Tag Archives: W.B Yeats

Not the wine, the effect

a poem by W.B Yeats

        A Drinking Song

        WINE comes in at the mouth
        And love comes in at the eye;
        That’s all we shall know for truth
        Before we grow old and die.
        I lift the glass to my mouth,
        I look at you, and sigh.


khanakte jaam ka mauhtaaj main nahin saqi
teri nazar salamat, mujhe kami kya hai



Even MHFL is hard work!

Dear Friends,

Today we have another W.B Yeats poem. One day Maud Gonne was looking very disheveled after a
tiring day and her sister Kathleen was looking very pretty. Yeats goes and compliments Kathleen on her dress and
Kathleen tells him : ” it is hard work being beautiful”. This poem is inspired by Kathleen’s comment.

Yeats is surprised by Kathleen’s comment. Beauty is considered a natural thing. But Kathleen’s comment
tells us that it is something that can be acquired by hard work. In this poem Yeats talks about poetry, beauty and love- all
things that seem natural and spontaneous but in reality require labor, planning and hard work. See also my detailed
interpretation at the end of the poem.

Adam’s curse

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, “A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.”

And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, “To be born woman is to know —
Although they do not talk of it at school —
That we must labour to be beautiful.”
I said, “It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.”

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

In the first stanza Yeats talks about the hard work of writing poetry. He says that every line takes a lot of time
and correction to write. The poet has to rewrite it several times to get it right. And when a reader reads that line
it has to seem spontaneous otherwise the poetry is useless. But the world and worldly people ( like bankers)
do not have any appreciation for a poet’s hard work.

In the second stanza Yeats talks about the hard work of achieving beauty and of love. In this stanza the girl tells
Yeats that “”To be born woman is to know — that we must labour to be beautiful”. And then Yeats realizes that
love is also not spontaneous and needs hard work. He talks about how some lovers seem to think that they can
win over their objects of affection by “precedents out of beautiful old books” but they always fail.

In the final stanza Yeats realizes that his own love for Maud Gonne has been flawed. He tried to win her heart
without working hard for it. He never realized before this time that love would also require hard work. He says that
“That you were beautiful, and that I strove” and “To love you in the old high way of love”. So in this last stanza he
connects two imperfect things: Maud’s beauty and his love for her. But one thing has become successful: Maud’s beauty.
And we have seen that beauty requires hard work. But the other thing: Yeats’ love remains unsuccessful because he
has merely tried to be natural in it- he has not given it the effort that it requires. And in the end he becomes tired :
” As weary-hearted as that hollow moon”. He becomes tired because his way : “To love you in the old high way of love”
has been completely unsuccessful.

So in this poem Yeats tries to compare the three labours of love, beauty and poetry and he tries to come to an
understanding of why his love for Maud has been unsuccessful.

inheen patharoon pe chal kar agar aa sako to aao
mere ghar ke raaste mein koi kehkashan nahin hai
( If you can walk on these stones then you are welcome…
the path to my house is not filled with stars)

Do these things really last that long? We will see!

Dear Poetry Lovers,

Today we have a beautiful W.B Yeats poem. I have written my interpretation after the poem:

When You are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

This is another Yeats poem written for Maud Gonne. MHFL readers will recall that a lot of Yeats’ poetry is rooted in his unrequited love for
Maud Gonne.

In this poem Yeats’ tries to make Maud imagine the time when she is old and all her beauty is gone. He imagines that she would be reading this book-
the book of Yeats’ poetry and that her thoughts will wander back to the days of her youth. And then she would recall that she had many lovers and among them was
Yeats. Yeats’ also imagines that at that time Maud will realize that all her lovers loved her for her beauty alone and only Yeats’ loved her for her soul. And at that
time, Yeats’ imagines, she will realize that only the poet loved the marks of sorrow that would slowly change her face. In the last stanza Yeats’ personifies love- it is
written in capital letters. He says his Love left her because she did not value it in her youth and ” paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars”. It is a Love that has become great and absolute but she cannot reach it anymore- it is hidden among the stars beyond the

In a way it is a poem written in frustration. Almost like a hurt ego trying its best to undo its hurt even if it is just in the world of imagination. This is
a common idea of several silly Hindi movies also! And Yeats’ makes several assumptions that only a desperate lover can make: that Maud will one day be lonely and
without real love, that she will be reading Yeats’ book of poetry, she will remember that Yeats’ was the only one who loved her truly etc. The last assumption is particularly
fantastic because it almost seems that Yeats’ has analyzed everyone else’s love for Maud and found his own to be the only true one! Wow! But does he not understand
that other men are moved by the same forces that move him? So it is almost a set of childish feelings expressed by one of the greatest poets of the English language!

But one thing is certain- if there was no unrequited love in this world we would have lost great poets….. and great lovers of poetry.


ab tera zikr bhi shayad hi Ghazal mein aaye
aaur se aaur hua dard ka unvaan jaana

( Now you may never be mentioned in my poetry again, my beloved
the title/theme of my pain has changed and will keep changing)

The core of poetry

This MHFL post was sent in the 10th year of MHFL- Nov 2005 to Oct 2006


    Today we have a W.B Yeats poem. In this poem the poet
presents some poems to his beloved. He says that he has worked
very hard in composing some “poor” rhymes. He has extracted these
poems from tales of heroism and “battles of old times”. 
He only expects his beloved to pay attention :” FASTEN your hair with a
golden pin” and sigh when she reads his poetry : “And bind up your long
hair and sigh”. The beloved has to do nothing…. just lift her
“pearl-pale hand” as if to give permission to the poet to present his
work. And as soon as she does that poems in which  “all men’s hearts must
burn and beat” will be presented to her. She will be presented poetry
in which the existance of stars is only because they are expected to
light her feet when she walks… in short she will be presented poems
in which she appears nothing short of a goddess.. revered by all and 
the one for which Nature exists.

    In poetry of love the beloved is always placed at a high
pedestal. The poet places himself at a lower point from which
he looks up to his goddess. If she is cruel to him then he makes
her a devil but she STAYS on that pedestal. The pedestal is hers and
hers only. These themes in poetry are common in all forms of poetry
be it Engligh or Urdu , or be it Classic or modern. This tells us
that this position of reverence that the beloved aquires in love is
not a style or fashion of poetry… it is a basic human feeling that 
is expressed in poetry.

    He Gives His Beloved Certain Rhymes

    FASTEN your hair with a golden pin,
    And bind up every wandering tress;
    I bade my heart build these poor rhymes:
    It worked at them, day out, day in,
    Building a sorrowful loveliness
    Out of the battles of old times.
    You need but lift a pearl-pale hand,
    And bind up your long hair and sigh;
    And all men’s hearts must burn and beat;
    And candle-like foam on the dim sand,
    And stars climbing the dew-dropping sky,
    Live but to light your passing feet.


woh naqab-e-rukh hataa di par yeh kaid bhi lagaa di
uthe har nigaah lekin koi baam tak na pahunche
( She has lifted the veil from her face but also imposed a strict
  That every man can look at her face… but no one can come close
  to the platform on which she stands)

Beauty that creates a 100 soldiers and 1 poet

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!