The Cap and Bells and Love Song
Each of the poems, however, present love in very different ways. Where Alan Dugan displays his view on marital love in an unromantic manner within his poem Love song: I and Thou, Yeats’ The Cap and Bells differs by showing the readers a view on a romantic or obsessive love which is unlikely to be requited, due to the difference in social rank in their society.
William Butler Yeats’ The Cap and Bells depicts the behaviour of love through an account of actions between a jester and a Queen. Through the use of many symbolic references, the characters reflect a lover’s actions to his loved one. His use of a jester in love shows us that Yeats is portraying the actions of humans in love as foolish. Through this song-like ballad, the reader strongly feels the growing despondency of the jester and the eventual affection of the queen. Yeats uses a strong use of symbolism to suggest that love makes a fool out of every man.
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From forfeiting the soul, the heart and finally his own identity, Yeats emphasises the willingness to sacrifice all the elements of existence to feel the passions of love. As Yeats opens with, “The jester walked into the garden,” he immediately establishes the idea of the Garden of Eden as it is the first natural place of affection between a man and a woman. Continuing we read how the jester, “bade his soul rise upward. ” Here the man is offering his soul to the queen who is above him both physically and in social status.
This could perhaps have been triggered by his obsession with the actress Maud Gonne, her being the queen to his jester. It rises in a “straight blue garment,” the colours symbolising his hope for his love to be reciprocated, and the sincerity of his confession of love to the queen. The owls, which represent wisdom, ‘call’ a warning to him but he takes no heed of it. Yeats uses enjambment in this second stanza to give a sense of flow and acceleration to achieve the feeling of excitement.
The queen, however, locks his soul outside, suggesting she is also shutting off access to herself. As Yeats uses colour symbolisation throughout The Cap and Bells, the queen’s “pale night-gown” demonstrates no emotion towards the jester at this point. Next we read how “he bade his heart go to her,” offering his heart as another gift to young queen. The owls “called out no more,” demonstrating a passage of time and their defeat in trying to warn the jester. The description of the jester’s heart being a “red and quivering garment,” shows his love, passion and excitement.
Complete with this red heart and “blue” soul makes up the colours of a typical jesters clothing, making up him. The queen seemingly does not even notice the ‘singing’ hearts plea and “wave[s] it off on the air,” the alliteration of “f” sounds showing how delicate she is and the motion of his heart being waved away, absentmindedly rejecting his second gift. The only thing the jester now has left are his cap and bells, which represent his identity. He declares he will, “send them to her and die. ” He sacrifices his very self for the queen, his soul, heart and life are no longer his.
It can be argued that his love for her has made him a fool, not only by profession but by his own actions. The queen only now accepts and reciprocates his love and ignites her own love and passion to him, which can be shown through the change of her “pale” appearance to her “red lips” singing. The combination of sight and sound show she is allowing his love into her heart. However, “under a cloud of her hair,” suggests she is hiding his love. She symbolically accepts his love and the fact he is only a jester and the poem ends with a quiet, hopeful image with slight ambiguity.
Alan Dugan’s Love song: I and Thou meaning true love, sounds like a traditional, romantic love poem and this contrasts with the content of the fierce but comic battle of the sexes. His use of plain language imitates the style of William Carlos Williams, by writing in a non-linear structure and focusing on internal thoughts and emotions, mimicking the image of real life and how real people spoke. This contrasts with The Cap and Bells, having been based on a dream and written in a typical love poem structure, as a ballad. Dugan cuts through typical sentimentality and his poem instead, is full of mockery.
The speaker of the poem compares his life to a badly built house, using plain, direct and jargon language shown from the very opening, “Nothing is plum, level, or square,” and unpleasant similes. He realizes that he could never bring stability in his life. This is understood when he writes, ‘the joints are shaky by nature. ’ The shaky nature of the joints is similar to Dugan’s unsteady and insecure life. The words ‘by nature’ briefly imply that he thinks he had no control or ability to stabilize his life and thus free him from blame.
