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    #1

    The meaning of lying

    What does the word "lying" mean in the following poem?

    W.B. Yeats (1865–1939). Responsibilities and Other Poems. 1916.
    43. The Coming of Wisdom with Time
    THOUGH leaves are many, the root is one;
    Through all the lying days of my youth
    I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
    Now I may wither into the truth.




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    #2

    Re: The meaning of lying

    days of lies?
    days of little truth?
    just a student.


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    #3

    Re: The meaning of lying

    When you are young, you feel that you will always be young. The lying days of your youth, since you will inevitably grow older.

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    #4

    Re: The meaning of lying

    By the way, Anglika. Is it true that this type of sentences may have different interpretations? In other words, what you suggested is one of the possibilities. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    When you are young, you feel that you will always be young. The lying days of your youth, since you will inevitably grow older.

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: The meaning of lying

    Quote Originally Posted by ian2 View Post
    By the way, Anglika. Is it true that this type of sentences may have different interpretations? In other words, what you suggested is one of the possibilities. Thanks.
    This is poetry. My opinion is that it can always have different interpretations because poetry involves new and unusual ways of using language. So, two interpretations can both be "right". Some, however, are clearly wrong.
    Also, some words have more than one meaning. He could have been lying under a tree when he playing with leaves and flowers; this is also consistent with Anglika's reading, and Yeats could have had both meanings in mind.

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    #6

    Re: The meaning of lying

    As a footnote:

    There seems to be an ambiguity in the subject of "lying": the days "lied", because they (as a kind of synecdoche for "the external world", "events", etc.) deceived the poet; while the poet himself "lied" in taking and promoting what he now believes to be a false view of things.

    More specifically, in the context of Yeats's other poems, I would take "lying" here as a reference to his earlier mystical and philosophical preoccupations: his "Celtic Twilight" writings have begun to strike him as slightly fallacious. From this collection on, he develops a more robust kind of verse (cf. the poems in Responsibilities, 1916).

    "Lying" in the sense "lying down" (thus "easeful") is also probably present, as has been said; cf. "She bade me take life easy, as the leaves grow on the tree" in his earlier "Down by the Salley Gardens". (Though that sense conflicts a little with the subsequent "swaying" leaves and flowers, and raises some questions about the precise identity of the plant.)

    All the best,

    MrP
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    #7

    Re: The meaning of lying

    I would like to thank all the respondents. It seems when a poem leaves the hand of a poet, he or she really doesn't have much control of its meaning. But the above seems very enlightening. Thanks.

    Ray and Mr.P, nice to meet you both in the public domain.

    Ian

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    As a footnote:

    There seems to be an ambiguity in the subject of "lying": the days "lied", because they (as a kind of synecdoche for "the external world", "events", etc.) deceived the poet; while the poet himself "lied" in taking and promoting what he now believes to be a false view of things.

    More specifically, in the context of Yeats's other poems, I would take "lying" here as a reference to his earlier mystical and philosophical preoccupations: his "Celtic Twilight" writings have begun to strike him as slightly fallacious. From this collection on, he develops a more robust kind of verse (cf. the poems in Responsibilities, 1916).

    "Lying" in the sense "lying down" (thus "easeful") is also probably present, as has been said; cf. "She bade me take life easy, as the leaves grow on the tree" in his earlier "Down by the Salley Gardens". (Though that sense conflicts a little with the subsequent "swaying" leaves and flowers, and raises some questions about the precise identity of the plant.)

    All the best,

    MrP

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    #8

    Re: The meaning of lying

    Quote Originally Posted by ian2 View Post
    It seems when a poem leaves the hand of a poet, he or she really doesn't have much control of its meaning.
    There is an essay by T. S. Eliot in which he says much the same. When I remember which one it is, I'll post a link...

    All the best,

    MrP
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    #9

    Re: The meaning of lying

    It seems when a poem leaves the hand of a poet, he or she really doesn't have much control of its meaning.
    This is an important theme in literary criticism - whether authorial intent or reader response is the primary determinant of a text's meaning.
    These days it's a popular idea for students to interpret a text with a variety of political ideas in mind - feminism, psychoanalytic, Marxist, etc. The idea of this is that the author is a product of his political and social environment, and that not all "meanings" are necessarily understood even by the author.

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    #10

    Re: The meaning of lying

    A thought-experiment:

    If a poet told us categorically that our interpretation of his poem was wholly incorrect, could we be entirely comfortable with that interpretation thereafter?

    (I would think "probably not".)

    MrP
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