'Against Unworthy Praise' by William Butler Yeats
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O HEART, be at peace, because
Nor knave nor dolt can break
What's not for their applause,
Being for a woman's sake.
Enough if the work has seemed,
So did she your strength renew,
A dream that a lion had dreamed
Till the wilderness cried aloud,
A secret between you two,
Between the proud and the proud.
What, still you would have their praise!
But here's a haughtier text,
The labyrinth of her days
That her own strangeness perplexed;
And how what her dreaming gave
Earned slander, ingratitude,
From self-same dolt and knave;
Aye, and worse wrong than these.
Yet she, singing upon her road,
Half lion, half child, is at peace.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Against Unworthy Praise by William Butler Yeats
In "Against Unworthy Praise," William Butler Yeats explores the idea of true artistic merit and the dangers of giving praise to those who don't deserve it. The poem is a commentary on the state of art and literature in Yeats' time, where he saw an abundance of shallow and uninspired work being lauded as great. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve into the themes of the poem, Yeats' use of language and imagery, and the relevance of the poem today.
One of the central themes of "Against Unworthy Praise" is the idea of true artistic merit. Yeats argues that true art is not something that can be easily quantified or measured, but rather something that must be experienced in a deeper way. He writes, "Who shall declare the beauty of the forms / Imaged in the wandering clouds and the foam?" (lines 5-6). These lines suggest that true art is something that can only be experienced through the senses, and that it cannot be fully expressed in words.
Another theme in the poem is the danger of giving praise to those who don't deserve it. Yeats warns against the temptation to give in to flattery and to praise those who are not truly talented. He writes, "And one whose eye the sun's bright shafts had crossed / Waited upon the threshold, then came in / And murmured softly, 'I am greatest, I / Have brought the angelic hosts to sing my praise'" (lines 9-12). These lines suggest that those who seek praise for themselves are often the ones who are least deserving of it.
Language and Imagery
Yeats' use of language and imagery in "Against Unworthy Praise" is both powerful and evocative. He uses language that is both simple and complex, with lines that are easy to understand but that also contain deeper meaning. For example, he writes, "But let there be no wailing when I am dead, / Or you will meet my ghost with wailing breath, / Not stooping from your high ancestral towers / But from some green hill-top" (lines 17-20). These lines suggest that Yeats is warning against the dangers of giving in to flattery, and that he wants to be remembered for his true artistic merits rather than for false praise.
Yeats also uses vivid imagery throughout the poem, drawing on natural elements such as clouds, foam, and the sun's bright shafts. These images help to create a sense of the beauty and power of true art, and to contrast it with the shallowness of unworthy praise. For example, he writes, "But who shall hurl the bright spear on the height, / Or who shall fill the cup of purple wine? / Unseen, the mountain sprite, / The tiny nymph, the nameless child of grace" (lines 1-4). These lines suggest that true art is something that is both elusive and powerful, and that it cannot be easily grasped or understood.
Although "Against Unworthy Praise" was written over a hundred years ago, its message is still relevant today. In a world where social media has made it easy for anyone to be an artist or writer, it can be difficult to separate the truly talented from the simply self-promoting. Yeats' poem reminds us that true artistic merit cannot be easily quantified or measured, and that it is important to recognize and praise those who have truly earned it.
Furthermore, Yeats' warning against the dangers of flattery is just as relevant today as it was in his time. In a world where people are often more concerned with their own image than with true artistic merit, it can be easy to fall prey to those who seek praise for themselves rather than for their work. Yeats reminds us that we must be discerning in our praise, and that we must be willing to recognize and celebrate true artistic genius.
"Against Unworthy Praise" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of true artistic merit and the dangers of flattery. Yeats' use of language and imagery creates a vivid picture of the beauty and power of true art, and serves as a warning against the shallow and uninspired work that is often praised as great. Although the poem was written over a hundred years ago, its message is still relevant today, and reminds us of the importance of recognizing and celebrating true artistic genius.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Against Unworthy Praise: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature, wrote a powerful poem titled "Poetry Against Unworthy Praise." This poem is a masterpiece that speaks to the heart of every artist who has ever struggled with the dilemma of creating art for the sake of art or for the sake of praise.
In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and literary devices used in "Poetry Against Unworthy Praise" and how they contribute to the overall message of the poem.
The central theme of "Poetry Against Unworthy Praise" is the conflict between art and praise. Yeats argues that art should be created for its own sake, not for the sake of praise. He believes that true art is created from the heart, not from a desire for recognition or fame.
Yeats also explores the theme of the artist's struggle. He acknowledges that creating art is not an easy task and that artists often face criticism and rejection. However, he argues that the true artist perseveres despite these obstacles and creates art that is meaningful and enduring.
"Poetry Against Unworthy Praise" is a sonnet, a 14-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme of this sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The poem is divided into three quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a final couplet (two-line stanza).
The first quatrain sets the tone for the poem and introduces the central theme. Yeats begins by stating that he does not want praise for his poetry if it is not worthy of it. He argues that praise for unworthy poetry is meaningless and that true art should be judged on its own merits.
The second quatrain explores the artist's struggle. Yeats acknowledges that creating art is not an easy task and that artists often face criticism and rejection. However, he argues that the true artist perseveres despite these obstacles and creates art that is meaningful and enduring.
The third quatrain is a call to action. Yeats urges his readers to reject unworthy praise and to strive for true art. He argues that true art is created from the heart, not from a desire for recognition or fame.
The final couplet is a powerful conclusion to the poem. Yeats states that he will continue to create art, regardless of whether it is praised or not. He believes that true art is its own reward and that the artist's duty is to create art that is meaningful and enduring.
Yeats uses several literary devices in "Poetry Against Unworthy Praise" to convey his message. One of the most prominent devices is imagery. Yeats uses vivid imagery to create a sense of the artist's struggle. For example, he describes the artist as "beating out his thoughts" and "hammering his thoughts into a rhymed shape." These images convey the idea that creating art is a difficult and laborious process.
Yeats also uses metaphor to convey his message. For example, he compares unworthy praise to "the applause of dunces." This metaphor conveys the idea that praise for unworthy art is meaningless and that true art should be judged on its own merits.
Another literary device that Yeats uses is repetition. He repeats the phrase "I would not" several times throughout the poem. This repetition emphasizes Yeats's rejection of unworthy praise and his commitment to creating true art.
Finally, Yeats uses rhyme and meter to create a sense of rhythm and flow in the poem. The rhyme scheme of the sonnet creates a sense of symmetry and balance, while the meter (iambic pentameter) creates a sense of rhythm and musicality.
"Poetry Against Unworthy Praise" is a masterpiece by William Butler Yeats that speaks to the heart of every artist who has ever struggled with the dilemma of creating art for the sake of art or for the sake of praise. Through vivid imagery, metaphor, repetition, and rhyme, Yeats conveys his message that true art is created from the heart, not from a desire for recognition or fame. He urges his readers to reject unworthy praise and to strive for true art that is meaningful and enduring. This poem is a powerful reminder that the artist's duty is to create art that speaks to the soul, not to the applause of dunces.
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