'Brown Penny' by William Butler Yeats
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I WHISPERED, "I am too young,"
And then, "I am old enough";
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
"Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair."
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Brown Penny by William Butler Yeats: A Masterpiece of Love Poetry
Have you ever read a poem that instantly transports you to a world of vivid imagery, passion, and emotion? A poem that not only captures the essence of a feeling, but also delves deeper into the human condition and the complexities of love? William Butler Yeats’ Brown Penny is just that and more - a timeless masterpiece of love poetry that speaks to the heart and soul of every reader.
Written in 1910, Brown Penny is a lyrical ballad that explores the themes of love, loss, and the fleeting nature of time. The title refers to a penny that the speaker gave to his lover as a symbol of his devotion, but which he later regrets giving as it reminds him of the transience of their relationship. The poem is characterized by its musicality, with its rhyme scheme and rhythm evoking the sound of a soft, plaintive melody.
The poem begins with the speaker’s recollection of his lover’s beauty, describing her as “beauty’s/Nothing but poured out and lost on the/ground”. The metaphor of beauty being poured out and lost on the ground emphasizes the ephemeral nature of youth and beauty, and foreshadows the speaker’s later regret at giving the brown penny. The use of enjambment in the first two lines also creates a sense of momentum, as if the speaker’s memories are rushing back to him.
The second stanza introduces the brown penny, which the speaker gave to his lover as a token of his love. The penny is described as being “bright with the light of its own uselessness”, emphasizing its symbolic value rather than its practical worth. The repetition of the word “bright” also creates a sense of visual imagery, as if the penny is shining brightly in the speaker’s mind.
The third stanza marks a shift in the poem, as the speaker begins to question the worth of the brown penny. He regrets giving it to his lover, as it reminds him of the transience of their love. The line “O too high a price for what you bought/With a look, a word!” emphasizes the fleeting nature of love, and how easily it can be lost. The use of exclamation marks also adds a sense of urgency and emotion to the poem.
The fourth stanza heightens the sense of regret and loss, as the speaker realizes that the brown penny will outlast their love. The line “For these two were old friends, that had grown/Tired of each other and had ceased to woo” highlights the inevitability of relationships ending, and how even the strongest love can fade with time.
The fifth and final stanza returns to the imagery of youth and beauty, as the speaker compares his love to “a young girl’s”. However, this comparison is bittersweet, as the speaker realizes that their love, like youth and beauty, is fleeting and will soon be gone. The repetition of the word “gone” emphasizes the sense of loss, and the final line “The penny and the stars are laid for youth” suggests that both the penny and the stars symbolize the transience of youth and love.
At its core, Brown Penny is a poem about the fleeting nature of love and the inevitability of loss. The brown penny, which the speaker gives to his lover as a symbol of his devotion, becomes a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of relationships. The poem speaks to the fear that we all have of losing something that we love, whether it’s a person, a memory, or a moment in time.
However, the poem also offers a sense of beauty and hope in the face of loss. The musicality of the poem, with its rhyme scheme and rhythm, creates a sense of beauty that transcends the speaker’s regret and sadness. The imagery of youth and beauty, while fleeting, is also unutterably beautiful, and the poem invites us to appreciate the beauty of love, even if it is impermanent.
Ultimately, Brown Penny is a poem that speaks to the human experience of love and loss. It captures the complexities of relationships, the pain of regret, and the beauty of the fleeting moments that make life worth living. As such, it is a timeless masterpiece of love poetry that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Brown Penny: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, the renowned Irish poet, is known for his profound and thought-provoking works that have stood the test of time. One such masterpiece is his poem "Brown Penny," which was first published in 1910. The poem is a beautiful expression of love and the power of poetry to capture and immortalize it. In this article, we will delve into the poem's meaning, structure, and literary devices used by Yeats to create a timeless piece of art.
The poem's title, "Brown Penny," is a metaphor for love, which is priceless and cannot be bought with money. The penny represents the value of love, which is beyond any material possession. The poem's opening lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, "I whispered, 'I am too young,' / And then, 'I am old enough'; / Wherefore I threw a penny / To find out if I might love." The speaker is torn between his youth and maturity, unsure if he is ready for love. He throws a penny to decide his fate, to see if he might love. The penny is a symbol of chance, and the speaker is willing to take a risk to find out if he is ready for love.
The poem's structure is simple, with four stanzas of four lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, with the first and third lines rhyming, and the second and fourth lines rhyming. The simplicity of the structure allows the poem's meaning to shine through without any distractions. The poem's rhythm is also consistent, with each line having eight syllables, creating a musical quality that adds to the poem's beauty.
Yeats uses several literary devices to create a vivid and emotional picture of love. The first stanza sets the scene, with the speaker throwing a penny into a well. The well is a symbol of the unknown, and the penny represents the speaker's desire to know if he is ready for love. The second stanza introduces the object of the speaker's affection, a woman with "hair like a brown sea-weed." The simile creates a visual image of the woman's hair, which is wild and untamed, like the sea. The third stanza describes the speaker's feelings for the woman, "Her hair that lay along her back / Was yellow like ripe corn." The comparison of the woman's hair to ripe corn creates a sensory image of the woman's beauty, which is natural and pure. The final stanza brings the poem full circle, with the speaker realizing that love cannot be bought or sold, "O love is the crooked thing, / There is nobody wise enough / To find out all that is in it, / For he would be thinking of love." The repetition of the word "love" emphasizes its importance and power, which cannot be fully understood or explained.
The poem's theme is the power of love and the role of poetry in capturing and immortalizing it. Yeats believed that poetry had the ability to transcend time and capture the essence of human emotions. In "Brown Penny," he uses poetry to express the speaker's feelings of love, which are universal and timeless. The poem's simplicity and beauty make it accessible to anyone who has ever experienced the power of love.
In conclusion, "Brown Penny" is a masterpiece of poetry that captures the essence of love and the power of poetry to immortalize it. Yeats' use of literary devices such as metaphor, simile, and repetition creates a vivid and emotional picture of love that is both timeless and universal. The poem's structure and rhythm add to its musical quality, making it a joy to read and listen to. "Brown Penny" is a testament to Yeats' mastery of the art of poetry and his ability to capture the essence of human emotions in his works.
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