Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Tower

Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Tower Summary and Analysis of On a Picture of a Black Centaur by Edmund Dulac

Hooves stamp against the black wood, which is filled with green parrots. The speaker knows this horseplay to be murderous. The sun has ripened healthy food, but the speaker, driven insane by the green birds, harvests foul wheat and grinds it in the dark. He bakes it slowly and brings out wine from a barrel where seven Ephesian topers sleep in ignorance of Alexander’s empire. He orders his loved one to stretch out and sleep a Saturnalian sleep. His soul will always be better than his words in expressing his love, but there is none so fit as him, he says, to keep these horrible green birds away.


In this poem, the speaker seems almost childish in his ability to climb inside an illustration that he is looking at and imagine from there. Edmund Dulac was a famous French illustrator who was working during the same time period as Yeats (this is one of the few contemporary allusions in this collection). The poet is also childlike in his insistence that language is inadequate. He will prove his mettle as a lover by watching over the sleep of his loved one - not by telling her how much he loves her.