“Lapis Lazuli” by William Butler Yeats was written on 25th July, 1936. It was published in the volume with the name “Last Poems.” Lapis Lazuli is a beautiful blue opaque gemstone.
The poem has its origin to the receipt of a gift of a large piece of Lapis Lazuli “carved by some Chinese sculptor into the semblance of a mountain with temples, trees, paths and ascetic and his pupil about to climb the mountain.” The poet has reflected this scene in his poem “Lapis Lazuli.”
The poet says that he had heard the cries of hysterical women of the nineteen thirties who are panicky and afraid to prepare for the Second World War. These women are sick and tired of the paintings that the painters paint, the music that the singer sing and the poetry that poet composes because all of them are happy and joyful in nature. The women are anxious and want everybody to know that unless something deliberate is done, aero planes and bombs are going to level flat the town just as King Billy did in the battle of Boyne. The town will be reduced to dust.
The poet talks about Art which plays an important role when the world is hysterical about war and its consequences. He refers to Hamlet, Lear, Ophelia and Cordelia. All these are tragic characters by Shakespeare. Their acceptance of fate takes them to their illumination and their tragedies enhance the understanding of life to its readers.
The poet talks about the conquerors who came with armies, some came on foot, some on ship, camel-back, horse-back, ass-back etc but all of them destroyed the civilization. Callimachus created wonderful sculptures but none of his sculptures exist today. But the poet still believes that all things that are destroyed can be built again. So all those who build again, can be happy again.
Now the poet talks about the Chinaware that he has been gifted. Before the poet lies the semi-precious blue colored stone, Lapis Lazuli. Three figures, two of Chinamen-an ascetic and his disciple and another carrying a musical instrument is carved on the Chinaware. Above the figure of the three, flies a long-legged bird which symbolizes long life of the three men.
The poet describes the Chinaware. He says that every discoloration of the stone indicates a water-crack or avalanche or some lofty slope covered with snow. The branches of palm and cherry are near the house which the men climb. From the mountain, they view the tragic scene around them. One of the men plays the instrument and the eyes of the listeners shine brightly. They seem to be very happy in spite of the tragic scene around.