Under Ben Bulben: Analysis Part IV

Poet and sculptor, do the work,
Nor let the modish painter shirk
What his great forefathers did.
Bring the soul of man to God,
Make him fill the cradles right.

Measurement began our might:
Forms a stark Egyptian thought,
Forms that gentler phidias wrought.

Michael Angelo left a proof
On the Sistine Chapel roof,
Where but half-awakened Adam
Can disturb globe-trotting Madam
Till her bowels are in heat,
Proof that there's a purpose set
Before the secret working mind:
Profane perfection of mankind.

Quattrocento put in paint
On backgrounds for a God or Saint
Gardens where a soul's at ease;
Where everything that meets the eye,
Flowers and grass and cloudless sky,
Resemble forms that are or seem
When sleepers wake and yet still dream.
And when it's vanished still declare,
With only bed and bedstead there,
That heavens had opened.

                                          Gyres run on;
When that greater dream had gone
Calvert and Wilson, Blake and Claude,
Prepared a rest for the people of God,
Palmer's phrase, but after that
Confusion fell upon our thought.


   In this section of the poem, Yeats discusses art as a vehicle to bring man to God.  He views art as a holy practice calling it the, “profane perfection of mankind.”  It is as close to perfection as the imperfect man can get.  He also gives artists advice to uphold the quality of art of their forefathers, and not to let stray from the great ways of the past.  He wants art to do “what his great forefathers did, bring the soul of man to God.” Yeats is concerned about the way new artists will influence culture, he does not want them to forget their past and traditions.  He is worried that his death will bring an end to a great age of art.  

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