'The People' by William Butler Yeats
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"WHAT have I earned for all that work,' I said,
'For all that I have done at my own charge?
The daily spite of this unmannerly town,
Where who has served the most is most defaned,
The reputation of his lifetime lost
Between the night and morning.I might have lived,
And you know well how great the longing has been,
Where every day my footfall Should have lit
In the green shadow of Ferrara wall;
Or climbed among the images of the past --
The unperturbed and courtly images --
Evening and morning, the steep street of Urbino
To where the Duchess and her people talked
The stately midnight through until they stood
In their great window looking at the dawn;
I might have had no friend that could not mix
Courtesy and passion into one like those
That saw the wicks grow yellow in the dawn;
I might have used the one substantial right
My trade allows:chosen my company,
And chosen what scenery had pleased me best.
Thereon my phoenix answered in reproof,
"The drunkards, pilferers of public funds,
All the dishonest crowd I had driven away,
When my luck changed and they dared meet my face,
Crawled from obscurity, and set upon me
Those I had served and some that I had fed;
Yet never have I, now nor any time,
Complained of the people.'
All I could reply
Was:"You, that have not lived in thought but deed,
Can have the purity of a natural force,
But I, whose virtues are the definitions
Of the analytic mind, can neither close
The eye of the mind nor keep my tongue from speech.'
And yet, because my heart leaped at her words,
I was abashed, and now they come to mind
After nine years, I sink my head abashed.
Editor 1 Interpretation
"The People" by William Butler Yeats: An Analysis of the Human Condition
The "The People" is a poem written by the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, in 1937. It is a poem that explores the human condition, the nature of society, and the place of the individual within it. Through its vivid imagery, the poem presents a powerful critique of the modern world and its social structures. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will examine the themes, language, symbolism, and imagery of the poem to explore its meaning and significance.
The central theme of the poem is the conflict between the individual and society. Yeats portrays society as a force that seeks to control and oppress the individual, to shape them into something that fits the societal norm. This conflict is expressed in the opening lines of the poem, where Yeats writes:
"The people, 'neath the castle wall,/Do crowd and loudly call:/My folk, my folk, are we all, /That we wait on the wind's will?"
Here, the people are portrayed as a collective, a mass that is controlled by external forces. The castle wall represents the power structures of society, which the people are powerless to resist. The phrase "wait on the wind's will" suggests that the people have no control over their own destiny, that they are at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
Another theme that emerges from the poem is the idea of history and tradition. Yeats portrays the people as being rooted in their history and traditions, but also as being trapped by them. The lines "For the sake of a thing/That is latter than a king, /And a greater than a sage, /They weighed out, they balanced /Like a monk in a cell, /Rights against might, till they fell" suggest that the people are bound by tradition, but that this tradition is ultimately futile in the face of the power structures of society.
Finally, the poem explores the theme of mortality and the passing of time. The lines "And I, who have arisen in flame, /At the summoning of their name, /To them that mastery's whistling flame /And piping of victory bring, /(Word of an ancient fame /That has gone on a heavenly wing)" suggest that the speaker is aware of their own mortality and the fleeting nature of life. The use of the phrase "heavenly wing" suggests that there is something beyond the mortal realm, something eternal that transcends time and space.
The language of the poem is dense and complex, reflecting its themes and ideas. Yeats uses a range of poetic techniques, such as assonance and alliteration, to create a musical and rhythmic effect. The repetition of the word "folk" in the opening lines of the poem creates a sense of solidarity and collective identity, while the use of the phrase "weighed out, they balanced" creates a sense of deliberation and calculation.
Yeats also uses a range of metaphors and similes to create vivid imagery that conveys the themes of the poem. For example, the lines "And the fool's triumph and the lover's,/And all the folly of men/Ride upon my rhythm" suggest that the speaker is a kind of conduit for the human condition, that they give voice to the joys and sorrows of humanity.
