Under Ben Bulben: Analysis Part I


Swear by what the Sages spoke
Round the Mareotic Lake
That the Witch of Atlas knew,
Spoke and set the cocks a-crow.

Swear by those horsemen, by those women
Complexion and form prove superhuman,
That pale, long-visaged company
That air an immortality
Completeness of their passions won;
Now they ride the wintry dawn
Where Ben Bulben sets the scene.

Here's the gist of what they mean.

         Yeats begins the poem by immediately introducing a mystical element when he says, "That the Witch of Atlas knew".   In the second stanza he continues with the mystical and describes that ghosts are superior to man; "Complexion and form prove superhuman".   Yeats says that the horsemen and women are immortal and have completed their earthly lives of passion.   He sets forth that they are superhuman and passionless so the reader will not doubt what they "Swear by".   Also, in the first line he says the wise Sages swear by what is revealed in the poem.   Section I gives the rest of the poem credibility through the swearing of ghosts and wise sages, and makes the reader anticipate what is going to be revealed. 

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