To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time
To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time displays many of Yeats' techniques used in his early work. In particular is its use of myth and folklore. In many of his poems, particularly his later work, he draws heavily upon Greek mythology. Here he incorporates traditional Irish folklore. To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time perhaps explains to some extent his preoccupation with the spiritual and mystical world. The poem is about the narrator (presumably Yeats himself, as most of his work of this type is written from his point of view, rather than a žctional character's) and his disdain for contemporary life, resulting in his wistful longing to be part of the Irish legends, to be something more than common man.
Yeats uses a red rose to represent the mythological Ireland, beginning the poem with:
Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
The rose is used to represent Ireland, but it could also be seen as Maud Gonne, Yeats' always unrequited love. The story of Yeats' relationship with Maud Gonne runs parallel with his relationship with the mythical worlds as described here; that of always being a little beyond his grasp. The similarity is emphasised by the somewhat foreboding atmosphere of the žrst stanza, and the beginning of the second:
Come near, come near, come near - Ah, leave me still
A little space for the rose-breath to žll!
Evidently, whilst Yeats longs to be part of this other world, he has no delusions about it; he can see that it is not without its own dangers and the things are not entirely perfect about it - the same applies to Maud Gonne, who could be a very violent and fanatical person, being embroiled as she was in the volatile Irish politics of the day.
Yeats leaps straight into the mythological elements of the poem, referring to Irish stories. Curiously, these stories are rather depressing and negative. By using phrases and words such as "the bitter tide•, "ruin untold•, "thine own sadness• and "grown old•, Yeats does little to endear to us this world about which he is so enthusiastically writing. His brief expedition into Irish lore ends on a decidedly melancholy note, referring to "lonely melody• - perhaps the Irish songs that encapsulate the old stories. This part of the poem serves to show us the magic of this other world, and also portrays its potential for destruction and pain. The stanza ends unexpectedly; after the negative aspects of the spiritual world have seemingly been described, Yeats writes that he will žnd there:
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.
Again, this is a reference both to the spiritual world and Maud Gonne, both of which, to Yeats, embody "Eternal beauty• despite...