep understanding of human emotions and his ability to express them in the most beautiful and profound way. One of his most celebrated works is the poem "Poetry The Realists," which is a masterpiece in every sense of the word.
The poem is a commentary on the state of poetry in the modern world. Yeats believed that poetry had lost its essence and had become too focused on the material world. He believed that poetry should be a reflection of the spiritual world and should be used to explore the deeper aspects of human existence. In "Poetry The Realists," Yeats urges poets to move away from the material world and focus on the spiritual world.
The poem begins with the lines, "In cynical verse and prose / The anti-muse has grown / And the poets are like tradesmen / Whose business is to please." These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem. Yeats is criticizing the poets of his time for their lack of depth and their focus on pleasing the masses. He believes that poetry should not be a business but should be a reflection of the poet's innermost thoughts and feelings.
Yeats then goes on to say, "But the poets of the spirit / Have come, and they have shown / That the world is not what it seems / And man is more than bone." Here, Yeats is referring to the poets who have embraced the spiritual world and have used poetry to explore the deeper aspects of human existence. He believes that these poets have shown that there is more to life than what meets the eye and that human beings are more than just physical beings.
The poem then takes a turn as Yeats begins to describe the spiritual world. He says, "They have shown us beauty's self / And the hidden things of God / And they have sung of love and death / Till we are no more at odds." Here, Yeats is referring to the beauty and mystery of the spiritual world. He believes that the poets who have embraced the spiritual world have shown us the true meaning of beauty and have revealed the hidden aspects of God. He also believes that these poets have helped us to understand the true nature of love and death.
Yeats then goes on to say, "For the world is full of magic things / Patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper." Here, Yeats is urging us to open our minds and our hearts to the magic of the spiritual world. He believes that the world is full of wonders and mysteries that are waiting to be discovered. He also believes that we need to sharpen our senses in order to be able to perceive these wonders.
The poem ends with the lines, "And the poets of the spirit / Will make us free and whole / And they will show us that the world / Is a living, breathing soul." Here, Yeats is expressing his belief that the poets who have embraced the spiritual world have the power to set us free and to make us whole. He believes that these poets can help us to see that the world is not just a physical entity but is, in fact, a living, breathing soul.
In conclusion, "Poetry The Realists" is a masterpiece by William Butler Yeats. It is a commentary on the state of poetry in the modern world and a call to poets to embrace the spiritual world. Yeats believed that poetry should be a reflection of the poet's innermost thoughts and feelings and should be used to explore the deeper aspects of human existence. He believed that the poets who have embraced the spiritual world have the power to set us free and to make us whole. "Poetry The Realists" is a timeless work that continues to inspire and move readers to this day.
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