Skip to content
Home » The Enchanting Tale of ‘The Stolen Child’: A Summary by William Butler Yeats

The Enchanting Tale of ‘The Stolen Child’: A Summary by William Butler Yeats

“The Stolen Child” is a poem written by William Butler Yeats, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century. The poem tells the story of a group of fairies who lure a human child away from his home and into their magical world. In this article, we will provide a summary of Yeats’ enchanting tale and explore the themes and symbolism that make it a timeless classic.

The Enchanting Tale of ‘The Stolen Child’: A Summary by William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats’ “The Stolen Child” is a captivating poem that tells the story of a group of fairies who lure a human child away from his home and into their magical world. The poem is filled with vivid imagery and enchanting language that transports the reader to a world of wonder and mystery. The fairies promise the child a life of endless joy and freedom, but as the poem progresses, it becomes clear that the child’s fate is not as idyllic as it first appears. Yeats’ masterful storytelling and use of symbolism make “The Stolen Child” a timeless classic that continues to captivate readers today.

The Poem’s Background

William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Stolen Child” was first published in 1889 as part of his collection “The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems.” The poem is based on Irish folklore and tells the story of a group of fairies who lure a human child away from his home and into their magical world. Yeats was deeply interested in Irish mythology and folklore, and this poem is a prime example of his fascination with the supernatural and the mystical. The poem has been interpreted in many different ways, but it remains a beloved and enchanting tale that captures the imagination of readers of all ages.

The Poem’s Structure

The structure of “The Stolen Child” is unique and adds to the enchanting quality of the poem. It is written in six stanzas, each with eight lines, and follows an ABAB rhyme scheme. The first and last lines of each stanza are repeated, creating a refrain that emphasizes the poem’s central theme of the lure of the fairy world. Additionally, the poem is written in iambic meter, which gives it a musical quality and adds to its enchanting nature. The structure of “The Stolen Child” is a testament to Yeats’ skill as a poet and his ability to create a captivating and memorable work of art.

The Poem’s Themes

The themes of “The Stolen Child” are deeply rooted in Irish folklore and mythology. One of the main themes is the idea of escapism, as the poem presents the faeries as offering a way for the child to escape the mundane world and enter a magical realm. Another theme is the contrast between innocence and experience, as the child is lured away from the safety of his home by the faeries, who are themselves portrayed as innocent and carefree. The poem also explores the idea of the natural world as a source of wonder and enchantment, as the faeries are depicted as being in harmony with nature and its rhythms. Overall, “The Stolen Child” is a haunting and evocative poem that captures the magic and mystery of the Irish landscape and its folklore.

The Poem’s Characters

The characters in “The Stolen Child” are a mix of mythical creatures and humans. The poem’s narrator is a fairy who is trying to lure a human child away from the world of humans and into the magical world of the fairies. The child is described as “pale” and “weary” and is easily convinced to leave his mundane life behind. The fairies are depicted as mischievous and playful, but also as having a darker side. They are described as “chang[ing] us into swans” and “drown[ing] us in the sea.” The poem also mentions the “water-rats” and the “crickets” who are also part of the magical world. Overall, the characters in “The Stolen Child” create a dreamlike atmosphere that draws the reader into the enchanting world of the fairies.

The Poem’s Setting

The setting of “The Stolen Child” is a mystical and enchanting world that captures the imagination of the reader. The poem takes place in a forest by the water’s edge, where the faeries and other magical creatures reside. The setting is described in vivid detail, with Yeats painting a picture of a world that is both beautiful and dangerous. The forest is filled with the sounds of nature, from the rustling of leaves to the chirping of birds. The water is described as being “deep and wide,” and the faeries are said to dance “on the sands.” The setting of the poem is an integral part of the story, as it sets the tone for the magical and otherworldly events that take place.

The Poem’s Tone

The tone of “The Stolen Child” is one of enchantment and mystery. Yeats uses vivid imagery and a dreamlike quality to transport the reader to a world of fairies and magic. The poem’s tone is both haunting and alluring, drawing the reader in with its lyrical language and otherworldly atmosphere. The use of repetition and the refrain “Come away, O human child!” adds to the poem’s hypnotic quality, making it feel almost like a spell being cast. Overall, the tone of “The Stolen Child” is one of enchantment and wonder, inviting the reader to escape into a world of magic and fantasy.

The Poem’s Symbolism

The poem ‘The Stolen Child’ by William Butler Yeats is a beautiful and enchanting piece of literature that is filled with symbolism. The poem is a perfect example of how Yeats uses symbolism to convey his message. The poem is about a group of fairies who lure a child away from his home and into their magical world. The fairies are symbolic of the child’s imagination and the world of fantasy that he longs to escape to. The child is symbolic of innocence and the desire to be free from the constraints of the real world. The poem is also filled with other symbols such as the moon, the water, and the woods. The moon is symbolic of the magic and mystery of the fairy world, while the water represents the unknown and the woods represent the danger that the child faces. Overall, the poem is a beautiful and enchanting tale that is filled with symbolism and meaning.

The Poem’s Imagery

The imagery in “The Stolen Child” is rich and evocative, transporting the reader to a mystical world of fairies and magic. Yeats uses vivid descriptions of nature to create a sense of enchantment, such as “Where the wave of moonlight glosses / The dim grey sands with light” and “Where the wandering water gushes / From the hills above Glen-Car.” The poem also features a number of fantastical creatures, including “the merrows” and “the faeries’ midwife,” adding to the sense of otherworldliness. Overall, the imagery in “The Stolen Child” is a key element in creating the poem’s dreamlike atmosphere.

