Essay on William Butler Yeats' Adam's Curse

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William Butler Yeats' "Adam's Curse"

The poem "Adam's Curse" (William Butler Yeats, reprinted in Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair. The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, 2nd ed. [W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1988] 147-148) carries the theme of a curse throughout the poem, and ties it in with experiences in the text. "Adam's Curse" can make connections with three situations that are central to the poem, and they are the following: first, the "pain and hard work" (footnote 6 p147) of deciphering poetry; next, the "pain and hard work" (p147) of being a woman, and finally the "pain and hard work" (p147) of making love work. These connections create and support the central story of the poem, and give the poem its unique feel. The
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Sometimes it is difficult to uncover deeply rooted beliefs and ideas, and it is necessary to "scrub"(8) through the "pavement"-not an easy task-to reach the heart of one's true convictions. Even though the three characters deem this kind of work important, "For to articulate sweet sounds together/ Is to work harder than all these…"(10-11), they understand that many of their peers have a different opinion of them. The narrator knows that he is "…thought an idler by the noisy set…"(12), but he and his colleagues keep practicing their profession. This represents a strong conviction and belief in his profession, because it is very difficult to "go against the flow" of the majority, especially when "The martyrs call the world,"(14). In this case these martyrs are the "bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen,"(13) and the narrator expresses that these men call things as they see them while they promote themselves as martyrs since they have the deserving and honorable professions. The narrator does not actually come out and say this directly, but there is a sense of contempt in his choice of words that it is not hard to infer this explanation. The poem also depicts the difficulty of being a woman, and how she is more than just a pretty face. "…To be born a woman is to know-Although they do not talk of it at school-That we must labour to be beautiful,"(19-21). These lines represent the unspoken rule

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