This poem and its analysis was posted in the 9th year of MHFL: ( Nov 2004 to Oct 2005)
For today’s MHFL we have a W.B. Yeats poem. I have written a short analysis of this poem after the text of the poem.
But before we read the poem it is important to understand the context of this poem.
This poem was written keeping in mind Maud Gonne. In fact it is not possible to understand Yeats’ poetry without
understanding his love for Maud. Yeats loved Maud all his life. She had a great influence on him and his poetry.
But Maud did not love Yeats and married someone else. Yeats poems about Maud are a strange mixture of his love for
her and his bitterness towards her and her actions.
Maud was a nationalist and an active participant in the Irish struggle. She was a great speaker and could inspire people to
participate in the Irish national movement. For Yeats she was a woman of extraordinary beauty and intelligence who wasted
herself on useless ideals and unworthy men.
In today’s poem also there is a complex mixture of love and bitterness. It is hard to say which is more intense.
But is not bitterness itself a sign of love?
No Second Troy
WHY should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?
The poem begins with the poet asking why should he blame her(Maud) for his days full of misery. He also asks
why should he blame her for her inspiring ignorant men to become revolutionaries! Notice his tone in the third line. In Yeats’ opinion
the revolution is mere senseless violence. He does not add any more significance to it. He blames Maud for causing great violence on the streets. And then he wonders what could give Maud’s mind some peace. So in Yeats’ opinion Maud’s mind is filled with revolutionary
violence and she has inspired ignorant people into this. And then the next two lines contain a strange mix of love, awe and bitterness. Yeats says that Maud is like a “nobleness made simple as fire”, and has ” beauty like a tightened bow”. So the character of Maud seems very complicated. Or is her picture in Yeats’ mind complicated? So Maud is a beauty with a noble character and yet her mind loves revolution and causes people to fight. The use of “beauty like a tightened bow” suggests a beauty that does not inspire people to write poetry. It suggests a beauty that is unleashed upon people and makes them fight!
Then Yeats says that such beauty is not a common one. It is high , solitary and stern. He almost gives Maud the nature of a beautiful,
noble but stern and cold queen.
And then Yeats simplifies all that complex character that he attributes to Maud. He compares her with Helen of Troy! It is in Maud’s nature to make nations and kingdoms fight. She cannot create peace because violence is in her nature. If there were a Troy today the battle of Troy could be re-enacted with Maud causing the violence and the burning city. But unfortunately there is no Troy. And thus Maud’s nature can only cause violence on the streets of Ireland and what burns is the heart of the poet!
So Yeats does not blame her for anything. Maud is not deliberately hurting the poet. It is in her nature. Notice how far the poet goes to blame her and then take back the blame for Maud’s actions. It is almost as if the Poet is trying to find something in history that would seem like his own story.
dilbareen tehra zubaan-e-khalk khulvaane ka naam
jao hum nahin lete pari-rooh zulf bikhraane ka naam!