The Magic of Device

June 7, 2019 by Essay Writer

The iniquitous nature of unrequited love plays man the subservient jester to his indifferent queen. In his poem “The Cap and Bells” W. B. Yeats seeks to convey the message that unrequited love causes a man to give and give of himself until he has nothing left; he makes himself a fool. He accomplishes this objective via the clever means of poetic device. He employs three primary vehicles in his quest: rhyme, personification, and symbolism. By using these devices, Yeats creates an art that causes his reader to think about what he has put forth and thereby better understand his tragic view of love.Without deep analysis, one can note the rhyming nature of this poem. The rhyme scheme (pattern of rhyming words at the end of each line) abcb occurs throughout its nine stanzas. This enhances the overall tone of the poem by keeping it from becoming romanticized and grounding it in reality and anguish. The pattern of rhyme is interrupted by dissimilar sounding words, which produce a jarring effect on the reader. This discordant quality keeps the reader from becoming mislaid in a songlike fairytale by elucidating the dichotomy of the fantastic story being offered literally and the reality of its metaphoric nature. An example of this can be found in the fourth stanza:He bade his heart go to her,When the owls called out no more;In a red and quivering garmentIt sang to her through the door. (Yeats 13-16)This line appears to be an amorous gesture that could cause the reader to be ensnared in its romance, which would only be intensified by melodious and constant rhyme. However, the non- rhyming words, her and garment, prevent this. Instead of a singsong impression, we are surprised when we arrive at the third line and find it does not really fit. This is furthered by the resumption of rhyming in line four. This breaks the flow of reading and forces us to consider what we have read, leading us to the conclusion this is not a fairytale.Yeats also consistently uses masculine rhyme. This means that the accented vowel is found in the final syllable of the rhymed words. In the previous example one finds the words more and door to each be of only one syllable and of masculine rhyme by default. In fact, Yeats employs only two cases of multi-syllabic rhymed words; they are found in lines 4 and 8, the words window-sill and footfall. If one should assume that no accidents occur in poetry, word placement is vital. Each emerges as the last word of its respective stanza in stanzas one and two. These two stanzas are the exposition of the poem and are found before the queen rejects the jester. Therefore, they are different from the rest of the poem; perhaps Yeats’s choosing them as the only multi-syllabic rhyming words serves to distinguish this section from the rest of the poem.Finally, in each of these stanzas Yeats writes in a consistent pattern of end- stopped and enjambed lines. End-stopped lines are those ending in punctuation, and enjambed are those ending without punctuation. The pattern found is: end-stopped, end-stopped, enjambed, end-stopped. For example:The jester walked in the garden:The garden had fallen still;He bade his soul rise upwardAnd stand on her window-sill. (1-4)The only place in the poem that he alternates this pattern is in stanzas 7 and 8. In these instances all four lines are end-stopped. Using this technique he alerts the reader to a shift in the poem and, therefore, the need for special attention; this is certainly the case here. The climax of the poem occurs in these two stanzas, lines 25-33. Much like his alterations during the exposition, and his alteration of rhyming and non-rhyming words in general, he jars the reader slightly here with change, causing further scrutiny.Yeats also uses personification in this lyric poem. To use personification is to attribute human characteristics to inanimate objects. In the very first stanza Yeats personifies his soul: “He bade his should rise upward/ And stand on her window-sill” (3-4). He continues this until his soul is rejected. Next he turns to his heart, which, among other things, “sang to her through the door” (16). By creating the heart and soul as human- like, he attributes to them human ability. More specifically, he allows them the capacity for joy and anguish. Furthermore, he paints them distinct personalities; of the soul: “It had grown wise- tongued by thinking” (7). The heart, conversely, is more romantic: ” It has grown sweet-tongued by dreaming” (18). This use of personification helps Yeats take his poem to the next level. It causes the reader to realize there is more at play than simply a literal heart and a literal soul, because neither can literally speak. Additionally, Yeats is able to express how real this rejection is to the jester, because the queen is dismissing his living soul and his living heart.Once Yeats has set a framework, created a tone, and emphasized what he wants us to see as important, the reader is forced to delve farther. Here he meets Yeats’s greatest weapon, symbolism. By placing certain characters and objects into action Yeats makes them symbols and forces his poem to two levels, literal and figurative. In the literal version of the story there is a jester walking in a garden outside a queen’s window. He tells