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The Two Trees Analysis

Author: poem of William Butler Yeats Type: poem Views: 26

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Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,

The holy tree is growing there;

From joy the holy branches start,

And all the trembling flowers they bear.

The changing colours of its fruit

Have dowered the stars with metry light;

The surety of its hidden root

Has planted quiet in the night;

The shaking of its leafy head

Has given the waves their melody,

And made my lips and music wed,

Murmuring a wizard song for thee.

There the Joves a circle go,

The flaming circle of our days,

Gyring, spiring to and fro

In those great ignorant leafy ways;

Remembering all that shaken hair

And how the winged sandals dart,

Thine eyes grow full of tender care:

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

Gaze no more in the bitter glass

The demons, with their subtle guile.

Lift up before us when they pass,

Or only gaze a little while;

For there a fatal image grows

That the stormy night receives,

Roots half hidden under snows,

Broken boughs and blackened leaves.

For ill things turn to barrenness

In the dim glass the demons hold,

The glass of outer weariness,

Made when God slept in times of old.

There, through the broken branches, go

The ravens of unresting thought;

Flying, crying, to and fro,

Cruel claw and hungry throat,

Or else they stand and sniff the wind,

And shake their ragged wings; alas!

Thy tender eyes grow all unkind:

Gaze no more in the bitter glass.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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| Posted on 2017-08-30 | by a guest

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We have a choice: Gaze into the bitter glass or Gaze into our own hearts. Bitter glass are all the ways we avoid our true hearts - fretting about how we appear to others, spending hours on our smartphones/computers/TVs (modern bitter glass), chasing false needs created endless ads and social media, having no time for inner reflection to listen to our hearts. It is a constant struggle - but Years tells us we have a choice to look away from the bitter glass and into our hearts regardless of the ravens that encircle us.

| Posted on 2017-08-08 | by a guest

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| Posted on 2017-05-30 | by a guest

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I have done a great detail of research/writing on Yeats, and his phylisophical thought process with his work. In general, Yeats believed that in order to comprehend a number of his works (including the two trees), the reader would have to be able to reach a higher state of enlightenment (eternal knowledge, as understood by passage into the spirit dimention). So, this makes it impossible for a reader to fully understand what Yeats is talking about (unless you have reached this point in life/are on dmt...haha) but I digress. My main take away is that W.b. Yeats is explaining to his love his understanding of how it is possible to comprehend the intense beauty of life, but it is impossible to constantly fee this joy because of man's descent into darkness (throughout time, man has drifted farther and farther from the spirit dimension making it near impossible to depict/locate.in Yeats' mind ;)).

| Posted on 2016-01-23 | by a guest

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I love this poem. I am certain it has many meanings and enjoyed many of the thoughts posted by others, especially the scholarly ones. To me one primary meaning is the psychology of love. The poet is speaking to his lover (perhaps based on Maude?) He asks her to look into her true soul, where the holy tree of love grows, and stop obsessing about the bad parts of life and of his character. To remember the beauty of their love and shared passion (remembering all that shaken hair)so that she looks with love and tenderness on him. When she instead focuses on evil and ugliness and allows her unfettered thoughts to magnify his faults and their problems (and the evils of the world), she instead looks upon him with unkindness and resentment, and the holy tree become distorted and broken.

| Posted on 2015-09-09 | by a guest

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I regard the holy tree as my true self, that is good and real and lovable. Everybody has it inside. But we tend to judge ourselves, and then we see (through the bitter glass of the demons) false images of ourselves and the world around us. That makes living and loving difficult.
This poem is a gift to remind yourself to the nature of your true being. You can decide to shift perspective whenever you want: \"Beloved, gaze in thine own heart\"

| Posted on 2012-09-06 | by a guest

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I think that one could liken his poem to an analogy of modernism; the dark mingling with the light. The last remnants of Enlightenment swirling around with the sudden change of a technologically advancing society that displaced many roles in society. The time fits, he wrote this in 1893 and by then, society had already changed quite a lot from the early modernist period.

| Posted on 2012-05-13 | by a guest

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Whoever posted this made some heinous errors on the punctuation. Should probably get that fixed on a site that talks about poetry meaning. The location of one period or comma can totally change the meaning of a line; for one line, the meaning of the poem.

| Posted on 2012-04-14 | by a guest

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This poem has had a profound effect on my life and outlook. I was introduced to it by Lorenna Mckennits song on her album \"the mask and the mirror\". Faced with addiction and behavior that goes with it, this poem gave me the solution. I\'m forever grateful.

| Posted on 2012-03-26 | by a guest

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I sense that my long-dead wife may sometimes sing this to me as I sleep. She may be urging me to get on with my life and not to despair over what what cannot be changed.

| Posted on 2012-03-11 | by a guest

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Bitter Glass I would take as \'Bitterness\' period.

| Posted on 2012-03-05 | by a guest

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Perhaps part 1 is in reference to the inner image that we have and part 2 to the image we see in the mirror. Although internally our image doesn\'t change, our outward appearance, with age, does. Therefore, the \"bitter glass\" could signify a mirror. This is also suggested by using imagery of winter, \"outer weariness\" and \"broken branches\". Of course, in the mirror we do not see ourselves for what we really are but what time and this world has made us to be.
The first part most likely relates to the youth of the soul or perhaps remembering youth, as suggested by such phrases/words as fruit, flower, shaking hair, ignorant leafy ways. The freedom of youth and springtime is a time in which we are not constrained by the world (spring time in poetry normally corresponds to youth).
Perhaps the holy tree refers to the soul and in the second stanza the soul is depicted as being what the soul becomes as it ages and becomes tainted by worldly ways - the holy tree (innocence) is lost as demons and ravens (our bad experiences) make bitterness grow in our hearts.

