A Study of Brown Penny by WB Yeats

Brown Penny by WB Yeats is a short poem written in 1910 and deals in a lighthearted way with the serious business of a young man considering falling in love. The young man, perhaps Yeats himself, tosses a coin, the brown penny, to see if he is old enough to love. In an age wrought with superstitions such an action may not have sounded as amusing as it does today. Victorian Britain was a society which took seriously the behavior of ordinary objects, hence all the wedding traditions we are still familiar with, such as dressing in white, wearing a veil, having something borrowed, something blue, etc. The Victorians even had a theory about the type of marriage a couple would enjoy depending on the colour of the bride´s dress, the day of the wedding and even the state of the weather. So Yeats is, perhaps tongue in cheek, borrowing from this culture to determine his own fate.

The coin encourages him to “go and love” especially if the lady “be young and fair.” The last line of the first verse “looped in the loops of the hair” suggests the looping of the coin as it travels through the air as well as drawing on an image favoured by Yeats of being draped in the hair of his loved one, as in “He Bids His Beloved Be At Peace” (line 10: and your hair fall over my breast).

In contrast to the lightheartedness of the first verse, the second introduces a feeling of frustration at the immense power of love and its ability to deceive. “Love is the crooked thing” he says, in other words something that twists and turns, not in lovely loops like a girl´s long hair, but in an unpredictable way that can confuse. “Crooked” of course also implies dishonesty, even illegal activity, so love is very much on the wrong side of the tracks in this verse. Yeats has made it an enemy, testing his wisdom. “There is nobody wise enough to find all that is in it,” is a despairing line, commenting on the immensity of the task facing a young man encountering romance for the first time. Today, love is perhaps a more transient thing, experienced easily and quickly abandoned if it fails, but in Yeats´ time, when propriety mattered and behaviour was governed by religious beliefs, individuals had to think very carefully before entering a relationship, taking into careful consideration not only the possible uncomfortable results of difficult romance, but also what other people thought. Falling in love promised a minefield of adverse social consequences.

But it is not the social environment that concerns Yeats here, it is the enigmatic quality of love that baffles him. The world would end, he says, before anyone, no matter how wise, could understand it. Using the stars and the moon in this context is deliberately invoking the imagery of the romantic poets of an earlier century, but giving it a more morbid twist.

Still, far from putting off the young man, the size of the task before him only encourages him further. “One cannot begin it too soon” brings the poem back to its lighthearted beginning and leaves the reader with a wry smile. This is the fate of all mankind, that no matter how insurmountable the odds of finding true love are, we each of us attempt it, time and time again. Given the unfathomable nature of the exercise, tossing a brown penny has as much chance of bringing us success as anything else.

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day

It is generally believed that this sonnet is dedicated to the Earl of Southampton. William Shakespeare’s friend is immortalized in this sonnet.

The sonnet compares the perfection of his friend with the imperfections of a summer’s day.

The poem is a typical Shakespearean sonnet. It consists of 14 lines: three quatrains and one rhyming couplet.

First Quatrain

When Shakespeare speaks of a summer’s day, he refers to it literally and figuratively. Literally, it is a warm long day. Figuratively, it is a time in a person’s life. His patron was in the summer of his life, lovelier and more temperate than a literal day. By saying that his patron is ‘more lovely’, he is saying that he is kind and loving. By saying he is ‘more temperate’, he means that his friend is gentle and unchanging.

Shakespeare refers to the imperfections of a summer’s day. He speaks of ‘rough winds’ and ‘darling buds’. Obviously, we need to look at the summer of the northern hemisphere. Usually it is a short season that can become unbearably hot. Clear images of summer are seen in words like ‘lease’ and ‘date’. While the words reminds us of a contract by which a person allows another to use his property for a certain time, we can clearly see the poet is comparing summer to having a contract and the period for which the property is leased is far too short. This gives us an indication of how the poet feels: like summer, his patron’s life was also far too short.

Second Quatrain

The poet now describes the sun, the “eye of the heaven” with its “golden complexion”. It is dazzling and brilliant. It provides light and heat, but on a cloudy day, the sun is dimmed, and its light and heat cannot penetrate through the clouds. His friend is not like that. Death will not affect the effect he had on the poet, like clouds affect the sun’s effect on a summer’s day.

Time in the poem is described as the arch enemy of beauty. Beauty degenerates with time, accidentally or as a result of the laws of nature. It fades with age. Everyone is born to die and cannot escape this gradual process. It ‘changes nature’s course untrimmed’.

There is a tone of disparagement because in comparing summer with his patron, the poet makes summer seem of little value or importance.

Third Quatrain

His friend’s claim to immortality can be seen and we realize his worth will never fade or die. The poet no longer depreciates the natural summer. He reveals his joy at the eternal summer of his patron. He reveals his absolute certainty that his friend will be remembered to time indefinite. His patron will last while summer will come to an end, and so it seems, Summer has less worth. His patron’s “eternal summer” is a metaphor for the best period of his patron’s life, when he is at the peak of his achievements and has earned the highest status.

