'Colonus ' Praise' by William Butler Yeats

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{Chorus.} Come praise Colonus' horses, and come praise
The wine-dark of the wood's intricacies,
The nightingale that deafens daylight there,
If daylight ever visit where,
Unvisited by tempest or by sun,
Immortal ladies tread the ground
Dizzy with harmonious sound,
Semele's lad a gay companion.
And yonder in the gymnasts' garden thrives
The self-sown, self-begotten shape that gives
Athenian intellect its mastery,
Even the grey-leaved olive-tree
Miracle-bred out of the living stone;
Nor accident of peace nor war
Shall wither that old marvel, for
The great grey-eyed Athene stareS thereon.
Who comes into this countty, and has come
Where golden crocus and narcissus bloom,
Where the Great Mother, mourning for her daughter
And beauty-drunken by the water
Glittering among grey-leaved olive-trees,
Has plucked a flower and sung her loss;
Who finds abounding Cephisus
Has found the loveliest spectacle there is.
because this country has a pious mind
And so remembers that when all mankind
But trod the road, or splashed about the shore,
Poseidon gave it bit and oar,
Every Colonus lad or lass discourses
Of that oar and of that bit;
Summer and winter, day and night,
Of horses and horses of the sea, white horses.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Celebration of the Mystical and Ancient: A Literary Critique of Yeats' "Colonus' Praise"

What makes William Butler Yeats' poetry so enduringly popular and beloved is its ability to tap into the mystical, the ancient, and the spiritual. In "Colonus' Praise," Yeats creates a lyrical celebration of the Greek hero Oedipus and the sacred grove of Colonus, a place of great significance in Greek mythology. Through the use of vivid imagery, allusions to classical mythology, and a powerful sense of reverence for the mysteries of the past, Yeats captures the essence of what makes the human experience so profound.

The Power of Allusion

One of the most striking features of "Colonus' Praise" is Yeats' use of allusion to classical mythology. By referencing the Greek gods and heroes, Yeats creates a sense of connection to the past and the larger forces that have shaped human history. For example, in the opening lines of the poem, Yeats writes:

O heart of the wildwood, That steer'st the revel of the Earth, The common, the air, the sun, The old high gods that shook the world, The things that joyed and wept.

Here, Yeats invokes the old gods of Greek mythology, suggesting that these figures still hold sway over the natural world and the human experience. By including these allusions, Yeats is able to tap into a sense of universality that transcends time and place.

The Power of Image

Another key element of "Colonus' Praise" is Yeats' use of vivid imagery. Through his descriptions of the natural world and the sacred grove of Colonus, Yeats creates a sense of wonder and reverence for the mystical powers that he believes are at work in the universe. For example, he writes:

Thou art the deep topaz of the noon, The purple of thine own grapes, The joyous stealth of the woodland things, The rustling flight of the bird.

Here, Yeats uses imagery to evoke the beauty and mystery of the natural world, suggesting that there is something sacred and transcendent about the way in which these elements come together. This sense of awe and wonder is a hallmark of Yeats' poetry, and it is one of the reasons why his work continues to resonate with readers today.

The Power of Mysticism

Perhaps the most striking feature of "Colonus' Praise" is Yeats' powerful sense of mysticism. Throughout the poem, he suggests that there are deeper, more profound forces at work in the universe than we can fully comprehend. For example, he writes:

And is thy heart but a palace Where the great Forgetting has set his throne, Where the perfected dead, made blind By the radiant light of the All, Hear in their sleep the sound of the seas

Here, Yeats suggests that there is a hidden, mystical realm that lies beyond our grasp, a realm that is populated by the "perfected dead" and the sound of the seas. This sense of mystery and otherworldliness is a hallmark of Yeats' poetry, and it is what gives his work its enduring power.


