'Ego Dominus Tuus' by William Butler Yeats

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i{Hic.} On the grey sand beside the shallow stream
Under your old wind-beaten tower, where still
A lamp burns on beside the open book
That Michael Robartes left, you walk in the moon,
And, though you have passed the best of life, still trace,
Enthralled by the unconquerable delusion,
Magical shapes.
i{Ille.} By the help of an image
I call to my own opposite, summon all
That I have handled least, least looked upon.
i{Hic.} And I would find myself and not an image.
i{Ille.} That is our modern hope, and by its light
We have lit upon the gentle, sensitive mind
And lost the old nonchalance of the hand;
Whether we have chosen chisel, pen or brush,
We are but critics, or but half create,
Timid, entangled, empty and abashed,
Lacking the countenance of our friends.
i{Hic.} And yet
The chief imagination of Christendom,
Dante Alighieri, so utterly found himself
That he has made that hollow face of his
More plain to the mind's eye than any face
But that of Christ.
i{Ille.} And did he find himself
Or was the hunger that had made it hollow
A hunger for the apple on the bough
Most out of reach? and is that spectral image
The man that Lapo and that Guido knew?
I think he fashioned from his opposite
An image that might have been a stony face
Staring upon a Bedouin's horse-hair roof
From doored and windowed cliff, or half upturned
Among the coarse grass and the camel-dung.
He set his chisel to the hardest stone.
Being mocked by Guido for his lecherous life,
Derided and deriding, driven out
To climb that stair and eat that bitter bread,
He found the unpersuadable justice, he found
The most exalted lady loved by a man.
i{Hic.} Yet surely there are men who have made their art
Out of no tragic war, lovers of life,
Impulsive men that look for happiness
And sing when t"hey have found it.
i{Ille.} No, not sing,
For those that love the world serve it in action,
Grow rich, popular and full of influence,
And should they paint or write, still it is action:
The struggle of the fly in marmalade.
The rhetorician would deceive his neighbours,
The sentimentalist himself; while art
Is but a vision of reality.
What portion in the world can the artist have
Who has awakened from the common dream
But dissipation and despair?
i{Hic.} And yet
No one denies to Keats love of the world;
Remember his deliberate happiness.
i{Ille.} His art is happy, but who knows his mind?
I see a schoolboy when I think of him,
With face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop window,
For certainly he sank into his grave
His senses and his heart unsatisfied,
And made -- being poor, ailing and ignorant,
Shut out from all the luxury of the world,
The coarse-bred son of a livery-stable keeper --
Luxuriant song.
i{Hic.} Why should you leave the lamp
Burning alone beside an open book,
And trace these characters upon the sands?
A style is found by sedentary toil
And by the imitation of great masters.
i{Zlle.} Because I seek an image, n-ot a book.
Those men that in their writings are most wise,
Own nothing but their blind, stupefied hearts.
I call to the mysterious one who yet
Shall walk the wet sands by the edge of the stream
And look most like me, being indeed my double,
And prove of all imaginable things
The most unlike, being my anti-self,
And, standing by these characters, disclose
All that I seek; and whisper it as though
He were afraid the birds, who cry aloud
Their momentary cries before it is dawn,
Would carry it away to blasphemous men.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Ego Dominus Tuus" by William Butler Yeats: A Masterpiece of Modernist Poetry

If there is one poem that perfectly encapsulates the essence of William Butler Yeats as a poet, it is "Ego Dominus Tuus," or "I am your Lord." Written in 1917, this stark and potent work is a masterpiece of modernist poetry, a haunting meditation on the power of love and the human desire for transcendence.

At its core, "Ego Dominus Tuus" is a love poem. But it is not a conventional love poem. Yeats does not celebrate the joys of romantic love or the ecstasy of sexual desire. Instead, he explores the darker, more complex aspects of love: the yearning for spiritual union, the fear of losing oneself in another, and the paradoxical nature of the human ego.

The poem opens with a bold declaration: "I am your Lord." This statement sets the tone for the rest of the poem, establishing the speaker's position of authority and power. But who is the "you" that the speaker addresses? Is it a specific person, or is it a more abstract concept of love or God?

