The Sorrow of Love: by W. B. Yeats - Summary & Analysis

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      In the first stanza the poet delineates a picture of cheerful Nature, ‘The brawling sparrow, the brilliant moon, the harmony of leaves all lend a sense of cheerfulness thrusting aside human sorrow and pain. This sense of cheerfulness gets disturbed with the introduction of the imagery of a girl with ‘mournful lips’ in the second stanza. She epitomizes sublimity of sorrow. To raise the scale of her sorrow, the poet associates her grief with some heroic, classical imagery. In the third stanza we observe a distinct deviation from the mood. The cheerfulness in the first stanza gets replaced in the third stanza by a sense of gloominess. The ‘milky sky’ turns ‘empty’; ‘lamentations of the leaves’ replace ‘harmony of leaves’ and Nature that effaced ‘man’s image and his cry’ now reflects ‘man’s image and his cry’.

Critical Analysis


      The poem The Sorrow of Love is on Maud Gonne, Yeats’ love-interest. The poem was written in the year 1891. However, the poet made several changes in the poem before its final publication in 1925.

Critical Appreciation

      The poem is characterized by its vivid imagery. The remarkable achievements of the poem lies in the interweaving of man with Nature. Nature here plays a pivotal role. It imparts the two distinct moods of the poem. In the beginning, a pleasant and spirited mood pervades the poem. The intermediate introduction of a ‘girl’ disturbs this prevalent mood and infuses it with sombreness. This sombreness reaches the height of sublimity with the usage of heroic imagery. The sufferings and pains of classical heroines are identified with the mournfulness of this girl. In the third stanza, this mournfulness gets reflected in Nature. The ‘empty sky’, ‘lamentation of the leaves’ creates a gloomy atmosphere in unison with the girl’s gloominess.


      The poem is rich in the usage of a vivid imagery. The treatement and form is lyrical in nature. The diction of the poem endows it with musical beauty. A note of grandeur is conspicuous with the usage of mythological imagery.


      In the poem we observe Yeats’ artistry in precision. Within these three short stanzas the poet adroitly, with the help of vivid imagery, shift the mood from cheerfulness to mournfulness and exploits Nature as the backdrop of this transition.

Critical Explanation

Stanza I

Brawling—Quarrelling;. Eaves—The part of roof that meets the wall of building. And all.....leaves—The beauty, a pleasure to eye derived from the leaves trembling in harmony. Blotted—Effaced, removed, Man’s image.....cry—Man’s eternal suffering and sorrow. Life’s hardship that a man is bound to go through.

Stanza II

A girl—Maud Gonne, the poet’s love-interest. And seemed.....tears—Maud Gonne symbolizes the sublimity or sombreness that a human beings attain after passing through a phase of sorrow. Doomed.....ships—A reference to the mythological hero Odysseus or Ulysses. He was king of Ithaca. His adventures were narrated by Homer in Odyssey. One of the suitors of Helen (though later married Panelope), accompanied other Greek heroes to recover her from the Trojans. After the war, on his way back to home he got involved with a series of adventures that eventually delayed his return to home. The ‘laboring ship’ refers to the hurdles Odysseus experienced on his voyage. With this expression Yeats infuses a heroic quality to his lady love’s dolefulness. And proud....peers—Priam was the king of Troy, father of Paris, with whom Helen eloped. Troy was besieged by the Greek heroes. Inspite of strong resistance when it fell, Priam along with his kinsmen were killed. The association of mythological imagery heightens the sorrow of Maud Gonne.

Stanza III

Clamorous—Noisy; A—It is to be noted that the sky is no more milky as it was in first stanza but rather empty. A sense of voidness is introduced along with Maud Gonne’s mournfulness. And all.....leaves—Now harmony in the first stanza has been replaced by lamentation. Nature reflects human sorrow. Could but compose.....cry—In contrast to the first stanza where Nature effaced human sorrow, it manifests human sorrow.

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