'The Municipal Gallery Revisited' by William Butler Yeats

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AROUND me the images of thirty years:
An ambush; pilgrims at the water-side;
Casement upon trial, half hidden by the bars,
Guarded; Griffith staring in hysterical pride;
Kevin O'Higgins' countenance that wears
A gentle questioning look that cannot hide
A soul incapable of remorse or rest;
A revolutionary soldier kneeling to be blessed;
An Abbot or Archbishop with an upraised hand
Blessing the Tricolour."This is not,' I say,
"The dead Ireland of my youth, but an Ireland
The poets have imagined, terrible and gay.'
Before a woman's portrait suddenly I stand,
Beautiful and gentle in her Venetian way.
I met her all but fifty years ago
For twenty minutes in some studio.

Heart-smitten with emotion I Sink down,
My heart recovering with covered eyes;
Wherever I had looked I had looked upon
My permanent or impermanent images:
Augusta Gregory's son; her sister's son,
Hugh Lane, "onlie begetter' of all these;
Hazel Lavery living and dying, that tale
As though some ballad-singer had sung it all;
Mancini's portrait of Augusta Gregory,
"Greatest since Rembrandt,' according to John Synge;
A great ebullient portrait certainly;
But where is the brush that could show anything
Of all that pride and that humility?
And I am in despair that time may bring
Approved patterns of women or of men
But not that selfsame excellence again.
My mediaeval knees lack health until they bend,
But in that woman, in that household where
Honour had lived so long, all lacking found.
Childless I thought, "My children may find here
Deep-rooted things,' but never foresaw its end,
And now that end has come I have not wept;
No fox can foul the lair the badger swept --

(An image out of Spenser and the common tongue).
John Synge, I and Augusta Gregory, thought
All that we did, all that we said or sang
Must come from contact with the soil, from that
Contact everything Antaeus-like grew strong.
We three alone in modern times had brought
Everything down to that sole test again,
Dream of the noble and the beggar-man.

And here's John Synge himself, that rooted man,
"Forgetting human words,' a grave deep face.
You that would judge me, do not judge alone
This book or that, come to this hallowed place
Where my friends' portraits hang and look thereon;
Ireland's history in their lineaments trace;
Think where man's glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Municipal Gallery Revisited: A Deep Dive into Yeats' Masterpiece

I remember the first time I read William Butler Yeats' "The Municipal Gallery Revisited." I was spellbound. The images, the sounds, the rhythm, and the sheer beauty of the language captivated me. But as I dug deeper into the poem, I realized there was much more to it than meets the eye.

In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will take you on a journey through Yeats' masterpiece. We will explore the themes, the symbolism, and the literary techniques that make "The Municipal Gallery Revisited" a timeless work of art.

Setting the Scene

The poem opens with the speaker strolling through a gallery that houses the portraits of famous Irish people. The speaker is struck by the fact that most of these people are dead and wonders what they would think of their portraits hanging on the walls.

Sometimes I saw them clear:
Averil and her slime-green promenade
And her host of frolic manikins
Trailing their lustrous clothes.

We see glimpses of the portraits, and the speaker's attention is drawn to Averil, a woman depicted in a "slime-green promenade." The mention of "frolic manikins" adds a touch of whimsy and playfulness to the scene.

But there's more to Averil than meets the eye. As we'll see later, she represents a powerful force in Irish history.

The Theme of History

One of the central themes of the poem is history. The speaker reflects on the fact that most of the people depicted in the gallery are dead, and wonders what they would think of their portraits if they were alive.

All that I have said and done,
Now that I am old and ill,
Turns into a question till
I lie awake night after night
And never get the answers right.

The speaker is haunted by the past, by the legacy of these famous Irish people. He wonders what it all meant, and whether it was worth it in the end.

This theme of history is particularly relevant to Ireland, a country that has been shaped by centuries of conflict, oppression, and struggle for independence. Yeats himself was deeply interested in Irish history and mythology, and many of his poems reflect this fascination.

In "The Municipal Gallery Revisited," Yeats uses the gallery as a metaphor for Ireland's past. The portraits represent the people who have shaped Ireland's history, and the speaker's reflections represent the ongoing struggle to make sense of that history.

The Power of Art

Another theme that runs throughout the poem is the power of art. The speaker is moved by the portraits, by the way they capture the essence of the people they depict.

Their masterful images,
Wherein their ancient glories dwell,
Shall be renewed for passion's pledge,
When we are in our graves;

The speaker sees the portraits as a way to keep the memory of these people alive, to renew their ancient glories for future generations.

