'Down By The Salley Gardens' by William Butler Yeats

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DOWN by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Down By The Salley Gardens: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Have you ever been to a garden and felt a sudden, inexplicable sadness fill you up? Or have you ever chanced upon a pond and felt its stillness resonate in your soul? This is the kind of feeling that Down By The Salley Gardens, a poem written by William Butler Yeats, evokes.

This poem is a delicate exploration of love and loss, of the fleeting nature of beauty and the inevitability of change. It is a poem that has the power to transport the reader to a different time and place, to a garden where the sallies grow and the winds blow softly.

Form and Structure

Before we delve into the meaning of the poem, let us take a moment to appreciate its form and structure. Down By The Salley Gardens is a ballad, a form of poetry that has its roots in the folk tradition. Ballads are often composed to be sung, and they tell a story in a simple and straightforward manner.

The poem has a regular rhyme scheme (ABAB) and a simple meter (iambic tetrameter). Its structure is also quite straightforward, with three stanzas that each have four lines.

However, despite its simplicity, the poem has a musical quality to it that is enhanced by the repetition of certain phrases and the use of alliteration. For instance, the phrase "down by the salley gardens" is repeated twice in the first stanza, and the alliteration in "she bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree" creates a sense of harmony and rhythm.


Now, let us turn our attention to the meaning of the poem. On the surface, it seems to be a simple love story between a man and a woman, but as we delve deeper, we realize that it is a meditation on the transience of beauty and the inevitability of change.

The poem begins with the speaker recalling a time when he and his lover met "down by the salley gardens", a place that is associated with youth and innocence. The image of the "young love" and the "red rose" creates a sense of vibrancy and freshness. However, this idyllic image is soon shattered when the speaker realizes that his lover has "changed, changed utterly", and is no longer the same person he fell in love with.

The second stanza further emphasizes the theme of change, as the speaker recalls a time when he "plucked a rose" for his lover. The image of the rose, which is associated with beauty and romantic love, is juxtaposed with the image of the "cold/earth" and the "winter snows", which hint at the inevitability of death and decay. The speaker realizes that the rose, like his lover, is not immune to the passing of time, and that all things must eventually come to an end.

In the final stanza, the speaker reflects on the nature of love and the futility of trying to hold on to something that is ephemeral. He realizes that his lover, like the "murmuring/old men", will eventually fade away, and that all he can do is to "dream of the soft look/your eyes had once".

What makes this poem so powerful is its ability to capture the bittersweet nature of love and the fleetingness of beauty. It reminds us that everything in life is temporary, and that we must learn to appreciate the present moment before it is gone forever.


Down By The Salley Gardens is a poem that speaks to the human condition in a universal and timeless way. It explores themes of love, loss, and the passage of time, and does so with a delicacy and subtlety that is characteristic of Yeats' poetry. Its simple structure and musical quality make it accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds, and its message is one that is as relevant today as it was when it was written.

So the next time you find yourself in a garden, or by a pond, or in any other place that fills you with wistful longing, remember this poem. Remember that life is short, and that all things must come to an end. Remember to appreciate the beauty of the present moment, and to hold on to it with all your heart, for it is fleeting, and it is precious.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Down By The Salley Gardens: A Masterpiece by William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers around the world. One of his most famous poems is "Down By The Salley Gardens," a beautiful and haunting piece that explores themes of love, loss, and the passing of time.

The poem is structured as a dialogue between two lovers, with the speaker recounting a memory of a time when he and his beloved walked together "down by the salley gardens." The salley gardens, or willow gardens, were a common feature of the Irish countryside, and Yeats uses this setting to evoke a sense of nostalgia and longing for a simpler time.

The poem begins with the speaker recalling a time when he plucked a "pale, white rose" for his beloved, and she promised to love him forever. However, as time passed, their love faded, and the speaker is left with only memories of their time together. The poem ends with the speaker lamenting the loss of his love and the inevitability of the passing of time.

One of the most striking features of "Down By The Salley Gardens" is its use of imagery and symbolism. The salley gardens themselves are a symbol of the transience of life, as the willow trees that grow there are known for their short lifespan. The pale, white rose that the speaker plucks for his beloved is also a symbol of the fleeting nature of love, as it is a delicate and ephemeral flower that withers quickly.

The poem also makes use of vivid sensory imagery, with Yeats describing the "deep, blue skies" and the "soft, sweet air" of the salley gardens. This imagery serves to transport the reader to the idyllic setting of the poem and to evoke a sense of nostalgia for a simpler time.

Another notable aspect of "Down By The Salley Gardens" is its use of language and structure. The poem is written in a simple, lyrical style, with a regular rhyme scheme and meter that give it a musical quality. Yeats also makes use of repetition, with the phrase "she bid me take love easy" appearing twice in the poem. This repetition serves to emphasize the central theme of the poem, which is the need to accept the transience of love and the passing of time.

Overall, "Down By The Salley Gardens" is a masterpiece of modern poetry, and a testament to Yeats' skill as a writer. Its themes of love, loss, and the passing of time are universal and timeless, and its use of imagery and language is both beautiful and evocative. Whether read as a love poem or as a meditation on the nature of life itself, "Down By The Salley Gardens" is a work of art that continues to resonate with readers today.

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