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The Song Of The Old Mother. RISE in the dawn, and I kneel and blow  Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow.  And then I must scrub, and bake, and sweep,  Till stars are beginning to blink and peep;  But the young lie long and dream in their bed          5

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The Song Of The Old Mother

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The song of the old mother l.jpg

The Song Of The Old Mother

RISE in the dawn, and I kneel and blow 

Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow.

 And then I must scrub, and bake, and sweep, 

Till stars are beginning to blink and peep;

 But the young lie long and dream in their bed         5

Of the matching of ribbons, the blue and the red, 

And their day goes over in idleness,

 And they sigh if the wind but lift up a tress. 

While I must work, because I am old 

And the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold.  10


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The Poet

Yeats was once an inventive creator of beautiful lyrics and rhyme. But, as with the rest of Ireland, the Irish Civil War seemed to dull his pretty verse around 1913. His poetry became dark, sullen and pensive. The Song of the Old Mother is a good example of this style.

Yeats was greatly influenced by William Blake and copied some of his poetic styles such as rhyming couplets.


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Language and Form

The poem is just ten lines long, with most lines exactly ten syllables long. So the poem is almost like a square - ten by ten. Perhaps this reflects how limited the old Mother's life is: She cannot break away from the rigidness of her life. The poem is written in rhyming couplets, hence the rhyming scheme is AA BB CC DD EE. A half -rhyme between the first and last couplets (“blow” and “old”) helps to 'round off' the poem, which both starts and finishes with a reference to the “seed” of the fire. The first reference is to creation of the fire, the warmth it is expected to provide and its power.The latter reference is to the seed of the fire dying, becoming “feeble and cold” possibly reflecting the increasing sadness and pensiveness of the old mother.The seed seems to play a major role in the shaping and chronology of the poem, and is used to great affect as a metaphor for thought and feelings.


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Contrasts in the Poem

There are many contrasting feelings and ideas in the poem. For example, the contrast between the connotations of the fire at the start and at the end of the poem. At the beginning of the poem the fire is described using powerful verbs such as “flicker” and “glow”. This creates a sense of strength and a positive attitude despite her old age. However, at the end of the poem, the fire is described as “feeble and cold”. This reflects and parallels the old woman’s thoughts and creates a feeling of sadness, loneliness and the frailness of the woman’s life.

Also in the poem, there is a contrast between young and old.


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