The answer is both, and neither. Yeats uses the second person pronoun to blur the boundaries between the speaker and the beloved, between the individual and the divine. Throughout the poem, the speaker oscillates between the two poles of human and divine, revealing the inherent tension between them.

The language of the poem is spare and austere, with short, declarative sentences that emphasize the speaker's authority and control. There are no flowery metaphors or elaborate descriptions; instead, the poem relies on a few key images to convey its themes.

One of these images is the "moonless night" that opens the poem. This image evokes a sense of darkness and mystery, suggesting that the speaker's love is not a simple or easy thing. It also implies a sense of timelessness, as if the speaker's love is eternal and unchanging.

Another key image is the "bread and wine" that the speaker offers to the beloved. This image has religious connotations, suggesting a sacramental union between the two figures. But it also has more mundane associations, reminding us of the everyday acts of nourishment and sustenance that are necessary for life.

Throughout the poem, Yeats explores the tension between the physical and the spiritual, the individual and the universal. The speaker's love is both deeply personal and transcendent, both finite and infinite. This tension is perhaps most evident in the final stanza of the poem:

"I am content to follow to its source Every event in action or in thought; Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot! When such as I cast out remorse So great a sweetness flows into the breast We must laugh and we must sing, We are blest by everything, Everything we look upon is blest."

Here, the speaker suggests that by embracing both the good and the bad aspects of life, by accepting the totality of human experience, one can achieve a state of transcendent bliss. This state is not a passive one; it requires active engagement with the world and with oneself. But it is also a state of surrender, a letting go of the ego and a merging with the divine.

It is this paradoxical nature of love and the human ego that makes "Ego Dominus Tuus" such a powerful and enduring work of modernist poetry. By embracing the contradictions inherent in the human experience, Yeats creates a vision of love that is both transcendent and deeply rooted in the physical world. It is a vision that continues to resonate with readers today, nearly a century after it was first written.

In conclusion, "Ego Dominus Tuus" is a masterful example of modernist poetry, a haunting meditation on the power of love and the human desire for transcendence. Through spare language and evocative imagery, Yeats explores the tension between the personal and the universal, the physical and the spiritual. By embracing the paradoxes inherent in the human experience, Yeats creates a vision of love that is both timeless and deeply rooted in the present moment. It is a poem that demands to be read and reread, a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the complexity of human emotion and experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. Among his many masterpieces, one poem that stands out is "Ego Dominus Tuus," which is Latin for "I am your Lord." This poem is a powerful and complex work that explores themes of love, spirituality, and the human condition. In this analysis, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this classic poem.

The poem "Ego Dominus Tuus" was written by Yeats in 1917, during a time of great personal turmoil for the poet. He had just experienced a failed love affair with Maud Gonne, a woman he had been in love with for many years. This heartbreak had a profound impact on Yeats, and it is reflected in the themes and imagery of the poem.

The poem is structured in three stanzas, each consisting of four lines. The first stanza sets the tone for the poem, with the speaker declaring, "I am your Lord." This line is a bold statement of power and authority, and it sets the stage for the rest of the poem. The second stanza explores the theme of love, with the speaker declaring, "I am the lover's gift." This line suggests that the speaker is a gift to the lover, and that their love is a precious and valuable thing.

The third stanza is perhaps the most powerful and complex of the poem. Here, the speaker declares, "I am the final sacrifice." This line suggests that the speaker is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of love. This sacrifice could be interpreted in many ways, but it is likely that Yeats is referring to the sacrifice of the ego, or the self. By giving up his own desires and needs, the speaker is able to fully embrace and embody love.

The imagery of the poem is also significant. The speaker is described as a "flame," which suggests both passion and danger. The flame is a symbol of the speaker's power and intensity, but it is also a reminder of the destructive potential of love. The speaker is also described as a "sword," which suggests strength and protection. The sword is a symbol of the speaker's ability to defend and protect the lover, but it is also a reminder of the violence and aggression that can be associated with love.

Overall, "Ego Dominus Tuus" is a powerful and complex poem that explores the themes of love, spirituality, and the human condition. Yeats uses bold imagery and language to create a sense of power and authority, while also exploring the vulnerability and sacrifice that are necessary for true love. The poem is a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet, and it continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.

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