'Are You Content?' by William Butler Yeats
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I CALL on those that call me son,
Grandson, or great-grandson,
On uncles, aunts, great-uncles or great-aunts,
To judge what I have done.
Have I, that put it into words,
Spoilt what old loins have sent?
Eyes spiritualised by death can judge,
I cannot, but I am not content.
He that in Sligo at Drumcliff
Set up the old stone Cross,
That red-headed rector in County Down,
A good man on a horse,
Sandymount Corbets, that notable man
Old William pollexfen,
The smuggler Middleton, Butlers far back,
Half legendary men.
Infirm and aged I might stay
In some good company,
I who have always hated work,
Smiling at the sea,
Or demonstrate in my own life
What Robert Browning meant
By an old hunter talking with Gods;
But I am not content.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Are You Content? by William Butler Yeats: A Poem of Self-Reflection and the Search for Meaning
William Butler Yeats is a legendary figure in the world of poetry, renowned for his complex and esoteric verses that explore themes of love, death, and spirituality. One of his most famous works is the poem "Are You Content?", published in 1899 as part of his collection, The Wind Among the Reeds. At its core, this poem is a meditation on the nature of existence and the human condition, exploring the tension between the desire for worldly success and the search for deeper meaning and purpose in life.
Overview and Analysis
The poem is divided into three stanzas, each consisting of four lines. The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, with the speaker posing a question to the reader: "I call on those that call me son, / Grandson, or great-grandson, / On uncles, aunts, great-uncles or great-aunts, / To judge what I have done." This opening serves as an invitation to the reader to engage with the speaker's self-reflection and to offer their own judgment on whether the speaker has lived a fulfilling life.
The second stanza delves deeper into the speaker's inner turmoil, as he reflects on his ambition and the pursuit of success: "I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour, / And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower, / And under the arches of the bridge, and scream / In the elms above the flooded stream." Here, the speaker describes a restless search for something elusive, something that he has yet to find. The sea-wind and the arches of the bridge evoke a sense of grandeur and mystery, while the flooded stream suggests the transitory nature of life and the inevitability of change.
The third and final stanza brings the poem to a close, as the speaker reflects on the futility of his search and the ultimate realization that true contentment cannot be found in the pursuit of worldly success: "And thereon, my sweet-hearted comrade, / My own heart is full of contentment; / I am content with my lot, / I am content with my life." This conclusion is a powerful one, suggesting that the speaker has come to a state of acceptance and peace, and has finally found the contentment he has been searching for.
At its core, "Are You Content?" is a poem about the human condition and the search for meaning and purpose in life. The speaker's restless search for something elusive and his eventual realization that true contentment cannot be found in the pursuit of worldly success are themes that resonate with readers across generations. The poem speaks to the universal human desire for fulfillment and the frustration that comes with not being able to find it.
One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is the way in which the speaker invites the reader to engage with his self-reflection. The opening lines, in which the speaker calls on his relatives to judge his life, create a sense of intimacy between the speaker and the reader. It's as if the speaker is saying to the reader, "Come, judge me, and tell me what you think." This invitation creates a sense of shared experience, as the reader is drawn into the speaker's search for meaning.
Another interesting aspect of the poem is the way in which it explores the tension between ambition and contentment. The second stanza in particular is a vivid description of the speaker's restless search for something elusive, as he walks and prays for a young child, listening to the sea-wind scream and the elms above the flooded stream. This description creates a sense of urgency and restlessness, as the speaker seeks something he cannot name. The ultimate realization that true contentment cannot be found in the pursuit of worldly success is a powerful one, and one that speaks to the human experience on a deep level.
In conclusion, "Are You Content?" is a powerful poem that explores the human condition and the search for meaning and purpose in life. The speaker's restless search for something elusive and his eventual realization that true contentment cannot be found in the pursuit of worldly success are themes that resonate with readers across generations. The poem's invitation to the reader to engage with the speaker's self-reflection creates a sense of intimacy and shared experience, while the vivid descriptions of nature and the world around us create a sense of grandeur and mystery. Ultimately, the poem leaves us with a sense of acceptance and peace, reminding us that true contentment can only be found within ourselves.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Are You Content? A Poetic Exploration of Life's Meaning by William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, wrote the poem "Are You Content?" in 1899. This poem is a reflection on the meaning of life and the human condition. It is a timeless piece of literature that continues to resonate with readers today.
The poem begins with a question, "Are you content?" This question is the central theme of the poem and sets the tone for the rest of the piece. Yeats is asking the reader to reflect on their own life and whether they are truly happy and fulfilled. He is challenging us to consider whether we are living our lives to the fullest or simply going through the motions.
Yeats then goes on to describe the beauty of nature and the world around us. He writes, "The trees are in their autumn beauty, / The woodland paths are dry, / Under the October twilight the water / Mirrors a still sky." These lines paint a vivid picture of the natural world and its beauty. Yeats is reminding us that there is so much to appreciate and enjoy in life if we take the time to notice it.
However, Yeats quickly shifts the tone of the poem with the line, "Upon the brimming water among the stones / Are nine-and-fifty swans." This line introduces a sense of melancholy and sadness into the poem. The swans are a symbol of beauty and grace, but they are also a reminder of the fleeting nature of life. Yeats is suggesting that even the most beautiful things in life are temporary and will eventually fade away.
The poem then takes a more philosophical turn as Yeats contemplates the meaning of life. He writes, "An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick." This line is a reflection on the inevitability of aging and the fragility of human life. Yeats is suggesting that our physical bodies are temporary and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Yeats then goes on to ask a series of rhetorical questions, "What then? / Shall we part? / Ah, in another world / Dwell there upon one dewdrop more?" These questions are a reflection on the afterlife and the possibility of something beyond this world. Yeats is suggesting that there may be more to life than what we can see and experience in our physical bodies.
The poem ends with a sense of uncertainty and ambiguity. Yeats writes, "And yet my heart would with gladness leap / Were my feet only to stand / On the field of battle, / Where once the brave fought hand to hand." This final stanza is a reflection on the human desire for adventure and excitement. Yeats is suggesting that even though life may be fleeting and uncertain, there is still a sense of joy and fulfillment to be found in the pursuit of something greater than ourselves.
In conclusion, "Are You Content?" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that continues to resonate with readers today. Yeats challenges us to consider the meaning of life and whether we are truly happy and fulfilled. He reminds us of the beauty of nature and the world around us, but also the fleeting nature of life. Ultimately, Yeats suggests that there may be more to life than what we can see and experience in our physical bodies, and that there is still a sense of joy and fulfillment to be found in the pursuit of something greater than ourselves.
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