When Shakespeare speaks of “eternal lines”, we realize that no-one can ever attain true immortality. Death is personified as the ruler of the underworld where the ‘shades’ or spirits of the dead roam aimlessly. Instead of passing into the obscurity of death, his friend will live on in this poem. He will never be forgotten. Death will not be able to brag of another famous man who has entered his Kingdom.

The couplet

The last two lines emphasize that his patron’s worthiness has been immortalized in the lines of this poem. He will never be forgotten during the passing of time. Shakespeare is confident of his superior ability of creative power. He believes in his own work and this poem. The poem gives his friend new life every time it is read.

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day is a Shakespearean sonnet or an English sonnet written by William Shakespeare. He compares the perfection of his friend with the imperfections of a summer’s day. There are three quatrains and a rhyming couplet. Each quatrain and couplet is discussed and analysed.

American Insomnia (In Poetic Prose – A Requiem for America)

(In Poetic Prose, and not for every reader, and not for discussion
It is a requiem for America)

Has it occurred to the reader, how many civilizations has been irretrievable lost-?
Buried by social upheavals with subsequent relapses to savagery?
Because of the loss of morals, law and order, violation of one’s Godly values, or for not having any values!
Rome, Babylon, Troy, Zimbabwe, Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela, Cambodia, all of the Middle East, would we delve its ruins, they will come up short…
Cities, and then countries.
Soon to be Globalism, and the Antichrist running the show!
We look for rusting mechanisms for dispute, add some doubtful data, dogma, such as no one can decipher, leaving our old friends like Israel, for the Bulls of Bashan-
I assure you this is not probable but certain: the very history of America in the near future, will become more or less legendary-
That is to say: no longer predominant, or widespread…
If indeed it remains on its current course.
Yes, I am a speculative thinker, along different lines of thought.
We are now seeing the use of illimitable, illegitimate power through concentration, by our leaders!
From the outside in, and now from the inside-out, the growth of rapid radicalism is taking place;
Laws being bent to appease, and those so called quasi-friendships overseas, having left America ignorant and broke!
The loss of freedoms due to political correctness, has shattered our Constitution, our law enforcement, our military-
And I can go on and on, but enough is enough…
We the people are being put into an inescapable web, to the point one can’t even ask a personal question that seethes within them.
The more I come to know, the more I am overcome by a sense the unbearable needs to be seize upon with or by patriotism.
Chauvinism, -not narrow-mindedness, but like the Roman soldier who fought with pride for a belief, will soon be dead in our armed forces, and the will to fight for the flag, the one now allowed to be trampled on by dirty heels of whomever, will be nowhere to be found!
It appears to me-over much discussion I’ve listened to-and all too little knowledge within those discussions, the matter of what is and is not good for America, is overlooked-
Even by the FBI!
When God is gone, all that is left to satisfy the hunger of the mongrel, is power, and thus, power takes over!
This all will materialize on investigation.
Even in heaven, there was a war, and laws, and when Lucifer violated them and was judged for treason, there was a consequence.
Like Christ said: ‘Give to Caesar and God, to each what belongs to them.’
But both Caesar and Christ knew the value in maintaining laws, and values, had Rome not, it would not have ruled the world for 400-years.
We have ruled it for less than a hundred, and we’re falling apart.
Now in America I am struck by the tone of our elected, or soon to be elected intellectual elite, on their discussions!
And those who follow.
I doubt greatly if there is anything of value left to be learned.
Today in America the secret is: how is one to know the truth, which is a thing so utterly improbable?
Perhaps unsaid, but surely thought!
You vote for whom you wish, and you get the government in which one must tolerate-
Much as I have grown to admire America, and have fought her wars, and tried to keep her deep rooted values (which are no longer deep-rooted), raised on old thinking and reasoning I suppose, I have become the most incomprehensible and alien being on earth to her now thousand differences, if not indifference!
I seem not to know her, as I once knew her.
Perhaps I’m too simple of a person, in a complex world.
Now as I look at America she gives me a long unreadable glance.
Even though, I will never stop loving her.
On a few other thoughts: if the law isn’t the same for everybody, why should anybody keep it?
Does not a man or woman think: if s/he can break it, so can I?
And of course, this is when the politicians panic, God forbid they think like us!
America wake up, you’re walking in your sleep!
Plato said in so many words: if the law doesn’t stop me from taking another man’s wife next-door, and the spouse is helpless, who’s to stop me?
In war if you do not fight fire with fire you lose ground, you must be worse than the enemy, lest you lay down and die, and who back home will ever be thankful, and care, other than your personal loved ones!
The world at large bites its lip, turns an eye: out of sight, out of mind-they call soldiers ‘baby killers’ and turnabout and have an abortion, I’ve been called that, down that road, upon my return from South Vietnam, in 1971, I don’t remember killing a baby, but I know many who have, having worked as a counselor in Federal and State prisons for a decade.
America, she is blind as a bat, alas, when she hears the truth, she still will not accept it: pride comes before destruction, as the old saying goes.
So whomever is reading this, be on your toes.