'A Stick Of Incense' by William Butler Yeats
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Whence did all that fury come?
From empty tomb or Virgin womb?
Saint Joseph thought the world would melt
But liked the way his finger smelt.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Poetry Analysis: A Stick of Incense by William Butler Yeats
When it comes to poetry, William Butler Yeats is one of the greatest poets of all time. His poems are full of rich imagery, metaphors, and symbolism that can be interpreted in many ways. One of his most famous poems, "A Stick of Incense," is a perfect example of his mastery of the craft.
"A Stick of Incense" was written in 1888 when Yeats was just 23 years old. At the time, he was living in London, and the poem reflects his feelings of homesickness and longing for Ireland. The poem was originally published in the Dublin University Review and later included in Yeats' first collection of poems, "The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems."
The poem is about a stick of incense burning in a room. The speaker of the poem watches the smoke rise and imagines it as a spirit or ghost. He sees the spirit as a representation of his own soul, drifting away from him and disappearing. The poem is filled with imagery and metaphors that reflect the speaker's feelings of loss and longing.
The poem begins with the lines, "Thin are the night-skirts left behind / By daybreak hours that onward creep." These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker is describing the night turning into day, and the idea of time passing is a recurring theme throughout the poem. The "thin night-skirts" left behind represent the memories and emotions that linger after a long night.
The next line, "And still I dance and whirl and sing," introduces the idea of movement and energy. The speaker is trying to distract himself from his feelings of homesickness and loss. He's trying to keep moving and keep his mind occupied, but the smoke from the incense reminds him of what he's missing.
The image of the incense burning is a powerful one. The speaker describes the smoke as "curling" and "coiling," creating a sense of movement and fluidity. He imagines the smoke as a "phantom" or "ghost" that is "drifting" away from him. This image represents the speaker's own sense of displacement and disconnection from his homeland.
The line, "And still the room, above the sea, / Is full of the light that dances free," is a beautiful example of Yeats' use of imagery. The image of the room being "above the sea" creates a sense of isolation and loneliness. The room is cut off from the world, and the speaker is trapped inside, watching the smoke rise.
The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. The speaker says, "I'll wake, and tremble, and turn blue, / For the first dumb word of the bird." This line represents the speaker's longing for home. He's waiting for the sound of a familiar bird, a symbol of Ireland, to remind him of where he comes from. The image of him "trembling" and "turning blue" is a powerful one, representing his intense emotions.
There are many ways to interpret "A Stick of Incense." Some readers may see it as a simple poem about homesickness and longing. Others may see it as a metaphor for the human soul and its search for meaning and belonging.
The image of the incense burning is a powerful one. Incense is often used in religious ceremonies to symbolize prayer and spiritual communication. The smoke rising from the incense can be seen as a symbol of the soul's connection with the divine. The image of the smoke drifting away can be interpreted as a metaphor for the soul's journey through life, searching for connection and meaning.
The speaker's longing for home can also be interpreted as a metaphor for the human search for a sense of belonging. We all long for a place where we feel at home, where we feel connected to something greater than ourselves. The speaker's search for home can be seen as a universal human experience.
"A Stick of Incense" is a beautiful and powerful poem that reflects William Butler Yeats' mastery of the craft. The poem is full of rich imagery, metaphors, and symbolism that can be interpreted in many ways. Whether you see it as a simple poem about homesickness or a metaphor for the human soul's search for meaning, the poem speaks to universal human experiences. It is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the essence of human emotion and experience.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry is a form of art that has the power to transport us to different worlds, evoke emotions, and make us ponder the mysteries of life. One such poem that has stood the test of time is "A Stick of Incense" by William Butler Yeats. This poem is a beautiful and evocative piece of literature that captures the essence of life and death, and the fleeting nature of existence.
The poem begins with the speaker describing a stick of incense burning in a room. The smoke from the incense rises and fills the room, creating a mystical and ethereal atmosphere. The speaker then reflects on the transience of life, comparing it to the smoke from the incense that disappears into the air.
The first stanza of the poem sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The speaker describes the stick of incense as "fragile" and "pale," highlighting its delicate nature. The incense is burning in a "dim-lit" room, which adds to the mystical and otherworldly atmosphere. The smoke from the incense is described as "wreathing," which gives it a sense of movement and life. The speaker then compares the smoke to "ghosts," which adds to the eerie and mysterious tone of the poem.
In the second stanza, the speaker reflects on the fleeting nature of life. The smoke from the incense is compared to "the fleeting breath" of a person, highlighting the idea that life is short and transitory. The speaker then asks the question, "What ghosts are these?" which suggests that the smoke from the incense represents the spirits of the dead. The speaker then reflects on the idea that the dead are still with us, even though we cannot see them.
The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. The speaker reflects on the idea that life is a "dream," and that death is the awakening from that dream. The smoke from the incense is compared to "the dream that death must dream," which suggests that death is a continuation of the dream of life. The speaker then reflects on the idea that death is not an end, but a transformation. The smoke from the incense is described as "changing," which suggests that death is a process of transformation and change.
The final stanza of the poem brings the piece to a close. The speaker reflects on the idea that life is a "brief candle," which is a metaphor for the transience of life. The smoke from the incense is compared to "the wick that's burned," which suggests that life is like a candle that burns down to nothing. The speaker then reflects on the idea that death is not something to be feared, but something to be embraced. The smoke from the incense is described as "rising," which suggests that death is a process of ascension and transcendence.
Overall, "A Stick of Incense" is a beautiful and evocative poem that captures the essence of life and death. The poem is full of powerful metaphors and imagery that create a mystical and otherworldly atmosphere. The poem is a reminder that life is short and transitory, and that death is not an end, but a transformation. The poem encourages us to embrace the mystery of life and death, and to live our lives to the fullest.
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