From “Man and the Echo”

by William Butler Yeats

All that I have said and done,

Now that I am old and ill,

Turns into a question till

I lie awake night after night

And never get the answers right.

Read the complete poem

man-and-the-echoNotes on the mythology behind “Man and the Echo.”

Echo was a nymph who fell in love with Narcissus when she sees him for the first time. Echo reveals herself to Narcissus and he rejects her. Narcissus falls in love with his own reflection in a stream, won’t move from his reflection and dies. After his body has wasted away all that is left is a Narcissus flower; a pale flower near the stream.

Echo and Narcissus in the poem could refer to Yeats (Echo) and Maude Gonne (Narcissus) or Yeats (Echo) and Ireland (Narcissus) or Yeats (Echo) and Marguerite (Margot) Ruddock (1907–1951), who used the stage name Margot Collis, an Irish actress, poet and singer. She had a relationship with W. B. Yeats starting in 1934.

“In a cleft that’s christened Alt” is a reference to a hill in Ireland that is supposed to be a Celtic burial ground.

“Echo. Lay down and die,” between stanzas reveals Yeats in conflict with his thoughts.

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Filed under History, Philosophy, Poem

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