'Fragments' by William Butler Yeats

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LOCKE sank into a swoon;
The Garden died;
God took the spinning-jenny
Out of his side.

Where got I that truth?
Out of a medium's mouth.
Out of nothing it came,
Out of the forest loam,
Out of dark night where lay
The crowns of Nineveh.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Deeper Look into Yeats' Fragments

William Butler Yeats is one of the most prominent figures in modernist poetry, and his work has been the subject of countless literary analyses. One of his most famous works is "Fragments," a collection of short poems that were written over the course of several years.

At first glance, "Fragments" may seem disjointed and lacking in coherence. But upon closer inspection, the collection reveals a profound exploration of the human experience that is both beautiful and haunting. In this literary criticism, I will delve into the themes, imagery, and language used in "Fragments" to provide a deeper understanding of Yeats' work.

The Themes of "Fragments"

One of the central themes of "Fragments" is the passage of time and the transience of life. The collection is filled with references to aging, death, and the impermanence of human existence. In "A Poet to His Beloved," for example, Yeats writes:

"I bring you with reverent hands / The books of my numberless dreams, / White woman that passion has worn / As the tide wears the dove-grey sands, / And with heart more old than the horn / That is brimmed from the pale fire of time: / White woman with numberless dreams!"

Here, Yeats presents his lover as a symbol of the fleeting nature of life. He describes her as "white" and "pale," suggesting that she is ethereal and ephemeral. The "numberless dreams" that he refers to are also indicative of the transience of life, as dreams are fleeting and often forgotten upon waking.

Another theme that is present throughout "Fragments" is the idea of beauty and its relationship to truth. Yeats suggests that beauty is a powerful force that can lead us to the truth, or at least to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. In "The Rose of Battle," for example, he writes:

"The light of battle glimmers in your hair. / My heart beneath your feet / Rests motionless, but yet / Forever murmurs and sighs; / And in the midst of the fight / It raises itself and flutters / And cries and sings like a bird."

Here, Yeats presents the image of a woman as a symbol of beauty and truth. The "light of battle" in her hair suggests that she is a warrior, and her presence inspires the speaker's heart to "raise itself and flutters / And cries and sings like a bird." This suggests that beauty can be a powerful force that can inspire us to transcend our limitations and connect with something greater than ourselves.

The Imagery of "Fragments"

One of the most striking aspects of "Fragments" is the vivid and often surreal imagery that Yeats employs. He frequently uses images from mythology and folklore to convey his ideas about the human experience. In "The Rose of Battle," for example, he describes the woman's hair as being like "the light of battle," which evokes images of ancient warriors and epic battles.

Yeats also frequently uses images of nature to convey his ideas. In "The Folly of Being Comforted," he writes:

"O, heart, the winds have shaken the moon, / The winds have spoken to the leaves, / From wordless mysteries you must take / A secret and a wisdom not your own."

Here, Yeats uses the image of the winds shaking the moon and speaking to the leaves to suggest that nature is full of mystery and wisdom that we can tap into. The "secret and a wisdom not your own" that the speaker must take suggests that this knowledge is available to all who seek it out.

The Language of "Fragments"

In addition to his use of vivid and often surreal imagery, Yeats also employs a complex and nuanced language in "Fragments." His poetry is filled with intricate wordplay and subtle shifts in tone and meaning that require careful attention from the reader.

In "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven," for example, Yeats writes:

"But I, being poor, have only my dreams; / I have spread my dreams under your feet; / Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

Here, Yeats uses the word "dreams" in two different ways, first to refer to the speaker's aspirations and desires, and then to refer to his literal dreams. By doing so, he creates a subtle shift in tone that emphasizes the vulnerability of the speaker and the power that his love holds over him.


In conclusion, "Fragments" is a complex and nuanced collection of poetry that explores the themes of transience, beauty, and the power of language. Yeats' use of vivid and often surreal imagery, combined with his intricate language and subtle shifts in tone, creates a powerful and haunting exploration of the human experience. While "Fragments" may seem disjointed and lacking in coherence at first glance, a deeper dive into the collection reveals a profound and deeply moving exploration of what it means to be human.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

William Butler Yeats is a name that resonates with poetry lovers all over the world. His works are timeless and have been studied and analyzed by scholars for decades. One of his most famous works is the collection of poems titled "Poetry Fragments." In this article, we will delve into the world of Yeats and explore the themes, motifs, and literary devices used in this classic work.