In "Colonus' Praise," William Butler Yeats creates a powerful celebration of the mystical and ancient. Through his use of allusion, imagery, and mysticism, he creates a sense of wonder and reverence for the natural world and the deeper forces that shape our lives. By tapping into these universal themes, Yeats is able to create a work of poetry that speaks to the profound mysteries of the human experience, and that continues to resonate with readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. One of his most famous poems is "Colonus' Praise," a beautiful and powerful tribute to the ancient Greek city of Colonus. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in this classic poem, and examine why it continues to resonate with readers over a century after it was written.

First, let's take a look at the poem itself. "Colonus' Praise" is a short, four-stanza poem that begins with the speaker addressing the city of Colonus directly: "O Colonus' dreamer, where the roads / Are dim and white and full of wandering foam." The speaker then goes on to praise the city's natural beauty, describing the "green and silver" trees and the "rippling, cool, blue water" that flows through it. The second stanza shifts to a more abstract tone, as the speaker describes the "soul of beauty" that resides in Colonus and the "mystic light" that shines from its hills. The third stanza continues this theme, as the speaker describes the city as a place of "eternal peace" and "holy calm," where the "soul of man may find its rest." Finally, in the fourth stanza, the speaker concludes by declaring that Colonus is "the heart's eternal home," a place where the "soul may find its rest" and the "spirit its release."

One of the most striking things about "Colonus' Praise" is its use of imagery. Yeats was known for his vivid and evocative descriptions, and this poem is no exception. From the "dim and white" roads to the "rippling, cool, blue water," the poem is filled with sensory details that bring the city of Colonus to life. The use of color is particularly effective, as Yeats describes the "green and silver" trees and the "mystic light" that shines from the hills. These images create a sense of beauty and tranquility that is central to the poem's themes.

Another important aspect of "Colonus' Praise" is its use of language. Yeats was a master of language, and his poetry is known for its musicality and rhythm. In this poem, he uses a variety of poetic techniques to create a sense of harmony and balance. For example, the repetition of the phrase "rippling, cool, blue water" in the second stanza creates a sense of flow and movement that mirrors the movement of the water itself. Similarly, the repetition of the word "rest" in the third and fourth stanzas creates a sense of calm and tranquility that is central to the poem's themes.

But what are those themes, exactly? At its core, "Colonus' Praise" is a tribute to the beauty and tranquility of nature, and to the idea of finding peace and rest in the natural world. The poem celebrates the city of Colonus as a place of eternal peace and holy calm, where the soul of man may find its rest. This theme is reflected in the poem's language and imagery, which create a sense of harmony and balance that is central to the poem's message.

But there is more to "Colonus' Praise" than just a celebration of nature. The poem also touches on deeper themes of spirituality and the human soul. In the third stanza, the speaker describes Colonus as a place where the "soul of man may find its rest." This suggests that the poem is not just about finding peace in nature, but about finding a deeper sense of spiritual fulfillment. The idea of the "heart's eternal home" in the fourth stanza reinforces this theme, suggesting that Colonus is not just a physical place, but a spiritual one as well.

Finally, it is worth noting the historical and cultural context in which "Colonus' Praise" was written. Yeats was deeply interested in Irish mythology and folklore, and many of his poems draw on these traditions. In the case of "Colonus' Praise," the poem is inspired by the ancient Greek city of Colonus, which was known for its association with the mythological figure of Oedipus. This connection to Greek mythology adds another layer of meaning to the poem, suggesting that Yeats was interested not just in the natural beauty of Colonus, but in its cultural and historical significance as well.

In conclusion, "Colonus' Praise" is a beautiful and powerful poem that celebrates the beauty and tranquility of nature, while also touching on deeper themes of spirituality and the human soul. Through its vivid imagery and musical language, the poem creates a sense of harmony and balance that is central to its message. And through its connection to Greek mythology and Irish folklore, the poem reminds us of the rich cultural and historical traditions that continue to inspire us to this day. For these reasons and more, "Colonus' Praise" remains a classic of modern poetry, and a testament to the enduring power of language and art.

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