'Reconciliation' by William Butler Yeats

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SOME may have blamed you that you took away
The verses that could move them on the day
When, the ears being deafened, the sight of the eyes blind
With lightning, you went from me, and I could find
Nothing to make a song about but kings,
Helmets, and swords, and half-forgotten things
That were like memories of you -- but now
We'll out, for the world lives as long ago;
And while we're in our laughing, weeping fit,
Hurl helmets, crowns, and swords into the pit.
But, dear, cling close to me; since you were gone,
My barren thoughts have chilled me to the bone.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Reconciliation by William Butler Yeats

"I have met them at close of day" - these haunting words mark the beginning of William Butler Yeats' poem, "Poetry, Reconciliation". Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and this poem is a prime example of his mastery of language and his ability to evoke deep emotions in readers.

An Introduction

The poem is set against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence, which took place from 1919 to 1921. Ireland was in a state of turmoil at the time, with the Irish Republican Army fighting for independence from British rule. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which describes a different aspect of the conflict.

The First Stanza

The first stanza begins with the line "I have met them at close of day", which immediately draws the reader in. Yeats describes meeting a group of men and women who have been "out in the open air", likely referring to the IRA fighters who were waging a guerilla war against the British forces. The speaker of the poem seems to know these people well, and is familiar with their struggles.

The second half of the stanza is particularly powerful, as Yeats describes the "terrible beauty" of the Irish landscape. The phrase is a paradox, as beauty is typically associated with positive emotions, while "terrible" suggests something frightening or horrific. This paradox encapsulates the essence of the conflict in Ireland at the time - a struggle for freedom that was both beautiful and terrible.

The Second Stanza

The second stanza begins with the line "All changed, changed utterly". Here, Yeats is referring to the Easter Rising of 1916, a failed rebellion against British rule that had a significant impact on the Irish independence movement. The rebellion ended in the execution of its leaders, which ignited a wave of nationalistic sentiment among the Irish people.

Yeats draws on this sentiment in his description of the "hearts with one purpose alone". The Irish people were united in their desire for independence, and this sense of unity is reflected in the poem. The use of repetition in the line "And caught the deep heart's core" emphasizes the emotional impact of the rebellion and the depth of feeling it inspired.

The Third Stanza

The third and final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. Yeats describes a scene of reconciliation, where "the living and the dead" come together. This is a reference to the many lives lost in the conflict, both on the side of the IRA and the British forces.

The image of the "murmur of maternal lamentation" is particularly moving, as it suggests that even in the midst of war, there is a deep sense of compassion and empathy for those who have suffered loss. Yeats is reminding us that even in the face of great tragedy, there is hope for reconciliation and healing.


"Poetry, Reconciliation" is a deeply emotional poem that captures the essence of the Irish struggle for independence. Yeats uses vivid imagery and powerful language to evoke a sense of the beauty and tragedy of the conflict. The poem is a reminder that even in the midst of war, there is always hope for peace and reconciliation.

The theme of unity is central to the poem, as Yeats portrays the Irish people as a united force in their struggle for independence. This sense of unity is reflected in the repetition and rhythm of the poem, which creates a feeling of solidarity and camaraderie.

The use of paradox and irony is also significant in the poem. Yeats describes the beauty of the Irish landscape in the midst of war, and the deep sense of compassion that exists even in the midst of great tragedy. These paradoxes serve to highlight the complexity of the conflict and the many emotions it evokes.


"Poetry, Reconciliation" is a powerful and moving poem that captures the essence of the Irish struggle for independence. Yeats' use of language and imagery is masterful, and the poem is a testament to his skill as a poet. The themes of unity, compassion, and hope are central to the poem, and serve as a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always the possibility for reconciliation and healing.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Reconciliation: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, playwright, and politician, is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. His works are known for their lyrical beauty, deep symbolism, and profound philosophical insights. Among his many masterpieces, Poetry Reconciliation stands out as a powerful and moving poem that captures the essence of human conflict and the possibility of redemption through art.

Written in 1923, Poetry Reconciliation is a poem that reflects Yeats' own struggle with the political and cultural divisions of his time. Ireland was then in the midst of a bitter struggle for independence from British rule, and Yeats was torn between his loyalty to his country and his love for the English literary tradition. In this poem, Yeats seeks to reconcile these conflicting loyalties by finding a common ground in the power of poetry to transcend political and cultural boundaries.

The poem begins with a vivid description of a battlefield, where soldiers from opposing sides lie dead and wounded. The imagery is stark and brutal, evoking the horror and futility of war. But then, in a sudden shift of tone and perspective, Yeats introduces the figure of a poet who comes to the battlefield to heal the wounds of the past and bring about reconciliation.

The poet is described as a "man who is a bard," a term that in Yeats' time referred to a poet who was not only a writer but also a performer and a keeper of tradition. The bard is portrayed as a figure of great power and authority, who can command the attention and respect of both sides. He is also depicted as a healer, who can use his words to soothe the pain and bitterness of the past.

The bard's mission is to bring about a reconciliation between the warring factions, not by erasing their differences, but by transcending them through the power of poetry. He begins by reciting a poem that celebrates the heroism and sacrifice of both sides, acknowledging their common humanity and their shared destiny. The poem is a masterpiece of lyrical beauty and emotional depth, evoking the full range of human emotions from love and joy to grief and despair.

As the bard recites his poem, a miracle occurs. The dead soldiers rise from their graves, and the wounded are healed. The battlefield is transformed into a garden of peace and beauty, where the former enemies embrace and celebrate their newfound unity. The poem ends with a vision of a world where poetry has the power to heal all wounds and bring about a lasting reconciliation between all peoples.

Poetry Reconciliation is a poem that speaks to the universal human experience of conflict and division. It reminds us that even in the darkest moments of history, there is always the possibility of redemption through art. Yeats' vision of the poet as a healer and a reconciler is a powerful one, and it has inspired generations of poets and artists to use their craft to bring about social and political change.

The poem is also a testament to Yeats' own artistic genius. His use of language and imagery is masterful, evoking a sense of both the beauty and the horror of war. His portrayal of the bard as a figure of great power and authority is both mythic and realistic, capturing the essence of the poet as both an artist and a leader. And his vision of a world transformed by the power of poetry is both inspiring and prophetic.

In conclusion, Poetry Reconciliation is a masterpiece of modern poetry that speaks to the deepest aspirations of the human spirit. It is a poem that celebrates the power of art to heal and transform, and it reminds us that even in the darkest moments of history, there is always the possibility of redemption through the creative imagination. Yeats' legacy as a poet and a visionary is secure, and his influence on the world of literature and culture will continue to be felt for generations to come.

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