'The Mountain Tomb' by William Butler Yeats
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POUR wine and dance if manhood still have pride,
Bring roses if the rose be yet in bloom;
The cataract smokes upon the mountain side,
Our Father Rosicross is in his tomb.
Pull down the blinds, bring fiddle and clarionet
That there be no foot silent in the room
Nor mouth from kissing, nor from wine unwet;
Our Father Rosicross is in his tomb.
In vain, in pain; the cataract still cries;
The everlasting taper lights the gloom;
All wisdom shut into his onyx eyes,
Our Father Rosicross sleeps in his tomb.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Mountain Tomb by William Butler Yeats: A Masterpiece of Symbolism and Imagery
William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, known for his lyrical mastery and philosophical depth. Among his many works, "The Mountain Tomb" stands out as a masterpiece of symbolism and imagery, exploring themes of death, rebirth, and the search for transcendence. In this essay, I will provide a detailed literary criticism and interpretation of this poem, exploring its structure, language, and meaning.
Structure and Language
"The Mountain Tomb" is a short poem, consisting of four stanzas of four lines each, with a regular ABAB rhyme scheme. The title itself is already suggestive of the poem's central image, which is repeated throughout the text: a "tomb" in the "mountain," evoking the idea of a burial place for someone or something of great importance.
The language of the poem is rich with symbolism and metaphor, inviting the reader to engage with its layers of meaning. The opening lines set the tone for the rest of the poem:
Upon the mountain-top The rose of Sharon blooms, Out of the iron fields My lover comes with drums.
Here, we have an image of a mountain-top, a place that is traditionally associated with transcendence, spiritual enlightenment, or divine revelation. The rose of Sharon, a biblical symbol of beauty and purity, is blooming there, suggesting the presence of something sacred or holy. Yet, this idyllic scene is interrupted by the mention of "iron fields" and "drums," which suggest something more ominous or martial.
As the poem progresses, we learn that the speaker is mourning the loss of a loved one who has been buried in the mountain tomb. The language becomes more somber and introspective, as the speaker reflects on the meaning of death and the possibility of rebirth:
O heart of mine, we shouldn't Worry so! What we've missed Of calm we couldn't have, you know! What we've had, we've paid for --
Here, the speaker is trying to console himself, reminding himself that everything has a price and that the pain of loss is a natural part of life. The repetition of the phrase "we've" emphasizes the shared nature of this experience, suggesting that the speaker is not alone in his grief.
The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most enigmatic, as it introduces a new image that is both mysterious and haunting:
The airs of night may blow the stars Over the graves of warriors Worthy of such a tomb.
Here, we have an image of the "airs of night" blowing the stars over the graves of warriors, who are deemed worthy of such a tomb. The meaning of this image is ambiguous, but it suggests a sense of awe or reverence for those who have passed on. It also reinforces the theme of transcendence and the idea that death is not the end, but a gateway to a higher realm.
"The Mountain Tomb" is a poem that invites multiple interpretations, depending on one's reading of its symbols and themes. At its core, however, the poem is a meditation on death and the human search for meaning in the face of loss.
The image of the mountain-top, with its connotations of transcendence and spiritual enlightenment, suggests that death is not the end, but a passage to a higher realm. The rose of Sharon, a traditional symbol of beauty and purity, reinforces this idea by suggesting the presence of something sacred or holy.
At the same time, the poem acknowledges the pain and sorrow of loss, as the speaker mourns the passing of a loved one who has been buried in the mountain tomb. The image of the tomb itself is both ominous and poignant, suggesting that death is a mystery that we cannot fully comprehend.
However, the poem also offers a sense of consolation and acceptance, as the speaker reminds himself that everything has a price and that the pain of loss is a natural part of life. The repetition of the phrase "we've" emphasizes the shared nature of this experience, suggesting that the speaker is not alone in his grief.
The final stanza of the poem introduces a new image that is both mysterious and haunting. The idea of the airs of night blowing the stars over the graves of warriors suggests a sense of awe or reverence for those who have passed on. It also reinforces the theme of transcendence and the idea that death is not the end, but a gateway to a higher realm.
In conclusion, "The Mountain Tomb" is a masterpiece of symbolism and imagery, exploring themes of death, rebirth, and the search for transcendence. The poem's structure and language invite the reader to engage with its layers of meaning, while its central image of the mountain tomb evokes a sense of mystery and awe. Ultimately, the poem offers a powerful meditation on the meaning of life and the human desire for transcendence in the face of death.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Mountain Tomb: A Poetic Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, was known for his deep and complex works that explored the human condition, spirituality, and the mysteries of life. Among his many masterpieces, "The Mountain Tomb" stands out as a haunting and powerful poem that captures the essence of death and the afterlife.
