The Man who Dreamed of Fairyland by William Butler Yeats is a story of a man who tried to escape from the world of reality to a world of imagination. This poem was included in the volume of poems called The Rose which was published in the year 1893. The poem has a romantic characteristic, dealing with the life of a man who wants to run away from the worries and responsibilities of the material world to a world of fantasies and fairies.
The first stanza talks about a man who stood at a crowded place called Dromahair. He was eagerly looking at a girl who wore a silken dress. It meant that he had known to have some sort of love before he was buried in a grave. This man was thinking about an imaginary world when he poured all the fishes in a bowl. The fishes seem to have raised their silver heads and sang of the golden light (the dawn and the dusk) in the sky where they saw an imaginary island of dreams. People on this island loved the beauty of the seas and their vows of love were not destroyed due to the passage of time. Their vows were made under the woven and were permanent roof of the branches. The man was taken away to a complete different world which was very beautiful by the songs that the birds sang.
The man was found roaming on the sands on the shore of Lissadell. The anxieties and fears involved in the making of money totally engulfed the man’s mind. It means that the man has accumulated some wealth before he was buried in a grave along the hill. But as he passed near a marshy place, a lug-worm with its grey and dirty mouth sung him about the existence of a beautiful place somewhere to north or west or south where lived a gentle race of fairies under the golden light of the sky. The fairy dances continuously until she went hungry, she would pick the fruit from the sun and the moon. As the man heard the singing of the fairies, his worldly wisdom comes to an end.
The man contemplated as he stood beside a well in a place called Scanavin. He thought about his enemies who once mocked him. Perhaps he was thinking of taking some revenge through some ways. But he was already taken away by earth. In old age, he could have observed small pieces of grass growing by the pool, singing to him about a lovely place where the chosen ones are leading a happy life. Whatever the moods and tension appeared in day light were covered with wool at midnight in fairyland. The old lover was always at ease. The fairyland took away his anger and tension.
This man was sleeping under a hill named Lugnagall and might have gotten some unperturbed and deep sleep under the cold and dewy slope of the hill. As he was now dead and lay buried in a grave, the worms in his grave roamed among his bones and cried to him about the imaginary world which has been created by God and from where the eternal light of summer flowed to the dancer near the sea. A question is introduced that why should those lovers, living in the fairy world enjoy a love which is not possible for lovers on earth? These thoughts troubled the lover in his grave and he never found any peace even after his death.
Style and Structure:
The Man who Dreamed of Fairyland is a poem of four stanzas each consisting of three lines each. It deals with the four stages of man’s life- youth, middle age, old age and death. Yeats was a romantic poet who lived in the world of imagination but he did not believe in escaping the trials and tribulations of life. Life has its own joys and conflict and one cannot find happiness in imagination for long. Running away from life will not give comfort or peace even after death.
The poem has surreal images to describe visions of an imaginary world from the point of view of a man when he was alive and after he died. In the first stanza, the man is in the crown thinking about his beloved but he is disturbed by a pile of fishes who sing about an isle where people love eternally. In the final stanza, we find the man buried under the hill of Lugnagall where he longs for eternal peace. But the worms tell him about God who had made a beautiful pattern in the sky. The man cannot rest in peace.
Also images of silver and golden recur throughout the whole poem. The mention of silvery heads of the fish, the golden light in the morning and evening, the golden or silver skies and the stormy silver fret the golden day creating a romantic atmosphere can be found in the poem.
Another remarkable thing is the use of supernaturalism. The supernatural in Yeats’ poetry was mostly about his admiration of the Irish folklore. He felt that the supernaturalism was fading away in modern times and believed that some of the people in Ireland may remember about the days of the fairies.
Dromahair, Lissadell and Scanavin are three actual places mentioned in the poem.
The title of the poem is not appropriate. It is somewhat misleading. The man in the poem is asked to contemplate fairyland but he is unable to do so. He cannot listen to the songs sung by the fish, the worms, the grass anybody who could tell him of fairyland.
About The Poet:
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet, a dreamer and visionary who was fascinated by folk-lore, ballad and superstitions about the Irish peasantry. His poetry has Celtic flavor mixed with mysticism and melancholy. His aim in writing poetry was to make the world conscious about the beauties of Celtic literature. As he grew older, he deviated from pleasant lyrics to verses with sterner discipline and deeper thought.