his soul to go to her window- sill; there the queen will not hear him and shuts the window. Next the jester sends his heart to her door, but she dismisses him with a fan. Finally, the jester leaves his cap and bells for her to find. She is delighted and opens her door and window and allows in the heart and soul. This can be blatantly understood. However, it does not convey Yeats’s message about unrequited love, and its power to take all a man has. That is because these are merely symbols, objects with a deeper meaning. It is easiest to start with the most obvious: the two main characters, the queen and the jester. These are simple enough in that one can surmise their meaning by simply knowing, in every day life, what they are. Clearly, a queen is a ruler. She is the head of her kingdom, and everyone else is her subject, obliged to serve her. A jester is often a “fool”; he is hired for the entertainment of the royal court and not to be taken seriously. Therefore, without even knowing anything else, we can surmise that this woman rules this man’s life, does not take him seriously, and, to her, he is mere entertainment. This relationship can also be gathered from his position below her in the garden: “The jester walked in the garden/ He bade his soul rise upward” (1, 3). She is “above” him. The garden can also be viewed as symbolic, perhaps with some license. Gardens, especially elaborate masterpieces surrounding castles, are simply for enjoyment. The fact that the jester is in the queen’s garden solidifies him as her object of amusement.Next is the symbolism of the window and the door. The jester sends his soul to “stand on her window-sill.” (4). Later, when this fails he sends his heart to sing “to her through the door” (16). The window is symbolic of her soul: “The eyes are the windows of the soul.” The door is symbolic of her heart: ” key to my heart.” This begins to make Yeats’s message more lucid: we can now see the foolish man trying diligently to get into the heart and soul of the woman that rules his existence, only to be carelessly dismissed. Yeats even leaves clues in the description of the soul and the heart. He places the soul in a “straight blue garment” (5). This can be interpreted in two ways; conceivably both are applicable. First, blue can be seen as being true, “true blue,” or cool, as in calm and collected. The former is supported by the accompaniment of the word straight, telling us he is sending his soul in a straightforward, honest manner. The latter serves to contrast the heart, which is described as “red and quivering.”(15). Also contrasted through personification, are the “personalities.” The soul is “wise tongued” (7), and the heart is “sweet-tongued” (17). This transformation occurs as the result of time and rejection. In the beginning of the poem the “owls began to call” (6), and by the time the heart makes its attempt, “the owls called out no more” (14). This is symbolic in two ways. First, it implies the passage of time. Owls are creatures of the night; they are present at the beginning, which implies nighttime. However, later they are absent, indicating progression toward day. This can be interpreted partly as the passage of the days of his life and partly as the reality of his situation “dawning” upon him. Either way, it reduces his garment from straight to quivering, until he has nothing left to offer her but all that he is.The man is identified only as the jester. His identity is encapsulated in his cap and bells. When his queen will not let him in via soul or heart, he has nothing left to offer her but his identity. Furthermore, she must take it in her own fashion:”I have a cap and bells,” he pondered,”I will send them to her and die;”And when the morning whitenedHe left them where she went by. (21-24)Here Yeats’s symbolic prowess begins reach its peak. The light has finally dawned on the poor fool; he sees what he is to his queen, who must continue to rule. Even it kills him, he must continue to play the fool, because he can never have her and he can never stop trying. Essentially it is the story of “a young queen who will only accept the jester’s love…after first receiving quite separately its instruments, the cap and bells…”(Kierd 342).Yeats cunningly utilizes poetic device as a vehicle to deliver his message. By using rhyme and personification, he leaves indication of what he wants his reader to discern as important, meaning he highlights for us what he wants noticed. From here, he weaves and intricate tapestry of symbolism, forcing the reader to delve farther and ponder his intentions. Finally, he achieves his goal, and is able to convey his tragic view of unrequited love: it is unfair, and causes man to lose his own identity in its pursuit; he becomes a fool. “He wants the woman, but she wants the desire of the man, an irreconcilable conflict.”(Kiberd 342). Yeats delivers his reader to this message in the most shrewd manner possible; he makes the reader think of it for himself.Works CitedKiberd, Delcan. “Revolt into Style Yeatsian Poetics.” Yeats’s Poetry, Drama, and Prose. Ed. James Pethica. New York: Norton, 2000. 340-346.Yeats, W.B. “The Cap and the Bells.” Yeats’s Poetry, Drama, and Prose. Ed. James Pethica. New York: Norton, 2000. 27-28.

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