Stolen Child: by W. B. Yeats - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza I

      There lies a leafy island (inhabited by fairies) where the rocky high land of Sleuth Wood touches the water of the lake. Here the herons awaken the sleepy water-rats with the noise of their flapping wings. We (fairies) hid our fairy pots, which were full of berries and stolen red cherries. The fairies call the human child: “O, come away, human child, to the waters of the lake and the wild rock. Walk hand in hand with a fairy to our fairy island, because the world in which you live is more full of misery and tears than you can comprehend.”

Stanza II

      Far away from the distant Roses, where the stream of moonlight brightens the dim grey sands, we (fairies) walk all night and reproduce old dances, joining our hands together and casting glances at one another till the moon has gone through the heaven. We jump here and there and chase the bubbles of foam at night while the world, which is full of trouble passes the night in sleep and is full of anxieties even in its rest. O child! come away to the waters of the lake and the wild rock. Walk hand in hand with fairy to our island, because the world you live is more full of misery and tears than you can comprehend.

Stanza III

      At the place where the flowing water flows from the hills above Glen-Car and cows out in pools among the tall grass and there is hardly any place (in the pool) for the bathing of a star, we (fairies) look for sleepy trout (fish) and give them disturbing dreams by whispering in their ears. We bend ourselves gently over the herbs which stood the dewdrops over the newly sprung streams. O come! away human child, to the waters of the lake and the wild road. Walk hand in hand with a fairy, to our fairy island, because the world in which you live is more full of misery and tears than you can comprehend.

Stanza IV

      The serious looking child is now going with us to the fairy island. He will no more hear the sound of the calves on the warm hill-side or the sound of the kettle boiling over the fire which gives him some comfort. He will no longer see the brown mice jumping around the box containing oat-meals. He will miss the sights and sounds of the real world, because he is now coming to the waters and the rocks of the island, accompanied, by a fairy in order to escape from the world which is more foil of misery and tears than the child can comprehend.

Critical Analysis


      This poem Stolen Child by W. B. Yeats was included in the volume of poems entitled Crossways published in 1889. The fairy addresses the child and points out the wonders and bright points of the ‘leafy land’ where she lives. There is a contrast between the fairy world and our work-a-day world. The romantic land of fairies is free from the toils and anxieties of our humdrum world. That is why the fairies invite the child to quit the real world and to join them in the fairy-land. The poet indirectly expresses his own desire to escape into a brave new world where he will be free from cares and sorrows of our mundane world. There is, however, the other side of the picture. This world, too, is not without its bright spots and scenes of joy—the sound of the calves, the hissing sound of the boiling kettle, the jumping of the brown mice. Of course, there are other sights in fairyland, like the flapping herons, the drowsy water-rats, the frothy bubbles, the slumbering trout and the dripping fems which can compensate the child for what he will miss. The poet leaves the reader in doubt at the end whether the fairy world is really better than our human world.

Development of Thought

      The fairies describe the place where they live. It is a leafy island with rocks. The herons jump over the waters and scare the water-rats. The fairies collect berries and cherries. They invite the human child to come to their island, because their place is more peaceful and joyful than the human world. The fairies enjoy their life in the moonlit night. They dance and make merry under the moonlight by chasing bubbles. The human world is full of sorrows and anxiety and so they call the child to come to their place. The fairies disturb sleeping trout (fish) in the pools. They shake the dews of the fems. Their little pranks give them a sense of joy and firn. They once again call the human child to their habitation.

The Joys of the Human World

      The child in response to the invitation of the fairies goes to their land but he is not quite certain whether the new world will be more joyful and peaceful than the human world. He knows that he will miss certain sights in the fairy-land. The child will miss the crying of the calves and the hissing of the ‘boiling kettle’ and the jumping of the mice over the oat-meal chest. He does enjoy these sights of the human world of which he will feel the absence in fairyland. Now that he has made his choice, he must remain content with it, no matter even if he does not feel so happy and peaceful in fairyland.


      The poem contains some beautiful images of the fairyland. The description of the hills and the fauna and flora of the fairy island is vivid and convincing. The herons, the trout, the fems, the grey sands, etc., take on a romantic color in the imaginary land. There is refrain at the end of each stanza which gives it a musical tinge. There is a contrast in the refrain. The human world has its joys and sorrows, it is full of tears and laughter. The weeping of the human world is compensated by the joy of the wonder of the common-place. Altogether, the poem is to be enjoyed for its melody and imagery.

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