English 150 Recitation Lesson Plan:
Who Goes with Fergus? by W.B. Yeats
Wednesday 16 October 2013, 6 p.m. section
- Published in 1892.
- A love poem coming from the earlier years of Yeats's poetry writing.
- Ties the life of the mythological King Fergus to Yeats's own contradictory feelings of love and abandonment of love.
- Yeats ties his messy, complicated love affair/obsession with Maud Gonne to the love affair between King Fergus and Queen Mebh.
- Both relationships are out of the ordinary and somewhat abandoned as politics of the time get in the way.
- Yeats and Fergus try to seek happiness in other places as a consequence of their messy love relationships.
- Emphasis on Yeats' love of nature.
Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood's woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.
And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love's bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all disheveled wandering stars.
III. Key Questions
- When I first read this poem I read it thinking that Yeats was telling us to "brood" and ponder about love or a specific loved one. However, after reading the poem a second time, and in a different way, it seems Yeats is commanding us to stop "brooding" and turn away from the love that makes us suffer so much. Which way do you think makes the most sense? Why? What other lines in the poem support your reasoning?
- I think turning away makes most sense
No more turn aside and brood… — turn away from the love that makes you crazy and focus on things that Fergus focused on and ruled (nature)
Brood on hopes — ponder about your dreams and future not the love that is making you unhappy in the present.
- However, it is possible that Yeats purposely wrote this poem in a way where it can be read both ways (to brood or not to brood on love).
- I believe he did this because he himself was confused about his love relationship with Maud Gonne.
- He loved her infinitely but her unreciprocated love made him want to abandon his feelings for her.
- The idea of "love's bitter mystery" was brought up briefly in lecture but what is Yeats trying to say with this phrase? Is anyone supposed to know the bitter mystery of love, or do we only know its mystery when we are in love?
- Loving someone who doesn't love you back (i.e. Maud Gonne)
- So why worry about someone who doesn't love you back when you could enjoy the
stars or nature in general.
- However, he links these nature settings with adjectives used to describe a woman or love with a woman (i.e.
- Adds on to his contradictory feelings for Maud Gonne, and even though he tries to move on and focus on more beautiful things such as nature, he still see images that remind him of her.