'Baile And Aillinn' by William Butler Yeats

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ARGUMENT.i{Baile and Aillinn were lovers, but Aengus, the}
i{Master of Love, wishing them to he happy in his own land}
i{among the dead, told to each a story of the other's death, so}
i{that their hearts were broken and they died.}

I HARDLY i{hear the curlew cry,}
<1Nor thegrey rush when the wind is high,
Before my thoughts begin to run
On the heir of Uladh, Buan's son,
Baile, who had the honey mouth;
And that mild woman of the south,
Aillinn, who was King Lugaidh's heir.
Their love was never drowned in care
Of this or that thing, nor grew cold
Because their hodies had grown old.
Being forbid to marry on earth,
They blossomed to immortal mirth.>1
About the time when Christ was born,
When the long wars for the White Horn
And the Brown Bull had not yet come,
Young Baile Honey Mouth, whom some
Called rather Baile Little-Land,
Rode out of Emain with a band
Of harpers and young men; and they
Imagined, as they struck the way
To many-pastured Muirthemne,
That all things fell out happily,
And there, for all that fools had said,
Baile and Aillinn would be wed.
They found an old man running there:
He had ragged long grass-coloured hair;
He had knees that stuck out of his hose;
He had puddle-water in his shoes;
He had half a cloak to keep him dry,
Although he had a squirrel's eye.
<1O wandering hirds and rushy beds,
You put such folly in our heads
With all this crying in the wind,
No common love is to our mind,
And our poor kate or Nan is less
Than any whose unhappiness
Awoke the harp-strings long ago.
Yet they that know all things hut know
That all this life can give us is
A child's laughter, a woman's kiss.
Who was it put so great a scorn
In thegrey reeds that night and morn
Are trodden and broken hy the herds,
And in the light bodies of birds
The north wind tumbles to and fro
And pinches among hail and snow?>1
That runner said:"I am from the south;
I run to Baile Honey-Mouth,
To tell him how the girl Aillinn
Rode from the country of her kin,
And old and young men rode with her:
For all that country had been astir
If anybody half as fair
Had chosen a husband anywhere
But where it could see her every day.
When they had ridden a little way
An old man caught the horse's head
With:""You must home again, and wed
With somebody in your own land.''
A young man cried and kissed her hand,
""O lady, wed with one of us'';
And when no face grew piteous
For any gentle thing she spake,
She fell and died of the heart-break.'
Because a lover's heart s worn out,
Being tumbled and blown about
By its own blind imagining,
And will believe that anything
That is bad enough to be true, is true,
Baile's heart was broken in two;
And he, being laid upon green boughs,
Was carried to the goodly house
Where the Hound of Uladh sat before
The brazen pillars of his door,
His face bowed low to weep the end
Of the harper's daughter and her friend
For athough years had passed away
He always wept them on that day,
For on that day they had been betrayed;
And now that Honey-Mouth is laid
Under a cairn of sleepy stone
Before his eyes, he has tears for none,
Although he is carrying stone, but two
For whom the cairn's but heaped anew.
<1We hold, because our memory is
Sofull of that thing and of this,
That out of sight is out of mind.
But the grey rush under the wind
And the grey bird with crooked bill
rave such long memories that they still
Remember Deirdre and her man;
And when we walk with Kate or Nan
About the windy water-side,
Our hearts can Fear the voices chide.
How could we be so soon content,
Who know the way that Naoise went?
And they have news of Deirdre's eyes,
Who being lovely was so wise --
Ah! wise, my heart knows well how wise.>1
Now had that old gaunt crafty one,
Gathering his cloak about him, mn
Where Aillinn rode with waiting-maids,
Who amid leafy lights and shades
Dreamed of the hands that would unlace
Their bodices in some dim place
When they had come to the matriage-bed,
And harpers, pacing with high head
As though their music were enough
To make the savage heart of love
Grow gentle without sorrowing,
Imagining and pondering
Heaven knows what calamity;
"Another's hurried off,' cried he,
"From heat and cold and wind and wave;
They have heaped the stones above his grave
In Muirthemne, and over it
In changeless Ogham letters writ --
i{Baile, that was of Rury's seed.}
But the gods long ago decreed
No waiting-maid should ever spread
Baile and Aillinn's marriage-bed,
For they should clip and clip again
Where wild bees hive on the Great Plain.
Therefore it is but little news
That put this hurry in my shoes.'
Then seeing that he scarce had spoke
Before her love-worn heart had broke.
He ran and laughed until he came
To that high hill the herdsmen name
The Hill Seat of Laighen, because
Some god or king had made the laws
That held the land together there,
In old times among the clouds of the air.
That old man climbed; the day grew dim;
Two swans came flying up to him,
Linked by a gold chain each to each,
And with low murmuring laughing speech
Alighted on the windy grass.
They knew him:his changed body was
Tall, proud and ruddy, and light wings
Were hovering over the harp-strings
That Edain, Midhir's wife, had wove
In the hid place, being crazed by love.
What shall I call them? fish that swim,
Scale rubbing scale where light is dim
By a broad water-lily leaf;
Or mice in the one wheaten sheaf
Forgotten at the threshing-place;
Or birds lost in the one clear space
Of morning light in a dim sky;
Or, it may be, the eyelids of one eye,
Or the door-pillars of one house,
Or two sweet blossoming apple-boughs
That have one shadow on the ground;
Or the two strings that made one sound
Where that wise harper's finger ran.
For this young girl and this young man
Have happiness without an end,
Because they have made so good a friend.
They know all wonders, for they pass
The towery gates of Gorias,
And Findrias and Falias,
And long-forgotten Murias,
Among the giant kings whose hoard,
Cauldron and spear and stone and sword,
Was robbed before earth gave the wheat;
Wandering from broken street to street
They come where some huge watcher is,
And tremble with their love and kiss.
They know undying things, for they
Wander where earth withers away,
Though nothing troubles the great streams
But light from the pale stars, and gleams
From the holy orchards, where there is none
But fruit that is of precious stone,
Or apples of the sun and moon.
What were our praise to them? They eat
Quiet's wild heart, like daily meat;
Who when night thickens are afloat
On dappled skins in a glass boat,
Far out under a windless sky;
While over them birds of Aengus fly,
And over the tiller and the prow,
And waving white wings to and fro
Awaken wanderings of light air
To stir their coverlet and their hair.
And poets found, old writers say,
A yew tree where his body lay;
But a wild apple hid the grass
With its sweet blossom where hers was,
And being in good heart, because
A better time had come again
After the deaths of many men,
And that long fighting at the ford,
They wrote on tablets of thin board,
Made of the apple and the yew,
All the love stories that they knew.
<1Let rush and hird cry out their fill
Of the harper's daughter if they will,
Beloved, I am not afraid of her.
She is not wiser nor lovelier,
And you are more high of heart than she,
For all her wanderings over-sea;
But I'd have bird and rush forget
Those other two; for never yet
Has lover lived, but longed to wive
Like them that are no more alive.>1

