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The Municipal Gallery Revisited Analysis



Author: poem of William Butler Yeats Type: poem Views: 24


                I

Around me the images of thirty years:
An ambush; pilgrims at the water-side;
Casement upon trial, half hidden by the bars,
Guarded; Griffith staring in hysterical pride;
Kevin O'Higgins' countenance that wears
A gentle questioning look that cannot hide
A soul incapable of remorse or rest;
A revolutionary soldier kneeling to be blessed;

                II

An Abbot or Archbishop with an upraised hand
Blessing the Tricolour.  'This is not,' I say,
'The dead Ireland of my youth, but an Ireland
The poets have imagined, terrible and gay.'
Before a woman's portrait suddenly I stand,
Beautiful and gentle in her Venetian way.
I met her all but fifty years ago
For twenty minutes in some studio.

                III

Heart-smitten with emotion I Sink down,
My heart recovering with covered eyes;
Wherever I had looked I had looked upon
My permanent or impermanent images:
Augusta Gregory's son; her sister's son,
Hugh Lane, 'onlie begetter' of all these;
Hazel Lavery living and dying, that tale
As though some ballad-singer had sung it all;

                IV

Mancini's portrait of Augusta Gregory,
'Greatest since Rembrandt,' according to John Synge;
A great ebullient portrait certainly;
But where is the brush that could show anything
Of all that pride and that humility?
And I am in despair that time may bring
Approved patterns of women or of men
But not that selfsame excellence again.

                V

My mediaeval knees lack health until they bend,
But in that woman, in that household where
Honour had lived so long, all lacking found.
Childless I thought, 'My children may find here
Deep-rooted things,' but never foresaw its end,
And now that end has come I have not wept;
No fox can foul the lair the badger swept -

                VI

(An image out of Spenser and the common tongue).
John Synge, I and Augusta Gregory, thought
All that we did, all that we said or sang
Must come from contact with the soil, from that
Contact everything Antaeus-like grew strong.
We three alone in modern times had brought
Everything down to that sole test again,
Dream of the noble and the beggar-man.

                VII

And here's John Synge himself, that rooted man,
'Forgetting human words,' a grave deep face.
You that would judge me, do not judge alone
This book or that, come to this hallowed place
Where my friends' portraits hang and look thereon;
Ireland's history in their lineaments trace;
Think where man's glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.                

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I believe that a good jumping off point for this poem is to imagine Yeats' state of mind while writing it. To give an historical context, he wrote this in the early thirties and was looking at the portraits of Ireland's heroes, his friends, many of whom were killed in rebellion, or had died from other things in the period between 1914 and 1923. He had not seen their faces since then, and I like to imagine him being revisited so to speak by his friends from long ago whom he had missed so much and is now seeing again as an old man. To me there seems to be a tinge of regret on his part for the fact that he had not acted with them, and met a similar fate. If anyone would like information on the historical characters mentioned, (Casement, O'Higgins, etc.) or information on the Ireland of Yeats' time, or Yeats himself, feel free to email me at

| Posted on 2009-11-07 | by a guest




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