THE SONG OF WANDERING AENGUS WB YEATS
[In labelling it “song”, the lyrical aspect of this poem is emphasised. The adjective “wandering” has connotations of someone endlessly search for something.]
I WENT out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lads and hilly lands.
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
Read this analysis of the poem
Refer to the poem on both the literal and figurative level. The poet goes fishing and catches a silver trout. Figuratively, Aengus pursues his love, the girl from his dream while the poet pursues his inspiration. Consider the central theme: the lifelong search – carefully.
The quest is to find the maiden who has vanished. The speaker’s search for her is spurred by her mysterious disappearance and the poet’s fascination with this unattainable heart’s desire.
Entering a hazel wood has another connotation in the Irish tradition as the hazel tree in Irish tree mythology symbolises wisdom.
Fire represents life, enlightenment, and inspiration.
The fish he has caught turns into a dreamlike maiden with springtime blossoms of the apple tree in her hair. She calls him by name and runs away —is she taunting to chase her? The Apple blossoms reflect sensuality, heady love and passion. This female figure becomes the object of the speaker’s life quest, which is to find and possess her. For the poet, chasing inspiration is like chasing love.
In the final stanza, the speaker is now old. He has wandered many years, overcoming many obstacles and he would like to find her and walk with her and collect the magical fruit of the sun and moon.
As the poem is lyrical, many literary device are used to create its musical effect:
Assonance: The repetition of the long “o” vowel sounds within the first few lines of final stanza.
Repetition: The repetition of these words throughout poem: hazel, moths, fire, apple, name, time/times. Alliteration: The repetition of “h” at beginning of words in final stanza: hilly, hollow, her, hands.
Consonance: The repetition of “k” sound in final stanza: kiss, take, walk, luck.
*What is the quest that the speaker has set himself? What spurs this search?
*How does this poem reflect both a hopeful and melancholy tone?
*Do you think the speaker will ever find the girl? Why or why not? Use specific examples from the text to support your opinion.
*Discuss the image of the apples and what they represent as a symbol.