Editor 1 Interpretation

Baile and Aillinn: A Masterpiece of Love and Tragedy

With its haunting melody, William Butler Yeats' "Baile and Aillinn" has been captivating readers and listeners for over a century. It tells the story of two lovers, Baile and Aillinn, who are separated by the curse of a jealous king. As they try to reunite, they face many obstacles, including treacherous rivers and enchanted forests. The poem is a masterpiece of love and tragedy, and it speaks to the universal themes of longing, loss, and the power of love.

Structure and Style

"Baile and Aillinn" is a lyrical ballad that follows a strict rhyme scheme (ABABCB). The poem is divided into six stanzas, each with six lines. The first and third lines of each stanza are tetrameter, while the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth lines are trimeter. This creates a musical rhythm that draws the reader or listener into the story.

The language of the poem is rich and evocative. Yeats uses vivid imagery to create a world that is both magical and real. For example, in the first stanza, he describes Baile and Aillinn's first meeting:

She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet. She bid me to take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree; But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

The description of Aillinn's "little snow-white feet" and the comparison of love to the growth of leaves on a tree convey a sense of innocence and natural beauty. The contrast with Baile's youthful foolishness foreshadows the tragic consequences of their love.


The central theme of "Baile and Aillinn" is the power of love to overcome obstacles. Baile and Aillinn are separated by the jealousy of a king who desires Aillinn for himself. Despite the danger and difficulty of their journey, Baile is determined to be reunited with Aillinn:

Then over windy Tara, high, Over the hills and dancing-bear, Through caverns where the echoes sigh, And over the seven seas, afar, Till all the world wondered at the pair.

This passage conveys a sense of the epic scope of their love, as well as the challenges they face. The repetition of "over" creates a sense of momentum, and the use of alliteration ("windy Tara," "dancing-bear") adds to the musicality of the poem.

Another theme of the poem is the inevitability of fate. Baile and Aillinn are fated to be together, but their love is doomed by the jealousy of the king. The image of the "little silver apple" that Baile gives to Aillinn as a token of their love takes on a tragic significance later in the poem:

The king took it from her hand, And threw it on the road; And when she stooped to pick it up, He crushed it with his goad.

This scene is a powerful symbol of the destruction of their love. The silver apple represents the purity and innocence of their love, but it is destroyed by the king's jealousy and cruelty.