The collection of poems titled "Poetry Fragments" was published in 1935, a year after Yeats' death. The poems in this collection were written over a period of thirty years, from 1902 to 1932. The collection consists of twenty-four poems, each of which is a fragment of a larger work. The poems are not arranged in any particular order, and there is no overarching theme that ties them together. However, there are certain motifs and themes that run through the collection.

One of the most prominent themes in the collection is the idea of time and its passing. Yeats was acutely aware of the fleeting nature of time, and this is reflected in many of the poems in the collection. In "The Wheel," for example, Yeats writes:

"Through winter-time we call on spring, And through the spring on summer call, And when abounding hedges ring Declare that winter's best of all; And after that there's nothing good Because the spring-time has not come - Nor know that what disturbs our blood Is but its longing for the tomb."

Here, Yeats is expressing the idea that we are always looking forward to the next season, the next phase of our lives, without fully appreciating the present moment. He suggests that our longing for the future is, in fact, a longing for death, as it is only in death that we can escape the passage of time.

Another theme that runs through the collection is the idea of love and its complexities. Yeats was known for his tumultuous love life, and this is reflected in many of the poems in the collection. In "The Lover Tells of the Rose in His Heart," for example, Yeats writes:

"All things uncomely and broken, All things worn-out and old, The cry of a child by the roadway, The creak of a lumbering cart, The heavy steps of the ploughman, Splashing the wintry mould, Are wronging your image that blossoms A rose in the deeps of my heart."

Here, Yeats is expressing the idea that love can be found in the most unexpected places, and that even the most mundane things can be transformed by love. He suggests that love is a powerful force that can overcome all obstacles, even the passage of time.

In addition to these themes, there are also several motifs that run through the collection. One of the most prominent motifs is the idea of the supernatural. Yeats was deeply interested in the occult and the supernatural, and this is reflected in many of the poems in the collection. In "The Cat and the Moon," for example, Yeats writes:

"The cat went here and there And the moon spun round like a top, And the nearest kin of the moon, The creeping cat, looked up. Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon, For, wander and wail as he would, The pure cold light in the sky Troubled his animal blood."

Here, Yeats is using the image of the moon and the cat to suggest that there is a mysterious and supernatural world that exists beyond our everyday experience. He suggests that this world is both alluring and unsettling, and that it has the power to disturb even the most primal instincts.

Another motif that runs through the collection is the idea of transformation. Yeats was fascinated by the idea of transformation, both in a literal and a metaphorical sense. In "The Song of Wandering Aengus," for example, Yeats writes:

"I went out to the hazel wood, Because a fire was in my head, And cut and peeled a hazel wand, And hooked a berry to a thread; And when white moths were on the wing, And moth-like stars were flickering out, I dropped the berry in a stream And caught a little silver trout."

Here, Yeats is using the image of the hazel wood and the silver trout to suggest that transformation is possible, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. He suggests that we have the power to transform ourselves and our lives, and that this transformation can be both beautiful and profound.

In terms of literary devices, Yeats was known for his use of symbolism, imagery, and metaphor. These devices are all present in the poems in the collection, and they serve to enhance the themes and motifs that run through the work. In "The Second Coming," for example, Yeats writes:

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity."

Here, Yeats is using the image of the falcon and the falconer to suggest that the world is spinning out of control, and that we have lost touch with the things that once held us together. He suggests that we are living in a time of chaos and uncertainty, and that we must find a way to regain our sense of purpose and direction.

In conclusion, "Poetry Fragments" is a classic work of poetry that explores the themes of time, love, the supernatural, and transformation. Through his use of symbolism, imagery, and metaphor, Yeats creates a world that is both beautiful and haunting, and that speaks to the deepest parts of the human experience. Whether you are a lover of poetry or simply someone who appreciates great literature, "Poetry Fragments" is a work that is sure to captivate and inspire.

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