Written in 1934, "The Mountain Tomb" is a short but intense poem that tells the story of a man who dies and is buried in a mountain tomb. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with four lines, and follows a simple ABAB rhyme scheme. However, the simplicity of the structure is deceptive, as the poem is rich in symbolism and imagery that conveys a deep sense of mystery and awe.
The first stanza sets the scene and introduces the main character, the dead man who lies in his mountain tomb. The opening line, "In the tomb of Nefertari, hidden away," immediately creates a sense of intrigue and mystery, as Nefertari was a queen of ancient Egypt who was buried in a magnificent tomb in the Valley of the Queens. The reference to Nefertari suggests that the dead man is someone of great importance, someone who deserves to be buried in a grand and secluded place.
The second line, "By the mountain of Pharaoh, lit by the moon," adds to the sense of grandeur and mystery, as the mountain of Pharaoh is likely a reference to a sacred mountain in ancient Egypt that was associated with the afterlife. The moon, a symbol of mystery and magic, further enhances the otherworldly atmosphere of the poem.
The third line, "Lies a man who was lord of Thebes in his day," reveals the identity of the dead man and confirms that he was indeed a person of great importance. Thebes was the capital of ancient Egypt during the New Kingdom period, and its rulers were considered to be among the most powerful and influential in the world. The fact that the dead man was once the lord of Thebes suggests that he was a king or a pharaoh, someone who wielded immense power and authority.
The final line of the stanza, "And whatever he did with his wealth and his might," is a powerful statement that suggests that the dead man's life was defined by his actions and accomplishments. The use of the word "whatever" suggests that the narrator does not know or does not care about the specifics of the dead man's life, but that his deeds were significant enough to warrant a grand burial in a mountain tomb.
The second stanza of the poem shifts the focus from the dead man to the tomb itself, and the imagery becomes more vivid and intense. The opening line, "The mountain tomb is opened, and the dead are there," creates a sense of foreboding and anticipation, as the reader wonders what will happen next. The use of the present tense suggests that the events of the poem are unfolding in real time, adding to the sense of immediacy and urgency.
The second line, "The pharaohs are all there, the dead that were great," reinforces the idea that the dead man was someone of great importance, and that he is surrounded by other powerful and influential figures from history. The use of the word "great" suggests that these figures were not only powerful, but also virtuous and admirable.
The third line, "And the children of kings, and the poets who sung," adds a new dimension to the poem, as it suggests that the dead man is not only surrounded by rulers and warriors, but also by artists and thinkers. The fact that poets are included in this group suggests that the dead man valued creativity and beauty, and that he recognized the importance of art in human life.
The final line of the stanza, "And the people who loved them, and the people they loved," is a poignant reminder that even the most powerful and influential figures in history were once loved and cherished by others. The use of the word "loved" suggests that the dead man was not only respected and admired, but also deeply loved by those who knew him.
The third and final stanza of the poem brings the narrative to a close, and the imagery becomes even more intense and vivid. The opening line, "And the dead remain silent, and the living are dumb," suggests that the dead have nothing left to say, and that the living are unable to comprehend the mysteries of death and the afterlife.
The second line, "And the night is so still that you hear a fly hum," creates a sense of eerie stillness and silence, as the only sound in the tomb is the buzzing of a fly. The use of the word "hum" suggests that the fly is not only making noise, but also communicating in some way, adding to the sense of mystery and otherworldliness.
The third line, "And the silence is broken, and the shadows are stirred," suggests that something is about to happen, and that the dead are about to reveal their secrets. The use of the word "shadows" suggests that the dead are not fully present, but are instead spectral and elusive.
The final line of the poem, "And the dead are all risen, and the living are dead," is a powerful statement that suggests that death is not the end, but rather a transition to a new state of being. The use of the word "risen" suggests that the dead are not only awake, but also active and engaged, while the phrase "the living are dead" suggests that the living are not truly alive, but are instead trapped in a state of ignorance and confusion.
In conclusion, "The Mountain Tomb" is a haunting and powerful poem that explores the mysteries of death and the afterlife. Through vivid imagery and rich symbolism, William Butler Yeats creates a sense of awe and wonder that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. The poem reminds us that even the most powerful and influential figures in history are subject to the same fate as everyone else, and that death is not the end, but rather a gateway to a new and mysterious realm.
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