Under Ben Bulben: Analysis Part III


You that Mitchel's prayer have heard,
'Send war in our time, O Lord!'
Know that when all words are said
And a man is fighting mad,
Something drops from eyes long blind,
He completes his partial mind,
For an instant stands at ease,
Laughs aloud, his heart at peace.
Even the wisest man grows tense
With some sort of violence
Before he can accomplish fate,
Know his work or choose his mate.

    The theme of maturing or coming of age is a reoccurring idea throughout much of Yeats’s poetry.  Often times a person must first experience madness before he can truly come of age.  Yeats captures this idea of order through chaos by using images of war.  Yeats was disillusioned by World War I, the fighting that haunted Ireland in the Irish Revolution and the Irish War for Independence.  His reference to war, “send war in our time”, and the imagery of a soldier “fighting mad” invokes intense feelings of disgust, revulsion, and abhorrence.  These powerful emotions send one into madness.  In this state of madness, “something drops from eyes long blind”, which signals Yeats’s transition from confusion to understanding.  He has experienced a loss of innocence as he “stands at ease” with “his heart at peace.”  After Yeats has succumbed to a “sort of violence” he “can accomplish fate” and ultimately has come of age.  Yeats suggests that his “fate” is at a spiritual level.  At the end of this stanza, he comes of age as he takes life at a spiritual level.  Throughout the remainder of the poem, Yeats expresses this spiritual sense using art as a gateway to heaven. 


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