His use of technical language throughout Love song: I and Thou could have been the result of Alan Dugan’s childhood, being a son of a seller of nuts and bolts. It is shown throughout the poem that, “no piece fits,” suggesting that nothing in life is perfect and continues to reveal how discontinuous and incomplete the speaker finds the way he has lived his life. The house seems to be badly built, almost as if it is about to fall apart and this is how Dugan feels about himself. The speaker of the poem seems to be a protagonist and compares himself to Christ in a playful and comical way.
There is repetition of the word, “myself,” which shows that the speaker has not accepted any help and has built this faulty house by himself, and states he, “got hung up in it myself. ” It suggests that maybe with his wife’s help he wouldn’t have gotten so, “hung up. ” Dugan matter-of-factly states that he does not blame anyone except himself for all the things that have gone wrong in his life. The statement signifies that he blames himself for his current situation. Dugan uses visual imagery and a sense of energy shown by, “I / danced with a purple thumb,” which gives the readers a comic idea of this mans fury.
The humorous energy in this poem contrasts with the soft flow in the Cap and Bells. The speaker tells us that he is, “drunk / with [his] prime whiskey: rage,” and through metaphors and the speakers actions, it shows us that he has a self destructive, intoxicating rage, which contrasts with the quiet ending of the poem and peaceful nature in Yeats’ poem. A pause from the chaotic settings brings relief to the speaker, “it held. It settled plum, level, solid, square and true for that one great moment. ” The peace for this “one great moment,” however, does not last.
The speaker understands that if he had worked with as much anger, conviction and desire before he might have something strong to live on today but that it is too late for him to change his faulty ways now. Dugan uses personification of the house saying that it, “screamed,” and skewed the other way. This gives the readers a sense of empathetic frustration towards the speaker. Alan Dugan then uses a colloquial style of writing to show how he was thinking about the return to chaos, “God damned it. This is hell,” as he expresses his anger further with humour and profanity.
The speaker then demonstrates a stubborn and rather self centred persona to the audience by the repetition of “I” and his very strong statement, “I / will live in it until it kills me. ” The speaker again compares himself to Christ by the use of the crucifixion and becoming a martyr. He finally admits he needs help and asks for a “hand to nail the right,” he needs, “a help, a love, a [her], a wife,” showing all that she is to him and proving only she has the power to save or crucify him and suggests a belief that love is about completing the chaos and relieving the anger and finds that his wife may be the only good thing in his life.
Just as the queen in The Cap and Bells portrayed as the only thing that the jester wanted in his life. The penultimate line of Love song: I and Thou shows a pun and the ending, like with The Cap and Bells has a sense of ambiguity as we do not know what happens, does she save him or help him to his end? I found that both poems work well together, when combined they showed two different sides to love. The Cap and Bells is a poem that explores the elements of love.
Through feelings and corresponding actions, the jester ends up sacrificing all of himself to the queen. Although we are not exactly told what happens to the queen and the jester in the end, we conclude that his soul, heart, and cap and bells, signifying his life, are no longer his. In many ways, Yeats indicates the foolishness in such a love, for the queen would not accept the greatest sacrifices: the soul being the immortal and supreme existence of oneself, and the heart as the provider of life.
Instead she fell in love when given the physical cap and bells. To me, I get the implication of love being able to blind a man from reason and only follow the obsessive compulsions that love has over them. I found that it teaches a reader that love is the strongest emotion of all, for man will do anything to feel reciprocated love. The soul, the heart, and life are the toys of love, and thus throughout The Cap and Bells Yeats depicts the compliance of man to sacrifice his complete being for the sake of the zeal of love.
Love song: I and Thou is a poem about a person studying himself, and blaming himself over all the failures in his life. The tension in the poem revolves around the outcome of one’s ignorance towards their failures until it is too late to be realizing them. People are continuously building towards their future and this poem is about a man that is unhappy with the way his future turned out to be but has his wife to rely on and help him in times of nee, showing his view on marital love in a non-romantic manner.