Written Commentary on Vacillation by Yeats Essay

1105 Words Aug 23rd, 2013 5 Pages
“Vacillation” is a poem by William Butler Yeats that explores the source of joy and how it can only be achieved if one understands what grief is. The poem begins with the speaker using extremities to question what exactly joy is. In the second stanza of the poem Yeats introduces a mystic tree that is half burning in flames and is half abounding with foliage. In the third and fourth stanzas the persona advises the readers to gather all possible materialistic wealth, destroy it, lament over it, and then reflect upon those achievements, as genuine happiness can only originate from the grief one receives from acknowledging their achievements of the past. Through personification, ominous imagery, and the imperative tense Yeats accentuates that …show more content…
The speaker implies that if the claims of the body and heart are right, then what exactly is joy? This is a question that we as readers must assume the poet will answer in the next sections of the poem. In the second section of the poem the persona introduces a mystic tree that is half “all glittering flame” (12) and is half “all green/ abounding [with] foliage” (12-13). The mystic tree of fire and lush leaves is a metaphor for the balance or cycle of antimonies and extremities presented in the first section. The side of the tree that is being burnt by the fire symbolizes destruction and the side where the tree is being replenished symbolizes construction. Even though they are both two opposite ends of the spectrum they are still working as one to keep the balance between them. “And half and half consume what they renew” (15) suggests that the cycle between the extremities is never ending, and as one part of the tree is burnt, it is replenished by leaves again. The two extremities of construction and deconstruction have connotations to day and night as mentioned in section one. Both sets of antimonies serve the same purpose as they show that one cannot live without the other and that one actually leads to another. The last three lines of the second section involve the image of Attis, and how he only appreciated the flaming half, or the “staring fury” (17) of the tree. The

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