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Unrequited Love

W.B. Yeats' relationship to Maud Gonne illustrated in his poetry.

[b]Unrequited Love[/b]

William Butler Yeats wrote many poems discussing a variety of subjects and aspects of his life. One of the main aspects of his life that Yeats discussed was his relationship to Maud Gonne. Yeats loved Maud Gonne from the moment he met her, though through a cruel twist of fate, she was never to requite his love. Yeats courted and proposed to Maud, and even when she declined his proposals, he never stopped loving her. Yeats? continual love of Maud caused him as much frustration as her indifference and disinterest in him. Maud later went on to marry another man, Major John MacBride. All the while, Yeats never stopped loving Maud. The various aspects of W. B. Yeats? relationship to Maud Gonne, his unrequited love for her, are illustrated in his poems ?When You Are Old?, ?Adam?s Curse? and ?The Folly of Being Comforted?.

In his poem ?When You Are Old?, Yeats illustrated his frustration with Maud. In the first stanza, Yeats tells Maud to look back on her life ?take down this book? (2) and remember the times she loved. Yeats uses Pre-Raphaelite imagery tells Maud to ?slowly read, and dream? (2). He wants her to dreamily remember all who loved her. He tells her in the second stanza to consider out of all who loved her
?How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true? (5-6)
He wants her to really consider who truly loved her. Yeats tells Maud that she will find that ?but one man loved the pilgrim soul in you? (7). Yeats believes that if she looks back on her life she will realize that no one truly loved her except him. This poem as written after Maud declined his proposals, Yeats believed that she would come to realize what she lost and ignored. In the third stanza, Yeats tells her that she will realize sadly that ?love fled? (10), that she missed out on true love. The final couplet of the poem reveals the fact the Yeats still loves and has always loved her.
?And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd ?? (12-13)
Yeats? romanticism and sentimentalism from his earlier works is apparent here. He portrays in this poem, the lonely lover working against all odds to show his beloved how much he loves her. Yeats? unrequited love is an aspect of his relationship to Maud illustrated throughout his poem ?When You Are Old?.

As aspects of Yeats? relationship to Maud changed, so did his poetry. By the time he wrote ?Adam?s Curse, Maud had married Major John MacBride. Just as Maud has distanced herself from Yeats, he has distanced himself from his earlier style, found in ?When You Are Old?. In ?Adam?s Curse?, Yeats has broken away from sentimentalism, romanticism and Pre-Raphaelite imagery that was apparent in ?When You Are Old?. Gone are almost all the Pre-Raphaelite imagery as well as the perfect rhymes and traditional rhythm. Yeats shows the impact of Maud?s marriage on him through mundane diction and a conversational rhythm, never before seen in his poetry. Yeats had hoped that Maud would eventually requite his love. Yeats wrote ?Adam?s Curse? to complain about Maud?s cruelty. Yeats feels that she is trying intentionally to be cruel to him. This is particularly evident in the last stanza as he says that he had tried ?to love you in the old high way of love? (36). He believed that everything was going good only to discover that she didn?t reciprocate his feelings, that she had ?grown weary-hearted as that hollow moon? (38). Here it actually says we, Yeats? attempting to recover his dignity, so not to be seen as pinning for her. Yeats believed that he still stood a chance with Maud, up until she married. Yeats also complains that love ?need much labouring? (22), that he has laboured too much to win her love. He also feels that love ?seem an idle trade? (27), that his time was wasted for love. In ?Adam?s Curse?, Yeats is complaining about the various aspects of his relationship to Maud, of his unrequited love.

Yeats wrote ?The Folly of Being Comforted? after Maud?s marriage. In this poem, Yeats seems to have come to terms with his unrequited love. This poem has removed the dream world; the Pre-Raphaelite that was present in ?When You Are Old?, gone too is the melancholy mundane diction of ?Adam?s Curse?. In ?The Folly of Being Comforted?, Yeats is trying to tell Maud that he has accepted her marriage, that it would be folly for her to realize his love and comfort him. The first stanza begins with a friend telling him that people ?become wise with time? (Poems of Seven Woods, 2), and that ?all that you need is patience? (6). To which Yeats responds that his ?Heart cries, ?No? (7). In the second stanza, Yeats states that he wants ?not a crumb of comfort, not a grain? (8), he is not willing to take comfort in the possibility of time reasoning with Maud. Then in the final couplet of the poem, Yeats? frustration with Maud comes out in
?O Heart! O Heart! If she?d but turn her head,
You?d know the folly of being comforted? (13-14).
Yeats, even with Maud?s marriage still loves her though he knows that it is folly for her to requite his love now. ?The Folly of Being Comforted? illustrations changes in the various aspects of Yeats? relationship to Maud, to his unrequited love.

Yeats loved Maud from the moment he met her, but she never returned his love. Maud married anther man; she moved on and never looked back. Yeats though, never got over her and ?his poetry for years to come was directly or indirectly about her? (Poetry and Thought, 32) and aspects of their relationship. He was frustrated with his unrequited love for her, her indifference towards him and her subsequent marriage to another man. Yeats believed that eventually she would realize the depth of his love and requite his love. These various aspects of their relationship, W. B. Yeats? unrequited love for Maud Gonne are illustrated in Yeats? poems ?When You Are Old?. ?Adam?s Curse? and ?The Folly of Being Comforted?.


Abrams, M.H. The Norton Anthology of English Literature 7th ed. USA: W. W. Norton and Company, 2001.

Stock, A. G. W.B. Yeats: His Poetry and Thought USA: Cambridge, 1961.

Adams, H. The Early Poems of the Seven Woods. Worldwide Web.

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