Meaning of "the moods" poem by W.B. Yeats

18 posts / 0 new
Super Member
<a href="/en/translator/bluebird" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1483017">BlueBird</a>
Joined: 27.12.2020
Pending moderation

I gave a translation into Persian (under construction ) of “the  moods” poem by Yeats here (Thanks to [@Pinchus] for posting it). I understand it is a difficult one.

 

Time drops in decay,
Like a candle burnt out,
And the mountains and the woods
Have their day, have their day;
What one in the rout
Of the fire-born moods
Has fallen away?

 
An analysis of the poem is here. Of particular interest is “the rout’ (Line 5) and “fallen away” (last line). What I think of it up to now is something like this:

 

Time is decaying drop by drop
Like a candle which has burnt out [dropped all the way to the last drop]
And [even much more lasting things such as] the mountains and the woods
Each have their turn [and die and decay afterward], each have their turn
When one’s [moods] escape from the battlefield [i.e., rout]
Moods born from the fire [fiery at the birth, probably not anymore, escaping the battlefield]
How much has one renounced/betrayed [i.e., fallen away #1, #2] his friends/faith/etc.?
 

Please let me know what you think about the meaning of the poem.

Editor Soldier of Love
<a href="/en/translator/flopsi" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1331196">Flopsi</a>
Joined: 12.03.2017

While searching for the meaning I found some different ending - being an early version of this poem:

Time drops in decay
Like a candle burnt out.
And the mountains and woods
Have their day, have their day;
But, kindly old rout
Of the fire-born moods,
You pass not away

Interesting poem - that's the way I see it, but beware, I could be wrong:

Time is decaying drop by drop - slowly we go towards death
Like a candle which has burnt out - like a candle our light will be extinguished
And the mountains and the woods
Have more days - but those days are counted, too
What would be if in all those swarming mass
One of those creative works
Has been saved forever (escaped death/decay)

Pursuer of Shalva-רודף שלווה
<a href="/en/translator/moshe-kaye" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1457601">Moshe Kaye</a>
Joined: 25.05.2020

To my mind "to fall away" is a passive action... like one of the moods born out of fire, perhaps referring to anger, has left his mind for some unknown/unknowable reason.

~Moshe

Editor Soldier of Love
<a href="/en/translator/flopsi" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1331196">Flopsi</a>
Joined: 12.03.2017
Super Member
<a href="/en/translator/bluebird" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1483017">BlueBird</a>
Joined: 27.12.2020
 Thank you [@Flopsi] and [@Moshe Kaye] for your kind input. ([@Flopsi] do you have access to the rest of the paper you posted the link of? I don’t have access). Very interesting interpretations of the second part.
 
I am aware of the earlier version. Don’t know if the change of the form also mean some change in the meaning. I think for now, it is safe to assume that the meaning is close
 
After reading the above and some more digging, now I think the key to the meaning of the poem might be the first two line.
 
1- ‘Decay’ in the first line brings to mind some dead body or thing decomposing. Where is the corpse? The “burnt” (and not “burning”) candle has lost its ‘fire’, its life. So we can call it a dead body, a corpse. 
 
The imagery here is: When the candle has fire (is alive) some 'fire-born' life-effects(warmth) is given to the dead wax(flesh) and they become dripping drops (not fire, life itself, but has warmth, sign of life, in them). When the candle is burnt out (flame, i.e. passionate, true life is gone), time begins another ‘drop by drop’ process. Removing the  warmth of the life from drops of the wax (until they are totally cold and lost all warmth (sign/artifact of the life) of the fire(life).  
 
Fire is the true life: inspiration, love, creativity, etc. All the things that have an intense, fiery, passion in them.  After the intense, initial moments there is some aftermath (decaying), before it is all gone. The second part of the poem wonders if something of that original fire or sign of it (warmth) still somewhere in the soul after the decaying (getting cold, losing passion) process.
 
2- “Have their days”: it brings to my mind “Every dog has its day” (Every person has its turn of shining, being in the limelight). I'm aware that the poem is old. I'm not sure the turn here is their turn of dying or their turn of having great fiery moments and then get back to the normal life.
 
Considering all this, the meaning of the poem might be something like:
 
 
1- “Time drops in decay  \ Like a candle which has burnt out”. After the fleeting moments of life (intense passions symbolized by fire) there is still warmth in the melted drops (body and mind of the poet) but the time is going to remove that drop by drop until the pile of wax (body and mind) is all cold, and there is no sign of life (warmth).
 
2- “And the mountains and woods \Have their day, have their day”: Either 1- more lasting, much bigger things  also end (have their turn) in this process and dye and later decay or 2- Mountains and woods also have their soulful moments (symbolizing them as living things) and there will be great moments in them- moments of beauty and inspiration, e.g. blossoming in spring, dawn chorus birds in the morning, etc- and after that there would be some aftermath(decaying) before being ‘normal’ again.
 
