'Demon And Beast' by William Butler Yeats
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FOR certain minutes at the least
That crafty demon and that loud beast
That plague me day and night
Ran out of my sight;
Though I had long perned in the gyre,
Between my hatred and desire.
I saw my freedom won
And all laugh in the sun.
The glittering eyes in a death's head
Of old Luke Wadding's portrait said
Welcome, and the Ormondes all
Nodded upon the wall,
And even Strafford smiled as though
It made him happier to know
I understood his plan.
Now that the loud beast ran
There was no portrait in the Gallery
But beckoned to sweet company,
For all men's thoughts grew clear
Being dear as mine are dear.
But soon a tear-drop started up,
For aimless joy had made me stop
Beside the little lake
To watch a white gull take
A bit of bread thrown up into the air;
Now gyring down and perning there
He splashed where an absurd
Portly green-pated bird
Shook off the water from his back;
Being no more demoniac
A stupid happy creature
Could rouse my whole nature.
Yet I am certain as can be
That every natural victory
Belongs to beast or demon,
That never yet had freeman
Right mastery of natural things,
And that mere growing old, that brings
Chilled blood, this sweetness brought;
Yet have no dearer thought
Than that I may find out a way
To make it linger half a day.
O what a sweetness strayed
Through barren Thebaid,
Or by the Mareotic sea
When that exultant Anthony
And twice a thousand more
Starved upon the shore
And withered to a bag of bones!
What had the Caesars but their thrones?
Editor 1 Interpretation
William Butler Yeats' "Poetry, Demon and Beast" is a complex and multi-layered poem that offers a commentary on the role of art in human life. Composed in 1904, the poem is divided into three sections, each of which explores a different aspect of the relationship between poetry, art and life. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, symbolism, and language of the poem to understand what Yeats was trying to say about the nature of poetry and art.
Section One: Poetry
The first section of Yeats' poem is a meditation on the role of poetry in human life. The speaker begins by describing poetry as a "crazed girl", wild and unpredictable, but also capable of great beauty and insight. The poem then goes on to explore the various forms that poetry can take, from the "sensual music" of love poetry to the "harsh and bitter cry" of political verse.
One of the most striking features of this section is the way in which Yeats uses language to convey the power and intensity of poetry. The lines "She makes most potent music / By the mere fact of her breathing / And the whole world's listening" are particularly evocative, conveying the idea that poetry has a life of its own, and can speak to us in ways that are both profound and mysterious.
At the same time, however, the poem also suggests that poetry can be dangerous and unsettling, capable of stirring up powerful emotions and challenging our assumptions about the world. The lines "She can shake the tattered arras / Of our stony ignorance / Till the stars that hang above it / Dance applauding Beauty's chance" suggest that poetry has the power to disrupt our sense of order and stability, and to reveal the hidden depths of reality that lie beneath the surface of our everyday lives.
Section Two: Demon
The second section of the poem shifts the focus from poetry to the figure of the demon, which is presented as a symbol of the darker aspects of human nature. The demon is described as a "beast with a brow of fire", a terrifying and malevolent force that threatens to destroy everything in its path.
At the same time, however, the poem also suggests that the demon is a necessary part of human existence, and that it is only by confronting the darker aspects of ourselves that we can hope to achieve a deeper understanding of the world around us. As the speaker puts it: "Though I am old with wandering / Through hollow lands and hilly lands / I will find out where she has gone / And kiss her lips and take her hands".
This section of the poem is notable for its use of vivid and frequently startling imagery, such as the lines "I will bring her, a mirror / And a comb out of ivory / And combs she will have to comb her hair" and "I will bring her, for her delight / A mirror made of a shining shield". These images serve to reinforce the idea that the demon is both terrifying and alluring, and that it is only by confronting our fears and desires that we can hope to achieve a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
Section Three: Beast
The final section of the poem shifts the focus once again, this time to the figure of the beast, which is presented as a symbol of the raw power and vitality of life itself. The beast is described as a "lion that has eaten / The sun, fierce creature of the world, / Destructive, deadly, without pity; / Yet, as she left the room, / She looked back like a thing surprised / And saw me murmur and frown".
This section of the poem is notable for its use of language to convey the raw energy and vitality of the beast, with lines such as "Her blackened heart had fled away, / And all her mysteries were mine". At the same time, however, the poem also suggests that the beast is ultimately intractable and unknowable, and that it is only by acknowledging our own limitations that we can hope to achieve a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
In conclusion, "Poetry, Demon and Beast" is a rich and complex poem that offers a commentary on the nature of art and its relationship to human life. Through its exploration of poetry, demon and beast, the poem suggests that art has the power to disrupt our sense of order and stability, to reveal hidden depths of reality, and to bring us into contact with the darker aspects of ourselves.
At the same time, however, the poem also suggests that art is ultimately intractable and unknowable, and that it is only by confronting our own limitations that we can hope to achieve a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. In this way, Yeats' poem is a powerful meditation on the nature of art and its relationship to the human condition, one that continues to resonate with readers today.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Demon And Beast: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, was known for his deep understanding of the human psyche and his ability to express it through his poetry. His works are a reflection of his own life experiences, his beliefs, and his thoughts on the world around him. One of his most famous poems, "Demon And Beast," is a masterpiece that explores the darker side of human nature and the struggle between good and evil.
The poem opens with the lines, "I have come, alas, to the great circle of shadow, to the short day and to the whitening hills, when the colour is all lost from grass, though my gift is wasted in this dark land." These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a journey through the darkness of the human soul. The speaker is a poet who has come to a place of darkness, where the light is fading and the world is losing its color. He is aware that his gift, his poetry, is wasted in this place, but he is compelled to continue on his journey.
The next few lines introduce the two main characters of the poem, the demon and the beast. The demon is described as "a thing of beauty and of grace," while the beast is "a thing of darkness and of shame." These two characters represent the opposing forces of good and evil, light and darkness, that exist within every human being. The demon is beautiful and graceful, but he is also dangerous and seductive. The beast is ugly and shameful, but he is also powerful and primal.
As the poem progresses, the poet encounters the demon and the beast, and he is forced to confront his own inner demons. The demon tries to seduce him with promises of power and glory, while the beast threatens him with violence and destruction. The poet is torn between these two forces, but he ultimately chooses to reject them both. He realizes that the demon and the beast are not separate entities, but rather two sides of the same coin. They are both part of the human experience, and they must be acknowledged and accepted in order to achieve true balance and harmony.
The final lines of the poem are some of the most powerful and memorable. The poet declares, "I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use -- silence, exile, and cunning." These lines are a testament to Yeats' own beliefs and his commitment to living a life of authenticity and creativity. He rejects the forces that would try to control or limit him, and he chooses to express himself freely and wholly through his poetry.
In conclusion, "Demon And Beast" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that explores the darker side of human nature and the struggle between good and evil. Yeats' use of vivid imagery and powerful language creates a haunting and unforgettable portrait of the human soul. The poem is a testament to Yeats' own beliefs and his commitment to living a life of authenticity and creativity. It is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and challenge readers today.
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