Last Updated on June 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 377
The poem’s speaker is restless, as shown by his pacing back and forth on the battlements of a tower. He is tortured by the paradox of his body and soul: the former is aging and diminishing, while the latter is growing ever more energetic. He loses himself in memories of the inhabitants in the surrounding countryside and subsequently of an unrequited romantic interest. He expresses more than once a preference for practical and useful thought over the abstractions characterized by classical philosophy. He concludes the poem with the resolution that he will educate his soul in such a way that it will not be impacted by the decline of his body.
Hanrahan, a character Yeats created early in his career, is a trickster with many romantic partners and no set abode. The speaker recalls Hanrahan as having often been drunk and aimless in his wanderings in the local area. Hanrahan pursues the magical hounds and hare that an old juggler materialized out of a pack of cards. Because of Hanrahan's romantic experience, the speaker selects Hanrahan from the figures of his memory, hoping to learn something from him about women.
Mrs. French is a woman wealthy enough to hire servants and host lavish parties. Due to a misunderstanding, her servant presents her with a grotesque gift in the form of a farmer’s ears.
The bard is a blind musician who wrote a song about a beautiful and mysterious peasant girl that maddened many men in the area. He is compared to Homer, who created the beautiful character Helen despite being blind himself.
The Peasant Girl
This nymph-like creature seems to mirror the subject of the speaker’s romantic affections in that she remains out of the reach of those men who pursue her. Even her existence is left somewhat ambiguous by the speaker.
An Old Juggler
This juggler is portrayed as playing cards with Hanrahan and some other fellows. He uses magic to transform his cards into a hare and pack of dogs, who set off running to an unknown location with Hanrahan in pursuit.
The inheritors are strong, vital young men of good moral character. Yeats honors these unnamed characters in his will as the inheritors of his faith and his pride.