Summary of The Tower by W.B Yeats
Among Yeats’ personal poems, “The Tower” is the most impressive and a significant poem. The poem expresses the honest statement of Yeats’ frustration at the coming of old age. Therefore, old age is one of the themes of the poem; another is the failure in love and the rejection of the abstract ideas which were presented by Pluto and Plotinus in favour of more concrete thoughts. The main motif of the poem is that the poet is getting older and weaker day by day but his political and personal passions are getting stronger on the other hand.
The poet is troubled and is greatly surprised at the paradox of absurdity that has been tied to the poet in the form of his decaying age. He compares his ageing to a kind of mockery which looks odd to everyone just the way when something is tied to a dog’s tail.
The poet says that in spite of getting older, his imagination has never been so passionate, powerful and so capable of thinking better things as well as expressing them in a better way.
The poet in a state of dilemma keeps walking in quick short steps on the Tower and while he walks he looks at the foundation of a house where a tree has come out from the earth and it looks like a dark finger pointing towards the sky. The poet’s imagination takes a flight as the day comes to an end. He calls forth the images and memories from the dilapidated conditions of the houses and from ancient trees.
The poet talks about Mrs. French who used to live beyond a ridge. Then he narrates a devious incident that happened to her. While Mrs. French was serving wine and making merry, her dining table was lighted up by the silver candlesticks and stones, one of her servants thought that he could devise his lady’s wish so he went and clipped a poor farmer’s ears with a garden shear and brought it to the lady covered in a dish. All this was carried out because the farmer thought he had committed an act of insolence.
The poet says that when he was young there were still a few people alive who remembered a song that praised the beauty of an young peasant girl who dwelled somewhere upon a rocky place. The poet believes that if the girl was still alive, the farmer would be overjoyed at the remembrance of the girl through the song.
The song had the power to excite people. Influenced by the potent lines of the song to such a level that some people would even rise up from the table where they had been drinking and check up whether the girl really existed or not.
The poet says the most interesting part is that the writer of the song was a blind man. On further consideration, it was not as that interesting because Homer was a blind poet too. Homer created the beautiful Helen who betrayed so many hearts. The poet wishes to have a proper balance between subjectivism and objectivism or else his poetry would also drive his readers crazy as Homer’s poetry about Helen and the blind man’s poetry about that peasant girl did.
The poet is the creator of the figure Hanrahan. Hanrahan is a figure who moves in neighboring cottages sometimes drunk and sometimes sober. The poet says he was able to see him in various situations. Some of the situation included old man’s juggleries, stumbling, falling down and groping about here and there.
The poet narrates another story about some good fellows who were playing cards in an old barn. When it was the turn of the old juggler, he did something to the cards and changed them except for one single card into a pack of hounds. The single card was then turned into a hare. Seeing Hanrahan rose from that place and pursued the hounds to some destination.
The poet has forgotten where Hanrahan had taken the hounds to. He deviates from that incident and narrates another one. He talks about one man who was so troubled that he was not moved by music or love or the clipped ear of his enemy. He was bankrupt and there was no one in his life even to tell when his dog-days would end.
The poet says that in the same house, a great deal has happened over the centuries before the ruin came.
The poet recalls all the figures which includes the blind poet who kept roaming and celebrated the girl’s beauty. It also includes Hanrahan who was made to wander through God’s forsaken meadows. Mrs. French is another who was gifted with such a fine ear by her servant.
Now the poet puts forth question which he wants to ask us all. He asks his readers that whether his rage against old age is something common to all old men and women both rich and poor or not. Have these people been raging against the old age as he is doing it then. He says that all the eyes are impatient to leave but he has already found his answer. The poet permits them except Hanrahan whose memories are badly needed by Yeats.
Yeats now talks to Hanrahan and says he is suitable for his purposes as he is one lecherous fellow who had uncountable love affairs. The poet wants to bring out all his thoughts that he has discovered in his grave. Yeats is sure that he has understood by then the true importance of the sexual desires that were accompanied with the invitation of a softening touch or sigh.
The poet has a question in his mind that whether the imagination of man dwells upon a woman whom he has not been able to get. If the imagination lingers on the lost woman then one has to also admit that the loss of a woman is mostly due to pride, cowardice, subtle thoughts and conscience. All these things prevent one from taking the memory of this loss and the day is blotted out.
In this stanza the poet talks about his will he dedicates his will to the upstanding men and to the inheritors. Next, he talks about his faith which he declares that he doesn’t care for Pluto or Plotinus. He has faith only in men who made all the things that go into the making of life and death.
The daws are seen to be chattering and screaming at a loophole and the loophole is covered with twigs. The mother daw will rest on layers of twigs and will warm her nest.
The poet says that he has left not only pride but also faith in his will. He talks about those upstanding men who climb mountains and are made up of some special metal
In the final stanza, the poet says that it is time to reshape his soul. He wants his soul to study in a learned school and he is going to educate his soul to that extent where worse things such as decay cannot affect it. The soul of the poet should be like the clouds of the sky or like a bird’s sleepy cry among the shades.
“The Tower” remains one of the memorable and forceful of Yeats’ poems. The writing style is passionate rhetoric and great skill has been used to compose the poem. “The Tower” is a complex yet satisfying poem in spite of its variety of tones and moods.