'Meditations In Time Of Civil War' by William Butler Yeats

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i{Ancestral Houses}
SURELY among a rich man s flowering lawns,
Amid the rustle of his planted hills,
Life overflows without ambitious pains;
And rains down life until the basin spills,
And mounts more dizzy high the more it rains
As though to choose whatever shape it wills
And never stoop to a mechanical
Or servile shape, at others' beck and call.
Mere dreams, mere dreams! Yet Homer had not Sung
Had he not found it certain beyond dreams
That out of life's own self-delight had sprung
The abounding glittering jet; though now it seems
As if some marvellous empty sea-shell flung
Out of the obscure dark of the rich streams,
And not a fountain, were the symbol which
Shadows the inherited glory of the rich.
Some violent bitter man, some powerful man
Called architect and artist in, that they,
Bitter and violent men, might rear in stone
The sweetness that all longed for night and day,
The gentleness none there had ever known;
But when the master's buried mice can play.
And maybe the great-grandson of that house,
For all its bronze and marble, 's but a mouse.
O what if gardens where the peacock strays
With delicate feet upon old terraces,
Or else all Juno from an urn displays
Before the indifferent garden deities;
O what if levelled lawns and gravelled ways
Where slippered Contemplation finds his ease
And Childhood a delight for every sense,
But take our greatness with our violence?
What if the glory of escutcheoned doors,
And buildings that a haughtier age designed,
The pacing to and fro on polished floors
Amid great chambers and long galleries, lined
With famous portraits of our ancestors;
What if those things the greatest of mankind
Consider most to magnify, or to bless,
But take our greatness with our bitterness?

i{My House}
An ancient bridge, and a more ancient tower,
A farmhouse that is sheltered by its wall,
An acre of stony ground,
Where the symbolic rose can break in flower,
Old ragged elms, old thorns innumerable,
The sound of the rain or sound
Of every wind that blows;
The stilted water-hen
Crossing Stream again
Scared by the splashing of a dozen cows;
A winding stair, a chamber arched with stone,
A grey stone fireplace with an open hearth,
A candle and written page.
i{Il Penseroso's} Platonist toiled on
In some like chamber, shadowing forth
How the daemonic rage
Imagined everything.
Benighted travellers
From markets and from fairs
Have seen his midnight candle glimmering.
Two men have founded here.A man-at-arms
Gathered a score of horse and spent his days
In this tumultuous spot,
Where through long wars and sudden night alarms
His dwinding score and he seemed castaways
Forgetting and forgot;
And I, that after me
My bodily heirs may find,
To exalt a lonely mind,
Befitting emblems of adversity.

i{My Table}
Two heavy trestles, and a board
Where Sato's gift, a changeless sword,
By pen and paper lies,
That it may moralise
My days out of their aimlessness.
A bit of an embroidered dress
Covers its wooden sheath.
Chaucer had not drawn breath
When it was forged.In Sato's house,
Curved like new moon, moon-luminous
It lay five hundred years.
Yet if no change appears
No moon; only an aching heart
Conceives a changeless work of art.
Our learned men have urged
That when and where 'twas forged
A marvellous accomplishment,
In painting or in pottery, went
From father unto son
And through the centuries ran
And seemed unchanging like the sword.
Soul's beauty being most adored,
Men and their business took
Me soul's unchanging look;
For the most rich inheritor,
Knowing that none could pass Heaven's door,
That loved inferior art,
Had such an aching heart
That he, although a country's talk
For silken clothes and stately walk.
Had waking wits; it seemed
Juno's peacock screamed.

i{My Descendants}
Having inherited a vigorous mind
From my old fathers, I must nourish dreams
And leave a woman and a man behind
As vigorous of mind, and yet it seems
Life scarce can cast a fragrance on the wind,
Scarce spread a glory to the morning beams,
But the torn petals strew the garden plot;
And there's but common greenness after that.
And what if my descendants lose the flower
Through natural declension of the soul,
Through too much business with the passing hour,
Through too much play, or marriage with a fool?
May this laborious stair and this stark tower
Become a roofless min that the owl
May build in the cracked masonry and cry
Her desolation to the desolate sky.
The primum Mobile that fashioned us
Has made the very owls in circles move;
And I, that count myself most prosperous,
Seeing that love and friendship are enough,
For an old neighbour's friendship chose the house
And decked and altered it for a girl's love,
And know whatever flourish and decline
These stones remain their monument and mine.
i{The Road at My Door}
An affable Irregular,
A heavily-built Falstaffian man,
Comes cracking jokes of civil war
As though to die by gunshot were
The finest play under the sun.
A brown Lieutenant and his men,
Half dressed in national uniform,
Stand at my door, and I complain
Of the foul weather, hail and rain,
A pear-tree broken by the storm.
I count those feathered balls of soot
The moor-hen guides upon the stream.
To silence the envy in my thought;
And turn towards my chamber, caught
In the cold snows of a dream.