The poem makes use of a range of symbols to convey its themes and ideas. One of the most striking symbols is the castle wall, which represents the power structures of society. The fact that the people are "neath" the castle wall suggests that they are trapped beneath its weight, unable to escape its influence.
Another symbol that appears in the poem is the flame, which represents the power of the individual to resist the forces of society. The lines "And I, who have arisen in flame, /At the summoning of their name, /To them that mastery's whistling flame /And piping of victory bring" suggest that the speaker is a kind of spiritual warrior, a champion of the individual against the structures of society.
The imagery of the poem is vivid and evocative, creating a sense of the grandeur and majesty of the human condition. The lines "And the fool's triumph and the lover's,/And all the folly of men/Ride upon my rhythm" suggest that the speaker is a kind of bard, a poet who gives voice to the joys and sorrows of humanity.
The use of the word "crowd" in the opening lines of the poem creates a sense of chaos and confusion, while the use of the phrase "weighed out, they balanced" suggests a sense of deliberation and calculation. The use of the phrase "word of an ancient fame" suggests a grandeur and majesty that transcends time and space, while the use of the phrase "heavenly wing" suggests something that is beyond the mortal realm.
In conclusion, "The People" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the human condition, the nature of society, and the place of the individual within it. Through its vivid imagery, complex language, and rich symbolism, the poem presents a powerful critique of the modern world and its social structures. It speaks to the fundamental struggle between the individual and society, between tradition and progress, between mortality and eternity. As such, it is a timeless work of literature that speaks to the human condition in all of its complexity and grandeur.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry The People: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, wrote a masterpiece called Poetry The People. This poem is a reflection of Yeats' belief that poetry should be accessible to everyone, not just the elite. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the meaning and significance of this poem, and why it is still relevant today.
The poem begins with the line "I have heard that hysterical women say". This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as Yeats is mocking the idea that poetry is only for the elite. He is saying that anyone can appreciate poetry, regardless of their social status or education. The use of the word "hysterical" is also significant, as it suggests that those who believe poetry is only for the elite are irrational and emotional.
Yeats goes on to say that poetry is not just for the elite, but for everyone. He says that "poetry is the voice of the people". This line is particularly powerful, as it suggests that poetry is a way for ordinary people to express themselves and their experiences. Yeats is saying that poetry is not just a form of entertainment for the elite, but a way for people to connect with each other and share their stories.
The next few lines of the poem are particularly interesting, as Yeats talks about the power of poetry to inspire people to action. He says that "poetry makes nothing happen", but then goes on to say that "it survives / In the valley of its making where executives / Would never want to tamper". This suggests that while poetry may not directly change the world, it has the power to inspire people to action and to create change. The reference to executives is also significant, as it suggests that those in power may not want to hear what poets have to say, as it may challenge their authority.
Yeats then goes on to say that poetry is not just a form of entertainment, but a way of understanding the world. He says that "it is a way of seeing the world", and that "poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge". This suggests that poetry is not just a form of art, but a way of understanding the world and our place in it. Yeats is saying that poetry can help us to see the world in a new way, and to understand the complexities of life.
The final lines of the poem are particularly powerful, as Yeats talks about the importance of poetry in times of crisis. He says that "in times of crisis, we summon up our strength", and that "if the imagination is to transcend / If the heart is to survive". This suggests that poetry is not just a form of entertainment or a way of understanding the world, but a way of coping with difficult times. Yeats is saying that poetry can help us to find strength and resilience in times of crisis, and that it is an essential part of our humanity.
Overall, Poetry The People is a powerful and inspiring poem that speaks to the importance of poetry in our lives. Yeats is saying that poetry is not just for the elite, but for everyone, and that it has the power to inspire us, to help us understand the world, and to cope with difficult times. This poem is still relevant today, as we continue to grapple with the challenges of our world. It reminds us that poetry is not just a form of entertainment, but a way of connecting with each other and with our own humanity.
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