'The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water' by William Butler Yeats
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I HEARD the old, old men say,
And one by one we drop away."
They had hands like claws, and their knees
Were twisted like the old thorn-trees
By the waters.
I heard the old, old men say,
"All that's beautiful drifts away
Like the waters."
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water by William Butler Yeats
As I read through William Butler Yeats' "The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water," I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe and admiration for the sheer beauty and depth of the poem. From the striking imagery to the intricate symbolism, every element of this poem seems to work in perfect harmony, creating a work of art that is both powerful and profound.
At its heart, "The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water" is a meditation on the fleeting nature of youth and the inevitability of aging. The poem opens with a vivid description of a group of old men staring into a pool of water, admiring their reflections:
I heard the old, old men say, "Everything alters, And one by one we drop away." They had hands like claws, and their knees Were twisted like the old thorn-trees By the waters.
From the very beginning, Yeats establishes a sense of melancholy and sadness, as he describes the old men's physical decay in vivid detail. Their "hands like claws" and "twisted knees" are a clear indication of their advanced age, and the fact that they are "by the waters" highlights the theme of transience and impermanence that pervades the poem.
As the poem progresses, Yeats delves deeper into the symbolism of the old men and the water they are gazing into. He writes:
"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
Here, the speaker expresses the desire to escape from the world of the old men and their morbid reflections and instead, retreat to the idyllic paradise of Innisfree. By creating a contrast between the desolate landscape of the old men and the lush, vibrant world of Innisfree, Yeats highlights the idea of renewal and rebirth that is central to the poem.
The water itself also takes on symbolic significance, representing the passage of time and the inevitability of change. As the old men gaze into the pool, they are confronted with their own mortality, as Yeats writes:
"And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet's wings.
This line is particularly powerful, as it contrasts the peaceful, timeless world of Innisfree with the harsh reality of the old men's world, where everything is fleeting and temporary. The use of the phrase "peace comes dropping slow" is also significant, as it suggests that peace is something that must be sought after and earned, rather than something that can be easily attained.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of "The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water" is its use of poetic imagery. Yeats has a way of evoking images that are both vivid and haunting, creating a sense of atmosphere that is both otherworldly and deeply emotional.
For example, in the following lines, Yeats describes the old men's reflections in the water:
"O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer, Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?"
Here, Yeats uses the imagery of the chestnut tree to evoke a sense of rootedness and stability, while the image of the dancing body suggests movement and fluidity. The question posed at the end of the stanza is particularly powerful, as it highlights the idea that everything is in a constant state of flux and change, and that it is impossible to separate the dancer from the dance.
In conclusion, "The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water" is a powerful and profound work of poetry, one that explores the themes of aging, mortality, and renewal with depth and nuance. From its intricate use of symbolism to its vivid and haunting imagery, every aspect of this poem seems to work in perfect harmony, creating a work of art that is both timeless and deeply moving. As I read through this poem, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe and admiration for Yeats' skill as a poet, and for the sheer beauty and depth of his words.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water: A Masterpiece of William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, is known for his profound and complex works that explore the themes of love, death, and spirituality. Among his many masterpieces, The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water stands out as a unique and thought-provoking poem that captures the essence of human vanity and the fleeting nature of life.
Written in 1919, The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water is a short but powerful poem that consists of only eight lines. Despite its brevity, the poem is rich in symbolism and imagery, and it conveys a deep message about the human condition.
The poem begins with a description of old men who are admiring themselves in the water. The image of old men looking at their reflections in the water is a common motif in literature and art, and it is often associated with the theme of vanity. In this poem, however, Yeats takes this image to a deeper level by exploring the psychological and spiritual implications of this act.
The old men in the poem are not just admiring their physical appearance; they are also admiring their own reflections, which represent their inner selves. By looking at their reflections, the old men are trying to understand themselves and their place in the world. They are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives, and they are trying to come to terms with their mortality.
The second line of the poem, "And they say that all is well," is a powerful statement that encapsulates the theme of the poem. The old men are trying to convince themselves that everything is fine, that they have lived a good life, and that they are ready to face death. However, this statement is also a reflection of the human tendency to deny the harsh realities of life and to cling to illusions and delusions.
The third line of the poem, "And they say that all is well," is repeated in the fourth line, "And they say that all is well." This repetition creates a sense of rhythm and symmetry in the poem, and it emphasizes the theme of denial and self-deception. The old men are repeating this statement to themselves as a way of convincing themselves that everything is fine, but in reality, they are struggling to come to terms with their mortality.
The fifth line of the poem, "In this brief waking moment of emprise," is a powerful statement that captures the fleeting nature of life. The old men are aware that their time on earth is limited, and they are trying to make the most of it. However, this moment of clarity and awareness is brief, and it is soon replaced by the illusion of immortality and the denial of death.
The sixth line of the poem, "They fondle the depth of the sea," is a metaphor that represents the human desire for knowledge and understanding. The old men are trying to explore the depths of their own souls, and they are searching for answers to the fundamental questions of life. However, this search is futile, and the depth of the sea represents the vastness and complexity of the human psyche.
The seventh line of the poem, "Unmindful of the hawk and the dove," is a powerful statement that captures the indifference of nature to human concerns. The hawk and the dove represent the forces of nature that are beyond human control, and they are a reminder of the transience and fragility of human life. The old men are so absorbed in their own reflections that they are oblivious to the dangers and uncertainties of the world around them.
The final line of the poem, "And they say that all is well," is a poignant statement that captures the human tendency to deny the harsh realities of life and to cling to illusions and delusions. The old men are trying to convince themselves that everything is fine, but in reality, they are struggling to come to terms with their mortality.
In conclusion, The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water is a masterpiece of William Butler Yeats that explores the themes of vanity, mortality, and the human condition. Through powerful imagery and symbolism, Yeats captures the essence of human nature and the fleeting nature of life. The poem is a reminder of the transience and fragility of human life, and it is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the complexities and contradictions of the human experience.
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