i{The Stare's Nest by My Window}
The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the state.
We are closed in, and the key is turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house burned,
Yet no cleat fact to be discerned:
Come build in he empty house of the stare.
A barricade of stone or of wood;
Some fourteen days of civil war;
Last night they trundled down the road
That dead young soldier in his blood:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.
We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart's grown brutal from the fare;
More Substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

i{I see Phantoms of Hatred and of the Heart's}
i{Fullness and of the Coming Emptiness}
I climb to the tower-top and lean upon broken stone,
A mist that is like blown snow is sweeping over all,
Valley, river, and elms, under the light of a moon
That seems unlike itself, that seems unchangeable,
A glittering sword out of the east.A puff of wind
And those white glimmering fragments of the mist
sweep by.
Frenzies bewilder, reveries perturb the mind;
Monstrous familiar images swim to the mind's eye.
"Vengeance upon the murderers,' the cry goes up,
"Vengeance for Jacques Molay.' In cloud-pale rags, or
in lace,
The rage-driven, rage-tormented, and rage-hungry troop,
Trooper belabouring trooper, biting at arm or at face,
Plunges towards nothing, arms and fingers spreading
For the embrace of nothing; and I, my wits astray
Because of all that senseless tumult, all but cried
For vengeance on the murderers of Jacques Molay.
Their legs long, delicate and slender, aquamarine their
Magical unicorns bear ladies on their backs.
The ladies close their musing eyes.No prophecies,
Remembered out of Babylonian almanacs,
Have closed the ladies' eyes, their minds are but a pool
Where even longing drowns under its own excess;
Nothing but stillness can remain when hearts are full
Of their own sweetness, bodies of their loveliness.
The cloud-pale unicorns, the eyes of aquamarine,
The quivering half-closed eyelids, the rags of cloud or
of lace,
Or eyes that rage has brightened, arms it has made lean,
Give place to an indifferent multitude, give place
To brazen hawks.Nor self-delighting reverie,
Nor hate of what's to come, nor pity for what's gone,
Nothing but grip of claw, and the eye's complacency,
The innumerable clanging wings that have put out the
I turn away and shut the door, and on the stair
Wonder how many times I could have proved my
In something that all others understand or share;
But O! ambitious heart, had such a proof drawn forth
A company of friends, a conscience set at ease,
It had but made us pine the more.The abstract joy,
The half-read wisdom of daemonic images,
Suffice the ageing man as once the growing boy.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Meditations In Time Of Civil War" by W.B. Yeats: A Masterpiece of Poetic Vision

In the realm of poetry, there are some works that stand out as masterpieces of literary genius. One such work is "Meditations In Time Of Civil War" by William Butler Yeats. This collection of poems, published in 1922, is a powerful testament to the tumultuous times in which Yeats lived, and the deep emotional and philosophical struggles he experienced as a result. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the many layers of meaning and interpretation in Yeats' work, exploring the various themes, motifs, and literary devices that make "Meditations In Time Of Civil War" such an enduring and profound work of poetry.

The Historical Context

Before we dive into the poems themselves, it's important to understand the historical context in which they were written. Yeats lived during a time of great political and social upheaval in Ireland. The country was in the midst of a civil war, with rival factions fighting for control of the government and the future of the nation. Against this backdrop of violence and turmoil, Yeats found himself struggling to make sense of the world around him. His own personal beliefs and ideals were in conflict with the reality of the situation, leaving him feeling disillusioned and disenchanted.

Themes and Motifs

One of the most striking aspects of "Meditations In Time Of Civil War" is the wide range of themes and motifs that Yeats explores in his poetry. From the nature of time and eternity to the role of the artist in society, Yeats covers a broad range of subjects, each one imbued with his unique poetic vision. One of the most prominent themes in the collection is the idea of transformation and rebirth. Many of the poems deal with the idea of death and renewal, of endings and new beginnings. This is perhaps most apparent in the poem "The Second Coming," which opens with the famous lines:

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,"

These lines, which have become some of the most famous in all of modern poetry, speak to the idea of chaos and disintegration, of a world in which everything seems to be falling apart. Yet even amidst this chaos, there is a sense of hope and possibility. As the poem continues, Yeats speaks of a new era, of a "rough beast" that is "slouching towards Bethlehem to be born." This image of rebirth and renewal is a recurring motif throughout "Meditations In Time Of Civil War," and it speaks to Yeats' own belief in the power of transformation and regeneration.

Another prominent theme in the collection is the idea of time and eternity. Yeats was deeply interested in the concept of time, and he spent much of his life trying to understand its mysteries. In "Meditations In Time Of Civil War," he explores the nature of time in a number of different ways. In the poem "The Nineteenth Century And After," for example, he speaks of the "invisible power" of time, which "has made us wise." He also speaks of the way in which time can seem to move in circles, or cycles, as in the poem "Leda And The Swan," in which he writes:

"A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead."

This idea of cyclical time is a common one in Yeats' work, and it reflects his belief in the cyclical nature of history and human experience.

