What is W.B.Yeats's poem, "A Woman Homer Sung" about?

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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This poem "A Woman Homer Sung" is from Yeats' "The Green Helmet and other Poems" (1910). In this poem Yeats (1865-1939} exalts Maud Gonne his lover into Helen of Troy, the woman "Homer sung" about in his epic the "Iliad." For Yeats Maud Gonne had the effect of making art and life seem unreal:

 "For she had fiery blood
When I was young,
And trod so sweetly proud
As 'twere upon a cloud,
A woman Homer sung,
That life and letters seem
But an heroic dream."

It is precisely because, as the title of the poem itself indicates, that Maud Gonne his lover can be equated with Homer's "Iliad" - "a woman Homer sung [about]" - that other things however heroic pale into insignificance. The myth becomes more important to Yeats than the physical body of Maud Gonne.

Maud Gonne was the woman who dominated and tormented him throughout his life and poetic career. Yeats first met her in 1899 and from then on was obsessively infatuated with her. Yeats proposed marriage to her thrice but was rejected because he did not support her Nationalist cause for freedom from England. Maud Gonne later went on to marry the Irish freedom fighter James Macbride. The marriage was catastrophic and Macbride himself was executed for his role in the Easter rising of 1916. Nevertheless Yeats and Maud Gonne consummated their relationship once in the year 1908. This act of sexual consummation is the subject of the poem "A Man Young and Old" in the same volume. However, Maud Gonne promptly severed all contact with him. Yeats much later in life when he was 51 years got married to twenty four year old Georgie Hyde Lees.

This poem describes vividly his feelings for Maud Gonne.The theme of the poem reveals how he sublimates his physical desire for her body into a spiritual and mystical state by the process of mythologizing.Yeats'creation, the poem "The Woman Homer Sung" represents his effort to mimetically represent the universal (the myth of Helen) in his particular poem.

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