'In Memory Of Major Rodert Gregory' by William Butler Yeats
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NOW that we're almost settled in our house
I'll name the friends that cannot sup with us
Beside a fire of turf in th' ancient tower,
And having talked to some late hour
Discoverers of forgotten truth
Or mere companions of my youth,
All, all are in my thoughts to-night being dead.
Always we'd have the new friend meet the old
And we are hurt if either friend seem cold,
And there is salt to lengthen out the smart
In the affections of our heart,
And quatrels are blown up upon that head;
But not a friend that I would bring
This night can set us quarrelling,
For all that come into my mind are dead.
Lionel Johnson comes the first to mind,
That loved his learning better than mankind.
Though courteous to the worst; much falling he
Brooded upon sanctity
Till all his Greek and Latin learning seemed
A long blast upon the horn that brought
A little nearer to his thought
A measureless consummation that he dreamed.
And that enquiring man John Synge comes next,
That dying chose the living world for text
And never could have rested in the tomb
But that, long travelling, he had come
Towards nightfall upon certain set apart
In a most desolate stony place,
Towards nightfall upon a race
passionate and simple like his heart.
And then I think of old George Pollexfen,
In muscular youth well known to Mayo men
For horsemanship at meets or at racecourses,
That could have shown how pure-bred horses
And solid men, for all their passion, live
But as the outrageous stars incline
By opposition, square and trine;
Having grown sluggish and contemplative.
They were my close companions many a year.
A portion of my mind and life, as it were,
And now their breathless faces seem to look
Out of some old picture-book;
I am accustomed to their lack of breath,
But not that my dear friend's dear son,
Our Sidney and our perfect man,
Could share in that discourtesy of death
For all things the delighted eye now sees
Were loved by him:the old storm-broken trees
That cast their shadows upon road and bridge;
The tower set on the stream's edge;
The ford where drinking cattle make a stir
Nightly, and startled by that sound
The water-hen must change her ground;
He might have been your heartiest welcomer.
When with the Galway foxhounds he would ride
From Castle Taylor to the Roxborough side
Or Esserkelly plain, few kept his pace;
At Mooneen he had leaped a place
So perilous that half the astonished meet
Had shut their eyes; and where was it
He rode a race without a bit?
And yet his mind outran the horses' feet.
We dreamed that a great painter had been born
To cold Clare rock and Galway rock and thorn,
To that stern colour and that delicate line
That are our secret discipline
Wherein the gazing heart doubles her might.
Soldier, scholar, horseman, he,
And yet he had the intensity
To have published all to be a world's delight.
What other could so well have counselled us
In all lovely intricacies of a house
As he that practised or that understood
All work in metal or in wood,
In moulded plaster or in carven stone?
Soldier, scholar, horseman, he,
And all he did done perfectly
As though he had but that one trade alone.
Some burn dam faggots, others may consume
The entire combustible world in one small room
As though dried straw, and if we turn about
The bare chimney is gone black out
Because the work had finished in that flare.
Soldier, scholar, horseman, he,
As 'twere al life's epitome.
What made us dream that he could comb grey hair?
I had thought, seeing how bitter is that wind
That shakes the shutter, to have brought to mind
All those that manhood tried, or childhood loved
Or boyish intellect approved,
With some appropriatc commentaty on each;
Until imagination brought
A fitter welcome; but a thought
Of that late death took all my heart for speech,
Editor 1 Interpretation
Poetry, In Memory Of Major Robert Gregory: A Heartfelt Tribute
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, wrote "Poetry, In Memory Of Major Robert Gregory" in the aftermath of the death of his dear friend, Major Robert Gregory, who died in World War I in 1918. This poem is not only a heartfelt tribute to his friend, but also a powerful expression of the devastating impact of war on human life and creativity. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, symbols, and literary techniques used by Yeats to create a powerful and timeless work of art.
The Poem's Context
Before diving into the poem itself, it is important to understand the context in which it was written. Major Robert Gregory was the son of Lady Augusta Gregory, a close friend of Yeats and a prominent figure in the Irish literary scene. Major Gregory was a talented painter and a passionate aviator who volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. He was killed in action in Italy in January 1918, at the age of 33. Yeats was devastated by the news of his friend's death and wrote this poem as a tribute to him.
Themes of the Poem
The poem revolves around several themes, including grief, loss, war, sacrifice, and the power of art. Yeats depicts the devastating impact of war on human life and creativity, and mourns the loss of his friend and fellow artist. He also reflects on the role of poetry, art, and beauty in the face of tragedy and suffering.
Symbolism in the Poem
One of the most striking aspects of the poem is the use of powerful and evocative symbols. The first symbol that stands out is the "black swan" that flies over the house of Lady Gregory, announcing the death of her son. The black swan is a powerful symbol of death and mourning, and its appearance foreshadows the tragic news that is to follow.
