A Poet to His Beloved

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“A Poet to his Beloved” is one of many poems by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats that is centered around love and courtship. It is a poem, which dates back to 1899, and it was inspired by and dedicated to Maud Gonne, the woman of his dreams.

A Poet To His Beloved

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

I BRING you with reverent hands
The books of my numberless dreams,
White woman that passion has worn
As the tide wears the dove-grey sands,
And with heart more old than the horn
That is brimmed from the pale fire of time:
White woman with numberless dreams,
I bring you my passionate rhyme.

Analysis of Yeats’ “A Poet to His Beloved”

From the first two lines of the poem, it is clear that the speaker (referred to as he) values the person that he’s speaking to. If Maud Gonne was in fact the subject of the poem, and Yeats the speaker, he delivered a powerful message right from the start. The speaker uses the word “reverent” right at the beginning of the poem, to show his deep affection and respect. On the other hand, the word “numberless” can be defined as “countless”, which refers to having multiple dreams which can fill books. The first two lines portray a deep sense of love and respect from the speaker and his affection towards the person he’s speaking to over the course of time.

In the lines “white woman that passion has born”, the poet has associated white with goodness and purity. Thus, in the context of the poem, the poet deliberates that she was once pure, be it physically or emotionally, but over the course of time, passion had changed that. If the first three lines of the narrator is considered as a testament of love and affection to the “he” in the poem is speaking to, it shows a deep sense of devotion of the narrator towards the person he is speaking to.

In the lines “As the tide wears the dove-gray sands”, there is, once again, a scenic description of time passing by and wearing things down. Here, the poet uses the tide to portray the eroding of the dove-gray sands. The poet compares water with the passage of time, because although water is refreshing and provides rejuvenation, it can also wear things down.

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In the lines “And the heart more old than the horn”, the speaker creates a picturesque image of his undying love over the course of time. He symbolizes horns, as the source of warnings from primitive age, and mentions that his heart his older than the horn, emphasizing on his prolonged love for the person over the years.

An intriguing part of the poem is the use of a colon in the line “That is brimmed from the pale fire of time:” which will bring a resolution to the declaration in the final two lines.

The poem is smudged in the poet’s urge to express his love, affection and devotion to the person he speaks to in the poem.

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