Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Rose

The Duality of Human Nature in “The Two Trees” 12th Grade

William Butler Yeats, the esteemed twentieth-century poet, was in love with the Irish nationalist Maud Gonne; his poem “The Two Trees” was originally written for her. Gonne was very devoted to rather uncompromising ideologies, but in this poem Yeats coaxes her to perceive the world with more grey areas and fewer patches of black-and-white. In “The Two Trees,” Yeats uses Edenic imagery, enjambment, and phonetics to create reconciliation between the two seemingly disjunct stanzas, suggesting that life cannot be divided so starkly and that opposites like “good” and “evil” are actually linked.

Yeats employs Edenic imagery to highlight the duality of life; by comparing the Tree of Life with the Tree of Knowledge, he shows that “good” and “evil” are entwined. The poem starts off with the statement “Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,/The holy tree is growing there;”(1-2) a reference to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, the tree of ignorance and “inner truth.” He goes on to illustrate this tree as one with “holy branches”(3) starting “[f]rom joy,” and bearing “trembling flowers”(4). Even the “changing colours of its fruit/Have dowered the stars with merry light”(5-6). These images evoke a pleasant mood, but also seem fleeting; the...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 739 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4416 literature essays, 1446 sample college application essays, 178 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in