3-“What one in the rout \ Of the fire-born moods\ Has fallen away?” : The poets wonders if during the process of losing the artifacts of fiery passionate moments of ‘real’ life (decaying, getting cold), is there a chance that one of those ‘fire-born moods‘ (moods, artifacts generated by the flame of the soul, of the ‘true’ life, in those moments of creativity, inspiration, love, etc) might have survived desperate disorderly escape from the army of losing the fire(passion) [i.e. rout] ('has fallen away their' been separated from the others and so haven't experienced the same destiny)and although the moments are passed there are still some signs of fire (warmth) somewhere inside the soul of the poet?

Please let me know what you think.

Pursuer of Shalva-רודף שלווה
<a href="/en/translator/moshe-kaye" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1457601">Moshe Kaye</a>
Joined: 25.05.2020

One more idea for your consideration. The rout of life due to the passage of time.. When we are young, full of passions, angst, heat, desire, fire, etc.

Over time rout is caused by getting older, so your passions now "fall away" as one tends to be satisfied with what life has given, less prone to passions, angst, etc, etc.

~Moshe

Super Member
<a href="/en/translator/bluebird" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1483017">BlueBird</a>
Joined: 27.12.2020
I'm wondering when we talk about this 'session' of passion, are we talking about the lifetime of a human being or about the lifetime of a passion? Using the poem's symbolism, is there only one fire (candle) in one's life, or it can be more?

For a poet it can be some moments of inspiration, creativity, etc (That 'Aha!' moment when he gets the idea for a book out of the blue, the divine feeling from reading a great sonnet, etc). For an ordinary man can be a moment of great joy or other intense passions (the moment of the birth of the first child, the moment his/her love of life finally says yes to a marriage proposal, etc) or even simpler ones (getting acceptance notification from a uni after some long hard work and tough competition, getting a dream job after trying many times, etc). These can be even negative, probably purifying emotions (the moment of death of a child, or mum or dad, bitter divorce, the moment of facing a tsunami, or earthquake, etc).

I'm aware that I might be stretching the meaning of 'passion' a bit. Here I mean intense emotion (not only desire) toward something that creates an extraordinary experience.

Super Member
<a href="/en/translator/bluebird" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1483017">BlueBird</a>
Joined: 27.12.2020

Another thing bothering me is the "What one" at the beginning of line 5. In a 'rout' (large number of escaping things, people, etc) how do we know exactly one of them 'has fallen away' (separated, etc)? I would expect this to be "which ones".

I wonder if 'one' here refers to some 'fire-born mood'(artifacts of the fire, i.e. passion, true life) or something else?

Moderator and Incorrigable
<a href="/en/translator/ww-ww" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1294288">Ww Ww</a>
Joined: 03.06.2016

Time drops in decay,
Like a candle burnt out,
And the mountains and the woods
Have their day, have their day;
What one in the rout
Of the fire-born moods
Has fallen away?

The passage of time makes everything and everyone grow old and die away
As if a candle that has already burned its energy, its light/ray of hope out and all that is left are scorched remnants
And the mountains and the woods, the strength in nature, they too fall to the ravages of time's passing
They have their day, they had their day, he repeats for emphasis of both and the end they will meet
So what one of us (bringing humanity into it) in the overwhelming loss, the defeat
Of our fire-born moods (passions, ambitions, those things we strive for as living beings)
Have been depleted by the passage of time and aging unto we become dust, remnants like the candle.

The author is speaking of times passing, of the ultimate demise and should one be inclined to look within so, perhaps a perception of life unseen before by the reader who may take living for granted.

Super Member
<a href="/en/translator/bluebird" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1483017">BlueBird</a>
Joined: 27.12.2020
I totally agree that the poem is about the passing of time and losing life.

However, a point of debate here is whether it talks about the 'lifetime of a human' or 'the lifetime of a mood/passion/strong emotion'?

The poem title is "the moods". Moods are very short-lived, maybe a bit more than some emotions that cause them. They are not life-long. Even being 'moody' means someone changing very often and in a farily short period of time.

EDIT: Thank you [@Ww Ww] for the kind input. An interesting contribution is the new interpretation of "one" in Line 5 ("What one in the rout"), solving the problem of #8

Quote:

So what one of us (bringing humanity into it) in the overwhelming loss, the defeat
Of our fire-born moods (passions, ambitions, those things we strive for as living beings)
Have been depleted by the passage of time and aging unto we
become dust, remnants like the candle.

If I'm not wrong, "Have been depleted by the passage of time and aging unto us become dust, remnants like the candle.", is about "has fallen away" (we become dust by aging and death and decaying and are spread by the wind). 

