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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

What shall I do with this absurdity—
O heart, O troubled heart—this caricature,
Decrepit age that has been tied to me
As to a dog's tail?

William Butler Yeats's "The Tower" is a meditation on mortality and death. At the beginning of the poem, Yeats mourns that his soul is attached to an old man's body. He feels that his body is a caricature, or an exaggeration, of himself. He doesn't feel that he should look old, and instead he feels that age has been tied to him like something might be tied to a dog's tail. This is a telling simile, as it expresses the way that Yeats does not feel old but rather feels that his old age is something foreign to him and apart from his true self. He still feels his imagination is bold and creative, even more so than when he was younger.

Strange, but the man who made the song was blind;
Yet, now I have considered it, I find
That nothing strange; the tragedy began
With Homer that was a blind man,
And Helen has all living hearts betrayed.

Yeats recalls men years ago who were singing praise to a fair young woman. They were so mesmerized by the song that they mistook moonlight for sunlight and thought it was daytime, and one was accidentally drowned in a bog. Yeats recalls that the man who made the song was blind, as was Homer, the ancient Greek poet. Homer told of Helen, just as the men whom Yeats recalls sang of a fair peasant girl. Yeats later writes that if he is successful as a poet, he will make men mad, as great art causes that type of insanity.

I have prepared my peace
With learned Italian things
And the proud stones of Greece,
Poet's imaginings
And memories of love,

In the third and final part of the poem, Yeats prepares his will and prepares to die. His will is not an actual will; he speaks instead of leaving his pride to the people of Ireland. He then writes in the excerpt above that he is ready to die and is at peace with death. He prepares to die with the peacefulness of what he has learned from the ancient world, including Greece and Rome. Art and poetry content him, as do the memories of love. These are the subjects he recalls as he prepares to die, and they are what is eternal. As he contemplates these subjects, he feels a kind of peace about mortality, with which he has wrestled throughout the poem.

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