Tuesday, May 22, 2007

William Butler Yeats, "The Magi"

Now as at all times I can see in the mind's eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depths of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary's turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=2095
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Butler_Yeats


This poem is generally about the subhuman side of man. Yeats describes how he can see the animosity of man through the mind's eye. "Their stiff, painted clothes" represents the false image that the mind can lay out for others to see. Beastly traits of mankind have been around forever, and Yeats also refers to this with "all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones". Here, Yeats is talking about how old this characteristic of humans has been around for a very long time, like that of an ancient statue or effigy eroded from rain and age.

1 comment:

Mr. Malley said...

Interesting reading, Mike. Take into account that Yeats is heavily alluding to the three wise men of Biblical fame and see how that affects your overall view.