The first two lines

Quote:

The passage of time makes everything and everyone grow old and die away
As if a candle that has already burned its energy, its light/ray of hope out and all that is left are scorched remnants

Gives me the idea that we are talking about a whole lifetime (of humans, as well as every other things) from birth to death. Generally it is quite good. As described in #14, I think we might be talking about a more specific experience, i.e. 'transcendence'. Something like 'divine moments' not the whole life.

Would appreciate getting more feedback.

Moderator and Incorrigable
<a href="/en/translator/ww-ww" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1294288">Ww Ww</a>
Joined: 03.06.2016

You are being too quick on the trigger. Think about it a while. Wink smile

Pursuer of Shalva-רודף שלווה
<a href="/en/translator/moshe-kaye" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1457601">Moshe Kaye</a>
Joined: 25.05.2020

"Lifetime of a human" is my vote. Otherwise who would care about the poem?

~Moshe

Super Member
<a href="/en/translator/bluebird" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1483017">BlueBird</a>
Joined: 27.12.2020

I'm not talking about your whole interpretation of the poem, which definitely needs more time. I'm talking about the main assumption of it (does it talk about the lifetime of human or the lifetime of a passion?).

And I'm not judging, I'm mainly giving a question. The question had already been given in #7 Regular smile

EDIT: Answer to that question can totally change the interpretation of the poem.

Super Member
<a href="/en/translator/bluebird" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1483017">BlueBird</a>
Joined: 27.12.2020
Maybe describing that 'fire' (a central theme in the poem) as 'passion' (or even 'true life') is a bit misleading or limiting. 'Transcendence' could be a better term to describe the experience(s). Transcendence is a matter of considerable philosophical and religious interest.

It might be short-lived 'divine' moments or experiences (not necessarily religious). I guess the analysis of the poem in the reference provided in #1 (here) confirms that:

Quote:

Since the word “moods” is plural, it is clear he is experiencing more than one mood at the same time. Also, we are told that these moods are born from fire. An obvious mood would be love or passion, a mood clearly associated with fire. But I would also venture to say that one of the moods is associated with creative inspiration, the spark of the creative flame which, if not nurtured, quickly burns out like the candle. And I suspect there is a third mood, relating to divine inspiration or illumination. Again, this “mood” is fleeting, and usually once you realize that you are having a moment of divine connection, it immediately dissipates.

Followed by an interesting interpreation:

Quote:

My final thought on this poem may be a bit of a stretch, but as I read it a few times, I could not help but wonder if there is also an allusion to “modes.” When read aloud with an accent, it is possible. If this is the case, then Yeats may also have been asserting that there are various modes of artistic and spiritual expression, and that each mode is also ephemeral and dependent upon the artist and the audience. At some points poetry and literature may be the dominant mode, other times painting, other times music, or film. As such, moods and modes are always changing.

 

As emphasized more than once in that analysis, 'moods' (and 'modes') refer to short-lived changing mind/soul conditions. More probable to be about isolated 'experiences' than the life-long matters.

Editor Soldier of Love
<a href="/en/translator/flopsi" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1331196">Flopsi</a>
Joined: 12.03.2017

Sorry, I don't have access to the rest of the paper that I posted the link of.

Reading this poem in the light of the link I've posted - this is what it sounds to me now:
Everything has to die - the light of the candle just as mountains, but life is nothing without the love of God.

Super Member
<a href="/en/translator/bluebird" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1483017">BlueBird</a>
Joined: 27.12.2020
The notion that God if fire (or light) is well-known in Abrahamic religions. "For our God is a Holy, devouring fire." (Hebrews 12:29, for more see here). God is the light of the skies and the earth” (Quran, 24:35).

They also believe that the soul is ‘the breath of God’, i.e., part of God. "The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."( Genesis 2:7, for more see here). So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration” (Quran, 38:72,).

Which may be close to what is meant by fire  in the link in #4 

Quote:

Fire, Yeats said, is a symbol of God, "Fire burns everything and when there is nothing there is God" (The Secret Rose, 1897, p. 27)

The religious meaning of ‘transcendence' (#14) is connecting to that non-physical essence (the 'fire') (from here)

Quote:

In religious experience, transcendence is a state of being that has overcome the limitations of physical existence, and by some definitions, has also become independent of it. This is typically manifested in prayerséanceritualsmeditationpsychedelics and paranormal "visions".

However, these are usually isolated experiences and don’t last.
 

Editor True-to-original translations.
<a href="/en/translator/michaelna" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1257575">MichaelNa</a>
Joined: 29.08.2015

Your original concern was the meaning of “rout” and you went for “escape from the battlefield”. Note that it also has a poetic meaning as “feast”.
After stating that nothing lasts forever Yeats asks “What one in the rout of the fire-born moods has fallen away?”
The answer could very well be this poem... since you’re analyzing it about 80 years after the poet passed away.

Editor Soldier of Love
<a href="/en/translator/flopsi" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1331196">Flopsi</a>
Joined: 12.03.2017

Thank you for your inspiration. I've translated it myself.