The Man and the Echo - Poem Annotation

An annotation of W.B. Yeats' 'The Man and the Echo'

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  • Created on: 14-05-12 18:34
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The Man and the Echo
This poem was written shortly before Yeats' death. It is a poem of reflection on his life; Yeats
ponders many questions about his life in it; and the impact of his art and actions upon it, by
conversing with an `echo'.
The use of the continuing rhyming couplet rhyme scheme seems to help to convey a sense of
urgency; it builds tension in the poem as Yeats desperately searches for answers to the questions;
possibly because he believes his time is running out. The use of this rhyme scheme is usually for
something `happy' or childlike, yet in this context takes on a different use.
The use of the title `The Man and the Echo' adds to the universal themes of this poem: although
Yeats considers specifically questions about his life, regret and reflection are universal things that
almost everyone in the world goes through.
Could represent a Man Death is represented
tomb; the idea that A In a cleft that's christened Alt by `darkness' later in
Yeats will be buried A Under broken stone I halt the poem ­ links into
soon. Also has B At the bottom of a pit the idea of this being
religious B That broad noon has never lit a tomb.
connotations. Yeats C And shout a secret to the stone Yeats' use of
is here to think. C All that I have said and done, alliteration here
Yeats wrote a play D Now that I am old and ill highlights the oddity
with Lady Gregory D Turns into a question till of the statement;
that encouraged E I lie awake night after night usually, secrets are
young Irish men to E And never get the answers right. not shouted. Yeats
die for their country: F Did that play of mine send out feels some release in
he's wondering what F Certain men the English shot? telling this `stone'
effect it has, if he G Did words of mine put too great strain his secrets.
was partly to blame G On that woman's reeling brain? Margot Collis was a
for the Easter Rising, H Could my spoken words have checked woman he had an
which if we link with H That whereby a house lay wrecked? affair with. She was a
Easter, 1916 we I All seems evil until I young poet who
know he has mixed I Sleepless would lay down and die. admired Yeats. She
feelings about. was an alcoholic
Both a literal and Echo and had depression.
metaphorical I Lie down and die. After their
question: Lady relationship ended,
Gregory's beautiful she died in a mental
Irish house was institution: he
knocked down, he wonders if what he
wondered if he could said was to blame.
have tried to stop it, We can apply this
and the metaphor of Man more widely to the
a `house' as a J That were to shirk other women of
structure of society. J The spiritual intellect's great work, Yeats' life, such as
LINK: `the second K And shirk it in vain. There is no release Maud, Eva, and
coming' ­spiritus K In a bodkin or disease, Constance (LINK: In
mundi H Nor can there be work so great Memory Of...)
He argues back with H As that which cleans man's dirty slate. The Echo repeats his
the echo: tells it that I While man can still his body keep words back to them
he should try to I Wine or love drug him to sleep, but gives them a
make reparation for J Waking he thanks the Lord that he sinister meaning:

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The Man and the Echo
his wrongdoings J Has body and its stupidity, Yeats may be feeling
instead of just giving K But body gone he sleeps no more, frustrated that
up. K And till his intellect grows sure people have taken
L That all's arranged in one clear view, what he has
L Pursues the thoughts that I pursue, said/written out of
M Then stands in judgement on his soul, context.…read more


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