'From The 'Antigone'' by William Butler Yeats

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Overcome -- O bitter sweetness,
Inhabitant of the soft cheek of a girl --
The rich man and his affairs,
The fat flocks and the fields' fatness,
Mariners, rough harvesters;
Overcome Gods upon Parnassus;

Overcome the Empyrean; hurl
Heaven and Earth out of their places,
That in the Same calamity
Brother and brother, friend and friend,
Family and family,
City and city may contend,
By that great glory driven wild.

Pray I will and sing I must,
And yet I weep -- Oedipus' child
Descends into the loveless dust.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, From The 'Antigone' by William Butler Yeats: A Deeper Look

Have you ever read a poem that just struck you to the core? That made you want to read it over and over again, analyzing every word and phrase for a deeper meaning? That is how I felt when I first read "Poetry, From The 'Antigone'" by William Butler Yeats. This classic poem, written in 1921, is filled with rich imagery, powerful metaphors, and thought-provoking themes. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve deeper into the poem, exploring its structure, language, and themes to better understand its meaning and significance.


Let's start with the structure of the poem. "Poetry, From The 'Antigone'" is written in free verse, meaning it has no set rhyme or meter. Instead, the poem is divided into three stanzas of varying lengths. The first stanza is only two lines, while the second is six lines, and the final stanza is the longest, with twelve lines. The poem also uses enjambment, meaning that lines flow into each other without punctuation, creating a sense of fluidity and movement.

The brevity of the first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem. It is a powerful opening that immediately draws the reader in and sets the scene. The second stanza expands upon the first, introducing the concept of poetry as a form of resistance against oppression. The final stanza brings the poem full circle, ending with a powerful call to action. The structure of the poem mirrors the message of the poem itself – that poetry has the power to inspire and provoke change.


The language of "Poetry, From The 'Antigone'" is just as powerful as its structure. Yeats uses rich imagery and metaphorical language to convey his message. For example, he writes, "When the soul grows old / It passes from the poetic into the mechanic." This metaphorical language contrasts the beauty and creativity of poetry with the dullness and drudgery of the everyday. Yeats is suggesting that when we lose our connection to poetry, we lose our connection to the deeper meaning of life.

Another example of Yeats' use of metaphor can be found in the lines, "The light of evening, Lissadell, / Great windows open to the south." Here, Yeats is using the image of a grand estate with open windows as a metaphor for the openness and expansiveness of the poetic mind. The language in this poem is dense and layered, inviting the reader to slow down and contemplate each word.


One of the most prominent themes in "Poetry, From The 'Antigone'" is the power of poetry to inspire change. Yeats writes, "When you are old and gray and full of sleep / And nodding by the fire, take down this book… / And read the poems of Selwyn and Dowson." Here, Yeats is suggesting that poetry has the power to transcend time and inspire future generations. He is also suggesting that poetry can be a form of resistance against oppression, as he writes, "Because the tyrant grinds down the people / And the poet lifts up the people."

Another theme in the poem is the idea of poetry as a form of spiritual connection. Yeats writes, "The winds awaken, the leaves whirl round, / Our cheeks are pale, our hair is unbound, / Our breasts are heaving, our eyes are agleam." These lines suggest a spiritual awakening, a connection to something greater than ourselves. Yeats is suggesting that poetry can connect us to the divine, to the deeper mysteries of life.


In conclusion, "Poetry, From The 'Antigone'" by William Butler Yeats is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the themes of resistance, spirituality, and the power of poetry to inspire change. The structure of the poem mirrors its message, while the language is rich and layered, inviting the reader to slow down and contemplate each word. This is a poem that rewards close reading and deeper analysis, and its message is just as relevant today as it was when it was written almost 100 years ago.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry From The 'Antigone' by William Butler Yeats is a classic piece of literature that has stood the test of time. This poem is a beautiful and powerful work that explores the themes of love, death, and the human condition. In this analysis, we will explore the meaning and significance of this poem, as well as its historical context and literary devices.

Firstly, it is important to understand the historical context in which this poem was written. Yeats was a prominent Irish poet who lived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time, Ireland was undergoing a period of political turmoil and social upheaval. Yeats was deeply involved in the Irish nationalist movement and was a vocal advocate for Irish independence. This poem was written during this time of political and social unrest, and it reflects the themes and concerns of the era.

The poem is based on the Greek tragedy Antigone, which tells the story of a young woman who defies the law to bury her brother. In Yeats' poem, he explores the themes of love and death through the character of Antigone. The poem begins with the lines, "Over the heart of the dead, they laid a stone; / On the stone, they wrote his name." These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a meditation on death and the power of love.

Throughout the poem, Yeats uses a variety of literary devices to convey his message. One of the most prominent devices is imagery. Yeats uses vivid and powerful imagery to create a sense of atmosphere and emotion. For example, he writes, "The wind blew out from Bergen, from the dawning to the day, / There was a wreck of trees, a fall of towers, / A score of years ago." These lines create a sense of foreboding and danger, as if something terrible is about to happen.

Another literary device that Yeats uses is symbolism. The stone that is laid over the heart of the dead is a symbol of the permanence of death. It represents the finality of death and the fact that once someone is gone, they are gone forever. The stone also represents the power of memory and the importance of remembering those who have passed away.

The theme of love is also a prominent one in the poem. Yeats explores the idea that love is a powerful force that can overcome even death. He writes, "But they loved him, and all their love was vain, / And they laid him on the stone of pain." This line suggests that even though the love of Antigone and her family could not save her brother from death, it was still a powerful force that had a lasting impact.

The poem also explores the theme of the human condition. Yeats suggests that death is an inevitable part of life and that we must all face it eventually. He writes, "And the soul, passing through the seven stages, / Casts off the stages of the earth." This line suggests that death is a natural part of the cycle of life and that we must all go through it in order to reach the next stage of our existence.

In conclusion, Poetry From The 'Antigone' by William Butler Yeats is a powerful and moving work that explores the themes of love, death, and the human condition. Through his use of vivid imagery, powerful symbolism, and poignant language, Yeats creates a sense of atmosphere and emotion that is both haunting and beautiful. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of literature and the ability of great writers to capture the essence of the human experience.

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