I wrote the following short, close reading of W.B. Yeats’s “Reconciliation” for Eng 373: Terrible Beauty with Dr. Churchill:
Yeats’s “Reconciliation” depicts two lovers back together after a time apart, with a central theme of love as intimately connected to creative passion. The speaker anguishes how his ability to think and write vanished along with his lover when she left him, and notes that when they are reunited the “world lives as long ago;” (Yeats 8) as if nothing is changed:
When, the ears being deafened, the sight of the eyes blind
With lighting, you went from me, and I could find
Nothing to make a song about but kings,
Helmets, and swords, and half-forgotten things
That were like memories of you – but now
We’ll out, for the world lives as long ago;
And while we’re in our laughing, weeping fit,
Hurl helmets, crowns, and swords into the pit. (Yeats 3-10)
The critical shift in the poem occurs with the caesura in line 7. Prior to, the speaker bemoans his loss of love and poetic inclination. He asserts in line one that “Some may have blamed” her for leaving him with nothing to write about except violent and unromantic “kings,/ Helmets, and swords” (Yeats 5-6) or fragmented memories of being in love (Yeats 6-7). He supports his inability to place blame by relating his lover to “lightning,” suggesting it is in her nature to come down all at once with destructive, powerful force (Yeats 4).
The form in the first half of the poem is broken and disjointed which adds to the sad, conflicted tone of the speaker. The twelve-line poem is in iambic pentameter except for the third and fourth lines which describe the lover leaving: breaking form, and breaking the speaker’s heart. Apart from lines three and four, the poem is rhythmic, which causes the reader to alert at the jarring change. Following the shift in line 7, the poem becomes more melodic and the lines end with punctuation, unlike the enjambed lines in the first half. However, the last two lines reveal that even though their relationship seems loving and familiar, and they are quick to “Hurl” (Yeats 10) away bad memories, the speaker still feels “chilled” (Yeats 12) at having been left alone without his lover or the art she inspired.
Yeats, W. B. “Reconciliation” The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats. Ed. Richard J. Finneran. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Scribner Paperback Poetry, 1996. 91. Print.