The poet declares that he would like to be considered among the poets who have sweetened Ireland's miserable history with songs and rhymes. He asks that he be judged this way despite the presence of a woman throughout the poems.
He wishes to be considered alongside Davis, Mangan, and Ferguson, because his rhymes like their tales tell of death, and of fairies and druids. The poet further suggests that these tales are not the simple legends and entertainments they may seem at first reading, but that he has captured dark and elusive human truths in his poems if one cares to delve for them.
The poet says, indeed, that his poems are a document of his
complex human heart, which we should look into because life is very short and we should make room for such abstract meditations as those on God, time, love and dream, lest they pass us by altogether.
This poem was first published under the title "Apologia addressed to Ireland in the coming days." It is a defensive action on the part of Yeats, who wishes to explain that his love for Maud Gonne, which is so foregrounded in the collection, is an important part of the struggle for Irish independence. He thinks that his nationalism is not to be considered less than older patriots. Those whom he mentions specifically are Thomas Osborne Davis (1814-45) who was the leader of the Young Ireland party and wrote poetry; James Clarence Mangan (1803-49) who was a translator and Irish romantic poet; and Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810-86), a poet who translated Gaelic legends into English.
Moreover, Yeats invites us to consider the role of poetic contemplation in a world torn by political strife. He argues that it is very easy to get caught up in the day to day, to forget the eternal realm of dreams that poetry has access to. Indeed, Yeats offers his poet's heart - the various dimensions of which he has expressed in the ensuing poems - as his contribution to Irish independence. He is a warrior of the imagination, a present-day druid, offering respite and wisdom to a present-day Fergus or Cuchulain. And this contribution, he suggests throughout his poems, is as vital as any party affiliation could possibly be.