This theme of the power of art is also relevant to Yeats' own work. Like many poets, he believed that art had the power to move people, to inspire them, and to change the world.

The Symbolism of Averil

Let's go back to Averil, the woman depicted in the "slime-green promenade." Who is she, and what does she represent?

Averil is actually a reference to Averil Deverell, a real-life figure who was a member of the Irish Literary Theatre. Deverell was a powerful force in the Irish cultural renaissance of the early 20th century, and her influence can be seen in the work of many Irish writers and artists of the time.

But Averil also represents something more abstract. She represents the power of creativity, the force that drives artists and writers to create works of art that can change the world.

Her intellect and ardour
Had gone into what men said,
'Her wit dwelt on the trivial fret,
Know that the lightning dares
Greatly because of the flesh

Averil's intellect and ardor are contrasted with the "trivial fret" of everyday life. She is someone who dared to dream big, to strive for greatness, and to use her creativity to make a difference in the world.

The Literary Techniques of Yeats

As we've seen, "The Municipal Gallery Revisited" is a rich and complex poem that explores important themes and symbols. But what about the literary techniques that Yeats uses to bring the poem to life?

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of imagery. Yeats paints vivid pictures with his words, from the "slime-green promenade" of Averil to the "masterful images" of the portraits.

Another technique that Yeats uses is repetition. The phrase "the living stream" appears several times throughout the poem, reminding us of the ongoing flow of history and the power of art to keep that history alive.

Yeats also uses alliteration and assonance to create a musical quality to the poem. Lines such as "Their masterful images, / Wherein their ancient glories dwell" are a pleasure to read aloud.


"The Municipal Gallery Revisited" is a masterpiece of poetry that explores important themes of history, the power of art, and the force of creativity. Yeats uses vivid imagery, powerful symbols, and masterful literary techniques to create a work that is both beautiful and meaningful.

As we stroll through the gallery with the speaker, we are reminded of the ongoing flow of history, the power of art to keep that history alive, and the importance of daring to dream big and strive for greatness. This is a poem that rewards close reading and reflection, a true masterpiece of modern literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Municipal Gallery Revisited: A Masterpiece of William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats, the renowned Irish poet, is known for his profound and thought-provoking poetry. One of his most celebrated works is "The Municipal Gallery Revisited," a poem that explores the themes of art, history, and the human condition. This poem is a masterpiece that showcases Yeats' poetic genius and his ability to convey complex ideas through simple yet powerful language.

The poem begins with the speaker visiting a municipal gallery, where he sees portraits of famous Irish figures from the past. The speaker is struck by the beauty and power of these portraits, which seem to come alive before his eyes. He is particularly drawn to the portrait of John O'Leary, a revolutionary leader who fought for Irish independence. The speaker is moved by O'Leary's courage and dedication to his cause, and he reflects on the struggles and sacrifices of the Irish people throughout history.

As the speaker continues to wander through the gallery, he encounters other portraits that evoke different emotions and thoughts. He sees the portrait of Parnell, a political leader who fought for Irish rights, and he reflects on the tragedy of Parnell's downfall. He sees the portrait of Lady Gregory, a writer and patron of the arts, and he reflects on the importance of creativity and imagination in Irish culture.

Throughout the poem, Yeats uses vivid and evocative language to bring the portraits to life. He describes the "burning" eyes of John O'Leary, the "haughty" expression of Parnell, and the "kindly" smile of Lady Gregory. These descriptions not only capture the physical appearance of the portraits but also convey the personalities and emotions of the people they depict.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of repetition. The phrase "All's changed" appears several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the idea that the world is constantly evolving and that nothing remains the same. This repetition also highlights the theme of history and the idea that the past is always present in the present.

Another notable feature of the poem is its use of symbolism. The gallery itself is a symbol of Irish culture and history, and the portraits represent different aspects of that culture and history. The burning eyes of John O'Leary symbolize his passion and commitment to the cause of Irish independence, while the haughty expression of Parnell symbolizes his pride and downfall. Lady Gregory's kindly smile symbolizes the importance of creativity and imagination in Irish culture.

Overall, "The Municipal Gallery Revisited" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of art, history, and the human condition. Yeats' use of vivid language, repetition, and symbolism creates a rich and complex portrait of Irish culture and history. This poem is a testament to Yeats' poetic genius and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience in his writing.

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