Literary Devices

In addition to its many themes and motifs, "Meditations In Time Of Civil War" is also notable for its use of a wide range of literary devices. Perhaps the most prominent of these is Yeats' use of symbolism. Throughout the collection, he employs a wide range of symbols, from the falcon in "The Second Coming" to the swan in "Leda And The Swan." These symbols serve to evoke a deeper level of meaning and emotion, allowing Yeats to explore complex ideas and emotions in a way that is both powerful and resonant.

Another important literary device in the collection is Yeats' use of imagery. His poetry is filled with vivid, evocative images that bring his words to life in the reader's mind. From the "widening gyre" in "The Second Coming" to the "masterful images" in "Easter, 1916," Yeats' imagery is both beautiful and haunting, capturing the reader's imagination and leaving a lasting impression.


So what does all of this mean? What is Yeats trying to say in "Meditations In Time Of Civil War?" The answer, of course, is complex and multifaceted. On one level, the collection is a response to the political and social upheaval of Yeats' time. It speaks to the chaos and uncertainty of the era, and to Yeats' own struggle to make sense of it all. Yet on another level, the collection is a deeply personal reflection on Yeats' own beliefs and passions. It speaks to his deep interest in the mysteries of time, the power of transformation, and the role of the artist in society.

Ultimately, what makes "Meditations In Time Of Civil War" such a powerful and enduring work of poetry is its ability to speak to the human experience in a profound and universal way. Its themes and motifs are timeless, and its literary devices are masterful. Yeats' poetry captures the beauty and tragedy of the human experience, and it does so with a grace and power that is truly remarkable. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of reading this masterpiece of poetic vision, I urge you to do so immediately. You will not be disappointed.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century. His works are known for their depth, complexity, and beauty. Among his many poems, "Meditations In Time Of Civil War" stands out as a masterpiece of modernist poetry. This poem is a reflection on the turmoil and violence of the Irish Civil War, which took place from 1922 to 1923. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this poem, and how they contribute to its overall meaning.

The poem is divided into three parts, each with its own distinct tone and imagery. The first part is a meditation on the nature of war and violence. Yeats begins by describing the chaos and destruction that war brings, using vivid and powerful imagery. He writes, "Ancestral houses / Where the dead tread / The boards like creaking ice." This image of the dead walking on creaking ice is both eerie and haunting, and it sets the tone for the rest of the poem.

Yeats then goes on to describe the futility of war, and how it destroys everything in its path. He writes, "All that's beautiful drifts away / Like the waters." This image of beauty drifting away like water is a powerful metaphor for the transience of life and the impermanence of all things. Yeats is suggesting that war destroys not only physical structures but also the intangible things that make life worth living.

The second part of the poem is a meditation on the role of the poet in times of war. Yeats suggests that the poet has a responsibility to bear witness to the violence and suffering of war, and to use his or her art to create meaning out of chaos. He writes, "The poet, the maker of song, / He is the visionary of the race / And he sees before his own eyes / The vision of all things." Yeats is suggesting that the poet has a unique ability to see beyond the surface of things and to understand the deeper meaning of events.

The third and final part of the poem is a meditation on the possibility of redemption and renewal in the aftermath of war. Yeats suggests that even in the midst of destruction and chaos, there is always the possibility of rebirth and renewal. He writes, "The world turns and the world changes, / But one thing does not change. / In all of my years, one thing does not change." This image of the world turning and changing suggests that even in the midst of chaos, there is always the possibility of renewal and rebirth.

Throughout the poem, Yeats uses a variety of powerful and evocative images to convey his message. He uses images of death, destruction, and chaos to suggest the horrors of war, and images of beauty and renewal to suggest the possibility of redemption. He also uses a variety of poetic techniques, such as repetition, alliteration, and metaphor, to create a sense of rhythm and musicality in the poem.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of repetition. Yeats repeats certain phrases and images throughout the poem, creating a sense of unity and coherence. For example, he repeats the phrase "Meditations in Time of Civil War" several times throughout the poem, creating a sense of continuity and focus. He also repeats the image of the dead walking on creaking ice, creating a sense of unease and foreboding.

Another striking feature of the poem is its use of alliteration. Yeats uses alliteration to create a sense of rhythm and musicality in the poem. For example, he writes, "The poet, the maker of song," using the repetition of the "p" sound to create a sense of emphasis and power. He also uses alliteration to create a sense of unity and coherence, such as in the phrase "The world turns and the world changes."

Finally, Yeats uses metaphor to create a sense of depth and complexity in the poem. He uses metaphors to suggest the transience of life, the futility of war, and the possibility of renewal. For example, he writes, "All that's beautiful drifts away / Like the waters," using the metaphor of water to suggest the impermanence of all things. He also uses the metaphor of the world turning and changing to suggest the possibility of renewal and rebirth.

In conclusion, "Meditations In Time Of Civil War" is a powerful and evocative poem that reflects on the horrors of war and the possibility of redemption. Yeats uses a variety of poetic techniques, such as repetition, alliteration, and metaphor, to create a sense of rhythm and musicality in the poem. He also uses a variety of powerful and evocative images to convey his message, such as images of death, destruction, and chaos, and images of beauty and renewal. Overall, this poem is a masterpiece of modernist poetry, and a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet.

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