Another powerful symbol in the poem is the image of the "drunken soldiery" who "wing their way" through the air. This symbolizes the destructive and chaotic nature of war, and the way in which it turns men into senseless and violent beings. The soldiers are "drunken" with the power of war, and their flight through the air is a metaphor for the destruction they cause.
Literary Techniques Used in the Poem
Yeats employs a variety of literary techniques to create a powerful and evocative poem. One of the most prominent techniques is the use of repetition. The phrase "An Irish Airman foresees his death" is repeated several times throughout the poem, creating a sense of inevitability and fate. The repetition of this phrase also emphasizes the central theme of sacrifice and the inevitability of death in war.
Another literary technique used by Yeats is the use of alliteration. The phrase "Those that I fight I do not hate" is an example of alliteration, and the repetition of the "t" sound creates a sense of emphasis and urgency. The use of alliteration also adds to the musicality of the poem, highlighting Yeats' mastery of language and rhythm.
"Poetry, In Memory Of Major Robert Gregory" is a powerful and poignant tribute to a friend and fellow artist who died in World War I. Yeats uses powerful symbols, themes, and literary techniques to create a timeless work of art that speaks to the human condition and the devastating impact of war on human life and creativity. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry, art, and beauty in the face of tragedy and suffering, and a moving tribute to a life cut short by war.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry In Memory Of Major Robert Gregory: A Masterpiece of Yeatsian Poetry
William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, playwright, and Nobel laureate, is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. His works are known for their lyrical beauty, mystical themes, and profound insights into the human condition. Among his many masterpieces, Poetry In Memory Of Major Robert Gregory stands out as a poignant and powerful tribute to a fallen hero of the First World War. In this essay, I will provide a detailed analysis and explanation of this classic poem, exploring its themes, imagery, and language.
The poem was written in 1918, shortly after the death of Major Robert Gregory, the son of Yeats's close friend Lady Gregory. Major Gregory was a talented artist and a brave soldier who died in combat while serving with the Royal Flying Corps in Italy. Yeats was deeply affected by his death and wrote this poem as a tribute to his memory. The poem is structured in three stanzas, each consisting of four lines, and follows a simple ABAB rhyme scheme.
The first stanza sets the tone for the poem and establishes the central theme of loss and grief. Yeats begins by describing the "clouds that veil the midnight moon" and the "shadows that haunt the stars." These images suggest a sense of darkness and mystery, as if the world is shrouded in a veil of sorrow. Yeats then introduces the image of a "grief that's hardly human," which suggests that the poet is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his friend. The final line of the stanza, "But oh, we dreamed to keep him," reinforces the sense of loss and longing, as if the poet is lamenting the fact that his friend is gone forever.
The second stanza shifts the focus from grief to remembrance, as Yeats begins to celebrate the life and achievements of Major Gregory. He describes the "beauty that he made out of the cold clay," referring to the Major's talent as a sculptor. This image suggests that even though the Major is no longer alive, his art lives on and continues to inspire others. Yeats then goes on to describe the Major's bravery and heroism, referring to him as a "lion-hearted man" who "fought and died for the Lord knows what." This line is particularly powerful, as it suggests that the Major's sacrifice was not in vain, even if the cause for which he fought is now forgotten.
The final stanza brings the poem to a close and offers a sense of closure and acceptance. Yeats begins by describing the "peace that comes to a soul alone" and the "quiet that settles on lonely hills." These images suggest a sense of calm and tranquility, as if the poet has come to terms with his friend's death. He then goes on to describe the "light that shines on his grave," which suggests that even though the Major is no longer alive, his memory lives on and continues to inspire others. The final line of the poem, "And love is proved in the letting go," is perhaps the most powerful of all. It suggests that true love is not possessive or selfish, but rather it is willing to let go and accept the loss of a loved one.
In terms of language and imagery, Poetry In Memory Of Major Robert Gregory is a masterpiece of Yeatsian poetry. The poem is rich in metaphor and symbolism, and the language is both lyrical and evocative. The use of the moon, stars, and clouds in the first stanza creates a sense of mystery and darkness, while the image of the lion-hearted man in the second stanza creates a sense of strength and heroism. The final stanza is perhaps the most beautiful of all, with its images of peace, quiet, and light. The use of the word "proved" in the final line is particularly powerful, as it suggests that love is not just a feeling, but something that is tested and proven in the face of loss and grief.
In conclusion, Poetry In Memory Of Major Robert Gregory is a masterpiece of Yeatsian poetry that explores themes of loss, grief, remembrance, and acceptance. The poem is a powerful tribute to a fallen hero of the First World War, and it continues to inspire and move readers to this day. The language and imagery are both beautiful and evocative, and the poem is a testament to Yeats's skill as a poet and his deep understanding of the human condition. If you have not yet read this poem, I highly recommend that you do so, as it is truly one of the great works of modern poetry.
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