The Poem’s Allusions

The poem ‘The Stolen Child’ by William Butler Yeats is filled with allusions to Irish folklore and mythology. The first stanza, for example, references the ‘faeries’ and ‘water-lilies’ that are commonly associated with the mystical creatures of Irish legend. The second stanza alludes to the ‘glimmering girl’ who is likely a reference to the goddess of love and beauty, Brigid. The third stanza mentions the ‘pooka’ and ‘merrow’, two more creatures from Irish folklore. The allusions in the poem serve to create a sense of enchantment and mystery, drawing the reader into the world of the faeries and their magical realm.

The Poem’s Message

The message of “The Stolen Child” is one of escape and the allure of the unknown. The poem suggests that the world of faeries is a tempting alternative to the mundane reality of human life. The child in the poem is lured away by the faeries, who promise him a life of adventure and wonder. The poem seems to suggest that there is something inherently magical and alluring about the world of faeries, and that it is a place where one can escape the troubles and worries of everyday life. However, the poem also suggests that there is a danger to this world, and that those who are lured away may never return. Ultimately, “The Stolen Child” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of giving in to temptation and the allure of the unknown.

The Poem’s Significance

The significance of “The Stolen Child” lies in its exploration of the themes of innocence, nature, and the supernatural. Yeats uses the poem to convey the idea that the natural world is a place of wonder and magic, and that the human desire to escape from the constraints of society and civilization is a universal one. The poem also suggests that the supernatural world is not necessarily a place of evil or danger, but rather a place of mystery and enchantment. Through its vivid imagery and lyrical language, “The Stolen Child” captures the imagination and transports the reader to a world of beauty and wonder.

The Poem’s Reception

The reception of “The Stolen Child” has been overwhelmingly positive since its publication in 1889. The poem has been praised for its lyrical beauty and haunting imagery, as well as its exploration of themes such as innocence, nature, and the supernatural. Many readers have also been drawn to the poem’s sense of mystery and ambiguity, which allows for multiple interpretations and readings. Over the years, “The Stolen Child” has become one of Yeats’ most beloved and well-known works, and it continues to captivate readers with its enchanting tale of faeries and the lure of the unknown.

The Poem’s Legacy

The legacy of “The Stolen Child” is one that has endured for over a century. The poem has been studied, analyzed, and celebrated by scholars, poets, and readers alike. Its influence can be seen in the works of countless writers who have been inspired by Yeats’ enchanting tale. The poem’s themes of innocence, nature, and the supernatural continue to resonate with readers today, making it a timeless classic. “The Stolen Child” has also been adapted into music, with several musicians creating songs based on the poem. Its legacy is a testament to Yeats’ skill as a poet and his ability to capture the imagination of his readers.

The Poet’s Life and Works

William Butler Yeats was a prolific poet who lived a fascinating life. Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1865, Yeats was deeply influenced by the Celtic Revival, a movement that sought to revive Irish culture and traditions. He was also interested in mysticism and the occult, and these themes often appear in his poetry. Yeats was a member of the Irish Literary Revival, a group of writers who sought to create a distinctively Irish literature. He was also a founder of the Abbey Theatre, which became the national theatre of Ireland. Yeats won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923, and his poetry continues to be widely read and admired today.

The Poet’s Style

William Butler Yeats’ style in “The Stolen Child” is characterized by its lyrical and enchanting quality. The poem is written in a ballad form, with a consistent rhyme scheme and meter that creates a musicality to the words. Yeats also employs vivid imagery and sensory language to transport the reader into the magical world of the faeries. The repetition of phrases such as “Come away, O human child!” and “For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand” adds to the hypnotic and dreamlike quality of the poem. Overall, Yeats’ style in “The Stolen Child” perfectly captures the mystical and otherworldly nature of the faerie folklore it draws upon.

The Poet’s Influences

William Butler Yeats was a poet who was greatly influenced by the Irish folklore and mythology. He was fascinated by the stories of the faeries and the supernatural beings that were believed to inhabit the Irish countryside. Yeats was also influenced by the Romantic poets, especially William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose works he admired for their imaginative power and their ability to evoke a sense of mystery and wonder. In addition, Yeats was deeply interested in the occult and the esoteric, and he was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society that explored the mysteries of the universe through ritual and meditation. All of these influences can be seen in Yeats’ poem “The Stolen Child,” which is a haunting and enchanting tale of a faery who lures a human child away from the world of mortals and into the realm of the faeries.

The Poet’s Impact on Literature

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets in the history of literature. His works have had a significant impact on the literary world, inspiring generations of writers and poets. Yeats’ unique style of writing, which blends traditional Irish folklore with modernist techniques, has made him a literary icon. His poem, “The Stolen Child,” is a perfect example of his mastery of the craft. The poem has been widely studied and analyzed, and its impact on literature cannot be overstated. Yeats’ use of symbolism, imagery, and language has influenced countless writers and poets, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of artists.

The Poet’s Contribution to Irish Literary Revival

William Butler Yeats is one of the most prominent figures in the Irish Literary Revival, a movement that aimed to revive Irish literature and culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Yeats, along with other poets and writers, played a crucial role in this movement by creating works that celebrated Irish folklore, mythology, and history. One of Yeats’ most enchanting contributions to the Irish Literary Revival is his poem “The Stolen Child,” which tells the story of a group of fairies who lure a human child away from his home and into their magical world. Through this poem, Yeats not only showcases his mastery of language and imagery but also highlights the importance of Irish folklore and mythology in shaping the country’s cultural identity. “The Stolen Child” is a testament to Yeats’ contribution to the Irish Literary Revival and his enduring legacy as one of Ireland’s greatest poets.