An Acre of Grass: by W. B. Yeats - Summary & Analysis

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      The poem depicts the apprehension of the poet that he may lose the vigor and vivacity of a youth because of the onset of old age. He is now a forlorn man. In his solitude, his collection of books and pictures give him company. He is now away from active, busy life. To accentuate the old man’s loneliness the poet used the imagery of a mouse running to and fro in the desolate house. Like the poet, the house has been engulfed by the old age. However, the poet clearly points out that the physical strength has nothing to do with the mental faculties of a man. He urges for passionate, vivacious, imagination. Age has made him a man of sobriety and poise. External allurements have decreased but his mind is still capable of producing works of artistic value. His mind is active enough, has not worn-out. In the third and the fourth stanza, we note the poet’s desperate extortion for zeal and passion. Fervently he resists the insipidity of mind that accompanies old age. In this context, he refers to some characters like Timon and Lear who give vent to their, zealous and outrageous emotions. In the same vein he names the geniuses like William Blake and Michaelangelo who persistently search for the universal truth through their artistic expression. The clarity and lucidity have marked the style of the poem. There is a sense of despair and loneliness prevalent in the first stanza but soon gets replaced by the positivity of mind. The poet shows his strong faith on his mental faculties which are still capable of producing works of artistic values. With the sheer magic of words, within this short periphery Yeats has aptly created one of his finest poems.

Critical Analysis


      An Acre of Grass is from the collection of his poetry Last Poems (1936-1939). The poem was written while he was residing in Riverdale in Dublin. He lived there till his death in 1939. The ‘acre of green grass’ refers to the patch of greenland adjacent to his house.

Critical Explanation

Stanza I

L. 6. Picture mouse—As the poet becomes old he introspects what he now possesses. They are some collection of pictures and books, a stretch of green land adjacent to his house for breathing fresh air and exercising, though he has lost his physical strength, and an old house where at midnight everything becomes cool and calm except a mouse that run around from one room to another.

Stanza II.

L. 7. My temptation is quiet—Age has endowed him with sobriety and poise.
L. 8-12. Here at life’s"...known—Inspite of the old age, that affects his physical strength, his imagination is free flowing devoid of any land of inhibitions. The other faculties of mind are equally active. It is still capable of conveying the message of truth through his artistic creations.
L..9. Rag—worn-out.

Stanza III

Grant me an his call—The poet fears insipidity and inactivity that accompany old age. He desperately asks for the passion and zest that he fears he may lose with the onset of old age. He is still sure of his zealous imagination that can give expression to his outrageous emotions like that of Timon, Lear or William Blake.
L. 15. Timon—The protagonist of Shakespeare’s play ‘Timon of Athens’. Timon, is an Athenian of 5th century BC, in repercussion to his friends’ ingratitude became hater of mankind. He later discovered a treasure trove. The incident brought back his greedy friends to him for his favor but he rejected all of them.
L..15. Lear—The protagonist of Shakespeare’s play ‘King Lear’. He was betrayed by his two daughters upon whom he conferred his own kingdom.
L. 16. William Blake—Pre-Romantic English poet. He is famous for his philosophy and mysticism.

Stanza IV

L. 19. Michael Angelo—The name of the famous Florentine sculptor, painter and poet. Among his famous works are frescoes on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel in Rome and Sculpture of David in Florence.
L..22. Shake shrouds—He prays for such a fervent and passionate imagination that can even enliven a dead body.
L. 24. Eagle mind—a penetrating, vigilant mind.

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