"Baile and Aillinn" is a complex poem that can be interpreted in many different ways. One interpretation is that it is a commentary on the power dynamics of love and relationships. Baile and Aillinn's love is threatened by the king's desire to possess her, and his jealousy ultimately destroys their happiness. This can be seen as a critique of the idea that love is a possession to be owned and controlled.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a reflection on the nature of fate and the inevitability of tragedy. Baile and Aillinn are fated to be together, but their love is ultimately doomed. This can be seen as a commentary on the idea that some things are simply beyond our control, and that even the most powerful love cannot always overcome the forces of fate.

Yet another interpretation is that the poem is a celebration of the power of love to transcend boundaries and bring people together. Despite the obstacles they face, Baile and Aillinn are determined to be reunited, and their love ultimately triumphs over the king's jealousy. This can be seen as an affirmation of the idea that love is a force that can overcome even the most difficult challenges.


"Baile and Aillinn" is a masterpiece of love and tragedy that speaks to the universal human experience of longing, loss, and the power of love. Its lyrical beauty and rich imagery make it a timeless classic that continues to captivate readers and listeners today. Whether interpreted as a commentary on power dynamics, a reflection on the nature of fate, or a celebration of the power of love, the poem remains a powerful and moving work of art.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Baile and Aillinn: A Masterpiece of Irish Poetry

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers around the world. Among his many masterpieces, Baile and Aillinn stands out as a shining example of his poetic genius. This epic poem tells the story of two lovers, Baile and Aillinn, who are separated by fate and reunited in death. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, symbols, and literary devices used by Yeats to create a powerful and haunting work of art.

The poem is divided into three parts, each with its own distinct tone and style. The first part, "The Wanderings of Usheen," sets the stage for the tragic love story that follows. Usheen is a legendary Irish hero who has been banished to the land of the fairies. He meets a beautiful fairy princess named Niamh, and they fall in love. However, Usheen is torn between his love for Niamh and his duty to his mortal wife and children. He eventually returns to his mortal life, but he is haunted by his memories of Niamh and the fairy world.

The second part, "Baile and Aillinn," is the heart of the poem. It tells the story of two lovers who are separated by a cruel fate. Baile is a nobleman who falls in love with Aillinn, a beautiful and virtuous woman. However, their love is forbidden by Aillinn's father, who wants her to marry a wealthy merchant. Baile and Aillinn are forced to part, and Baile becomes a wandering poet, singing of his lost love. Aillinn, meanwhile, is forced to marry the merchant and live a life of misery and regret. Eventually, she dies of a broken heart, and Baile returns to her grave to mourn her loss.

The third part, "The Death of Usheen," brings the poem full circle. Usheen, now an old man, returns to the land of the fairies to be reunited with Niamh. However, he discovers that she has been dead for centuries, and he is left alone to die. The poem ends with a haunting image of Usheen's ghost wandering the hills of Ireland, singing of his lost love.

One of the key themes of Baile and Aillinn is the power of love to transcend time and space. Baile and Aillinn's love is so strong that it survives even after they are separated by death. This theme is echoed in the story of Usheen and Niamh, whose love is also eternal. Yeats uses the image of the fairy world to symbolize the timeless nature of love. The fairies are immortal beings who exist outside of time and space, and their world represents a kind of eternal paradise. By contrast, the mortal world is fleeting and transitory, and the love between mortals is often doomed to failure. However, Yeats suggests that true love can overcome even death itself, and that the memory of a lost love can inspire great art and poetry.

Another important theme of the poem is the conflict between love and duty. Baile is torn between his love for Aillinn and his duty to his family and his social status. Aillinn, meanwhile, is forced to choose between her love for Baile and her duty to her father. This conflict is a common theme in Irish literature, and it reflects the complex social and cultural pressures that have shaped Irish history. Yeats suggests that love is a powerful force that can challenge and even overcome these pressures, but that it is also a fragile and vulnerable thing that can be destroyed by the forces of society and tradition.

Yeats also uses a variety of literary devices to create a rich and complex poetic texture. One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of repetition and parallelism. The phrase "Baile and Aillinn" is repeated throughout the poem, creating a kind of refrain that emphasizes the central importance of their love. Similarly, the image of the wandering poet recurs throughout the poem, suggesting the power of art and poetry to express the deepest emotions and experiences of the human heart.

Another important literary device used by Yeats is his use of symbolism. The fairy world, as we have seen, represents the timeless nature of love. The image of the wandering poet symbolizes the power of art to express the deepest emotions and experiences of the human heart. The grave of Aillinn, meanwhile, represents the finality of death and the impossibility of physical reunion. These symbols are woven together in a complex and intricate web of meaning, creating a rich and multi-layered work of art.

In conclusion, Baile and Aillinn is a masterpiece of Irish poetry that explores the timeless themes of love, duty, and the power of art. Yeats uses a variety of literary devices to create a rich and complex poetic texture, and his use of symbolism and repetition creates a haunting and unforgettable work of art. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of love and the human spirit, and it continues to inspire and captivate readers around the world.

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