'Adam 's Curse' by William Butler Yeats
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WE sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, "A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.'
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, "To be born woman is to know --
Although they do not talk of it at school --
That we must labour to be beautiful.'
I said, "It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'
We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Adam’s Curse: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century. Yeats' poetry is known for its striking imagery, vivid descriptions, and profound themes. One of his most prominent works is "Adam's Curse," a poem about the difficulty of creating great art. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the various elements of the poem, including its structure, language, imagery, and symbolism, and analyze how they contribute to the poem's meaning.
"Adam's Curse" is a poem that consists of three stanzas, each with eight lines. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which means that each line contains ten syllables with a pattern of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The poem is written in the form of a conversation between the speaker and two other individuals, a woman and a man. The poem is named after the biblical story of Adam and Eve and their punishment for disobeying God's commandment.
The first stanza of "Adam's Curse" sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker begins by saying, "We sat together at one summer's end, / That beautiful mild woman, your close friend, / And you and I, and talked of poetry." The use of the word "beautiful" to describe the woman suggests that she is not just physically attractive but also embodies a sense of grace and elegance. The fact that she is the man's "close friend" implies that she is not romantically involved with either of the men but is someone they both admire.
The conversation then turns to poetry, and the speaker laments that it is difficult to create great art. He says, "I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe; / Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought, / Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.'" The speaker is expressing the idea that poetry is not easy to create and that it often requires a great deal of time and effort. He is also suggesting that if the final product does not appear effortless, it will not be appreciated.
The second stanza of "Adam's Curse" continues the conversation about poetry. The woman responds to the speaker's comments by saying, "We sat grown quiet at the name of love; / We saw the last embers of daylight die, / And in the trembling blue-green of the sky / A moon, worn as if it had been a shell / Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell / About the stars and broke in days and years." The woman's response is both poetic and philosophical. She is suggesting that the ability to create great art is similar to the power of love, something that is difficult to define and yet has the ability to move us deeply. The image of the moon suggests that great art, like the moon, is something that has been worn down over time but still has the power to move us.
The man responds to the woman's comments by saying, "I had a thought for no one's but your ears: / That you were beautiful, and that I strove / To love you in the old high way of love; / That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown / As weary-hearted as that hollow moon." The man is expressing his love for the woman and suggesting that their love has grown stale over time. The comparison to the moon suggests that their love, like the moon, has lost its luster and become empty.
The third and final stanza of "Adam's Curse" brings the conversation back to poetry. The speaker says, "But now I have lost myself in some old song, / Some lame excuse to linger here and wring / A poor substitute for the real thing." The speaker is suggesting that he has lost his ability to create great art and is now just going through the motions. He is using a "lame excuse" to avoid facing the fact that he is no longer able to create something truly meaningful.
The woman responds to the speaker's comments by saying, "I have not loved the world, nor the world me, / But let us part fair foes; I am content, / To be but breath, castles in Spain to build, / And none to slay." The woman is suggesting that she has not found love or meaning in the world but is content to simply exist. She is willing to let go of her desire for great art and settle for something less.
The man then responds to the woman's comments by saying, "We talked of art, we talked of love and wine, / And I bid you sing of the Moorish dancer's wine." The man is suggesting that they return to discussing art, love, and wine, and he asks the woman to sing a song about a Moorish dancer. The final line of the poem, "Sing now, ye heavenly choir!" suggests that the man is asking the woman to create something truly great, to sing a song that will move them all.
The poem "Adam's Curse" is filled with symbolism. The biblical story of Adam and Eve is a symbol of the human condition, of our longing for something more than what we currently have. The conversation about poetry is a symbol of the struggle of the artist to create something truly great. The moon is a symbol of the passage of time and the wearing down of great art. The final line of the poem, "Sing now, ye heavenly choir!" is a symbol of the hope that great art can still be created, that something truly meaningful can still be achieved.
"Adam's Curse" is a profound poem that explores the difficulty of creating great art. The use of biblical symbolism, vivid language, and striking imagery all contribute to the poem's meaning. The poem suggests that while creating great art may be difficult, it is still possible. The final line of the poem, "Sing now, ye heavenly choir!" is a call to action, a challenge to all artists to continue striving for greatness.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his poem "Adam's Curse" is a classic example of his mastery of language and form. This poem is a meditation on the nature of love and the difficulty of creating art, and it is filled with rich imagery and complex ideas.
The poem begins with the speaker addressing his lover, telling her that he has been working all day and is tired. He then goes on to describe the beauty of the landscape around them, with its "purple glow" and "silver trees." However, he quickly notes that this beauty is deceptive, and that the work of creating art is much harder than it appears.
The title of the poem, "Adam's Curse," refers to the biblical story of Adam and Eve, in which God punishes Adam for his disobedience by cursing him with the need to work hard for his food. Yeats uses this story as a metaphor for the difficulty of creating art, suggesting that the artist is cursed with a similar burden.
The first stanza of the poem sets the stage for this theme, as the speaker describes the beauty of the landscape but notes that it is "deceptive." He then goes on to say that "we must labour to be beautiful," suggesting that the work of creating art is not easy or natural, but requires effort and discipline.
The second stanza of the poem expands on this idea, as the speaker describes the process of creating art as a "labour of the heart and mind." He notes that even the most beautiful things in nature, such as the "silver trees," are not enough to inspire great art. Instead, the artist must work hard to create something that is truly beautiful and meaningful.
The third stanza of the poem introduces the idea of love, as the speaker tells his lover that he has been working all day but still thinks of her. He notes that love is also a kind of labor, requiring effort and sacrifice. He then goes on to suggest that love and art are connected, and that both require the same kind of dedication and hard work.
The fourth stanza of the poem returns to the theme of the difficulty of creating art, as the speaker describes the process of writing poetry as a "painful labour." He notes that even when he is inspired, the words do not come easily, and that he must work hard to shape them into something beautiful.
The fifth and final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most complex, as the speaker reflects on the nature of love and art. He notes that both are "bitter" and "hard," but that they are also "sweet" and "beautiful." He suggests that the difficulty of creating art and the pain of love are necessary in order to create something that is truly meaningful and beautiful.
Overall, "Adam's Curse" is a powerful meditation on the nature of love and the difficulty of creating art. Yeats uses rich imagery and complex ideas to explore these themes, and the result is a poem that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. Whether you are a lover of poetry or simply interested in exploring the human experience, this poem is a must-read.
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