Nov 14, 2020 in Analysis

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Analysis of A Poet to His Beloved

A Poet to His Beloved is a poem written by William Butler Yeats in 1899. In his youth, Yeats was overwhelmed with the idealistic love to Maud Gonne. The poem expresses the bittersweet feelings he had for Maud though the use of metaphors and alliteration.

 

A Poet to his Beloved is a quite short poem of only eight lines,

I BRING with reverent hands

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The books of my numberless dreams,

White woman that passion has worn

As the tide wears the dove-grey sands,

And with heart more old than the horn

That is brimmed from the pale fire of time:

White woman with numberless dreams,

I bring you my passionate rhyme.

Yeats devotion to his lover is indicated by the use of the phrase reverent hands in the first line, which underlines the speakers tender feelings to her. His use of the first-person pronoun I emphasizes the authority with which it should be read (Katharine 45). The second line, The books of my numberless dreams is simultaneously allegorical and denotes his steadfast love, adoration and respect to Maud for a long period. Further, this line also demonstrates the reader the idealistic nature of the feelings between Yeats and Maud as young romantics (Forche and Wu 178). Thus, in the first two lines, Yeats uses metaphors to intimate the romantic profundity of his love.

Mauds chaotic life is the subject of the next two lines,

White woman that passion has worn

As the tide wears the dove-grey sands.

In these lines, the humans indulgence in sexual passion contradicts the purity symbolized by the word white. Also, the word white alludes to the innocence of young love as well as to the fairness of Mauds skin. The womans whiteness is the symbol of the innocence, purity, and spotlessness of life that is not adulterated by sexual immoderation. The rhythm is characterized by the use of the w sound in such words as white, woman, worn and wear (Katharine 201). While reading these lines, I was impressed by the authors ability to use metaphors to achieve double meaning. The phrase the tide wears the dove-grey sands is analogous to the powerful surge and ebb of emotions. Christian theology represents the dove as the symbol of peace as in John1:32, while the word grey denotes a state in-between life and death (Katharine 29). Yeats uses the word sands to represent the passage of time in relation to the hourglass. Thus, the poet expresses the changing manner, in which the fading and surge of emotions consume the spirit of life over time.

 
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In the next lines, Yeats addresses the contradictory nature of the woman he loves,

And with heart more old than the horn

That is brimmed from the pale fire of time:

White woman with numberless dreams,

I bring you my passionate rhyme.

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The author continues to use alliteration through the repetition of the o sound. The contradiction is created by his use of the words brimmed and pale in the same sentence. The contradictory nature of this paragraph hints at the authors conflicting personality. Repetition of the phrase white woman with numberless dreams re-connects the reader with the beginning of the poem (Greene et al. 74). These lines strive to illustrate the love between the poet and his beloved one. The pale of fire metaphor helps the author to explain the unchangeableness and completeness of his love to Maud despite the passage of time. Her heart is full to the brim with unrequited romance (Edmond 89). The author fell in love with Maud; however, she spurned him and later married someone else. Throughout his life, Yeats feelings for her have never vanished, and he remained devoted to Maud even after the failure of her marriage.

Thus, A Poet to his Beloved expresses the bittersweet feelings of the author though the use of metaphors and alliteration. The poet describes the contradictory nature of his identity and feelings to Maud. The poem is an ode to the unsuccessful romance with reverent hands the promise of numberless dreams, which are delivered to the lover with passionate rhyme.

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