| Posted on 2011-01-20 | by a guest

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I have no idea what this poem is talking about and all i can get from it is the good and bad tree, some imagery telling how all that is good and bad coincide, but WHAT IS THE BITTER GLASS?? A mirror, I take it but what does it have to do with the poem

| Posted on 2010-10-17 | by a guest

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While I cannot exactly disagree with any of the already-posted analyses, I understand the poem to be a wistful meditation on the brevity of youthful life - too soon torn by the depredations of age and the circumstances of life.
I understand \"the bitter glass\" to be a looking-glass which reveals to us the effects of time upon our own visage, while only our memory provides clear (admittedly selective) images of \"...the shaken hair / And how the winged sandals dart,...\"

| Posted on 2010-10-02 | by a guest

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This poem has been very influential in my life. It is like the Yin yang in Chinese philosophy, there are two sides of humans and of everything. One tree is good the other is bad. But we can chose which tree we shall follow and that is what makes us human and makes this poem so inspiring.

| Posted on 2010-03-30 | by a guest

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It's about alcoholism; "Gaze no more in the bitter glass The demons, with their subtle guile."
Ale is bitter and the alcohol is addictive, thus The Demons. The "Holy Tree" is your soul.

| Posted on 2010-02-24 | by a guest

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Yeats' loved mysticism and astrology. There is no question, but mysticism cannot antedate the themes of doctrine. Mysticism doesn't support either the theme, the lament, or the command of this poem. Those are things born from protestant ideals - on which Yeats was raised. So he may indeed have had an open affection for the mystical, but his theme here speaks of doctrinal wisdom - however liberal an observer he may have become. His membership in a club does not imply that he departed once and for all from his protestant heritage or law studies. It just implies that he had a club membership. So I would agree with your assumption of Yeats' bias. Either way I don't believe this single poem captures the entirety of Yeats, but the theme does illuminate his willingness to draw from both Christian and mystical processes.

| Posted on 2010-01-29 | by a guest

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In response to the last analysis, I think it's safe to call Yeats motivated by some degree of mysticism because he was a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, the esoteric society which studied many occult matters.

| Posted on 2010-01-22 | by a guest

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Yeats takes wisdom and marries it with melody.
The two trees are undoubtedly the same two trees featured in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). It seems that his philosophy - played out in meter - is consistent with the Cannon's characterization of the nature of the trees.
The "Tree of Life" is pure and holy; while the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" is beguiling but evil. One tree brings joy and song. The other tree brings darkness, restlessness, and death. To this point attends all of scripture - from the beginning to the end.
Yeats himself is far removed from the happenings told to us by Genesis, but he understands the weight of that moment - when man disobeyed God and chose the wrong tree. The plague of sin has infected everyone since that time. And so it seems Yeats - having lived out regret in his own life and desirous of reconciliation, is asking the reader to turn to the good tree. He says: "gaze no more...". He knows that this conflict rests with us all. His dialogue is filled with specifics, and evidences his intimate knowledge of the struggle - enough to offer the reader wisdom on the matter.
I would disagree with the first writer who employed the terms "mythology and mysticism" to describe the motivation of Yeats. While this may seem convenient, mysticism is a very arbitrary science. It is based on your needs and what you believe. Mystics aren't out to share the experience. They're out to get there first, and in their own manner - a narcissism that fits the circumstance. The "wizard" comment may be attributed to slang. You can be a wizard at pinball. You can be a wizard on piano. It's a notation that speaks to the effect of the song, and not the bent of the writer.
But Yeats speaks to a matter that is universal. His words are colorful and painfully honest. Part-1 is dressed with heavenly fixtures. Even the "circle" alludes to immortality. This first section is essentially the mind behind a fanciful gaze. He sees its beauty, and knows its purity, and longs to be near it, but is yet still far. It is the desire to right the soul.
Part-2 is based in the effectual. He speaks as one with personal knowledge. While the first section was fanciful imagery, the second-section is blatant in its account. Weariness, fatality, barrenness, cruelty, and bitterness, are all sensibilities common to everyone, and emotions that can only be understood by someone having experienced their sting.
Finally: Both sections end with a promise. The holy tree of section-one affords the onlooker the blessing of tenderness. The eyes of every newborn child are tender. If those eyes rest on that which is pure and right, they will grow even more tender with time. In section-two, tenderness is revoked from the onlooker. However, this is not accomplished by the demons - who can only beguile someone with empty suggestion. The onlooker is a victim unto self. The corrosive lies of the second-tree will have their affect in time, and their effect will be paralyzing. The thoughts of hope lost are a haunting, and serve as a restless reminder like ravens flying through the mind.
Steven Lee Huffman

| Posted on 2010-01-14 | by a guest

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In the poem the Two Trees, Yeats seperates goodness with badness; light and dark. In addition, the poem talks about gods, goddeses, and demons. William Butler Yeats is very much into mythology and mysticism. For example, the first tree is represented by light "from joy, the holy branches, and all the trembling flowers they bear." The goodness is represented as clean, unspoiled by worldly knowledge as in "those great ignorant, leafy ways." The second tree is the dark side of life. For example, the demons bring " broken boughes and blackend leaves." "For all things turned to barreness." The demons bring about destruction, unkind deeds, and cruelness.

| Posted on 2009-03-16 | by a guest

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There the Joves a circle go,
There the Loves a circle go,

| Posted on 2008-11-12 | by a guest

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