What are the main themes of the poem "The Song of Wandering Aengus." It is from the works of W.B. Yeats.

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The lyrical language of this poem lends it a dreamy, mystical atmosphere: the references to hazel wood and berries, in particular, allude to druidic lore, in which the hazel tree is centered at the heart of the Celtic otherworld. This underlines the poem's theme of nature as a healer or a bridge to another world: note that the speaker visits the hazel wood "because a fire was in my head." He seeks out the mystical in nature to soothe himself and is rewarded when the little silver trout he has caught becomes "a glimmering girl / With apple blossom in her hair."

Hazel trees and hazel berries are also associated in Irish lore with wisdom, or awakening. The mystical state into which a hazel wood can send a poet or soothsayer can usher in a moment which will change a person forever. This idea, too, is presented in the poem, as the visit to the hazel wood marks a turning point for the speaker. After the girl "faded through the brightening air," the speaker becomes obsessed with the idea of finding out "where she has gone." His desire for her is seemingly immortal; he will "pluck till time and times are done / The silver apples of the moon, / The golden apples of the sun." This exemplifies, as a theme, the idea of seemingly small events having the power to change us forever. In this instance, we can also see that the nature of the poet's attachment to the unknown girl is romantic—he longs to "kiss her lips and take her hands." There is an element of unrequited love in the poem.

More than this, however, its themes seem to focus on magic and the thinness of the veil between our world and the otherworld, symbolized by the hazel wood and by the "silver apples of the moon" and "golden apples of the sun."

appletrees eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of themes apparent in this haunting, romantic poem. First, there is a sense that nature possesses mystical and healing powers, and that being in nature can cause true believers to have visions. Yeats wrote often of fairies, a pervasive presence in Irish mythology. He also seemed to think of some of the human women in his life as having fairy-like qualities.

The "glimmering girl with apple blossom in her hair" is a fairy being, beautiful and desirable, but unobtainable, just as Maud Gonn was, Yeats' unrequited love. The protagonist of the poem wishes to return to the same location, the hazel wood (hazel trees possess magical powers in Irish folklore), to see the girl again. There is a theme of timelessness to his longing, and his hope. The fairy is a being who will always be in this place, and the speaker is confident that when he is "old with wandering" he will see her again.

In this way, the fairy is also a metaphor for the peace and completion of death. The realm of the fairies was comparable to the underworld, of the realm of the dead, and in some locations humans, under certain conditions, could enter the world of the dead and return to the world of the living. The "silver apples of the moon and golden apples of the sun" also reflect themes of timelessness and immortality, a vision of the afterlife in which the beauty of nature is a soothing presence.