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’s “Long Legged Fly” Essay, Research Paper

The Symbolism of ?Long Legged Fly?

An analysis of Yeats? poetry

In his poem ?Long Legged Fly?, William Butler Yeats, examines the

notion of human genius, and its many aspects. The apparent theme that Yeats

attempts to show is that peacefulness is required in order for one to utilize

their genius ability. The title itself, ?Long Legged Fly?, has a symbolic

meaning. It is a metaphor for a tranquil and clear state of mind, which is a

key ingredient to enhance genius. The people who posses this ability have a

power that extends above and beyond the ordinary. They appear to hover in

a separate world of their own in the same way that the fly glides effortlessly

over water. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each presents a

different example of human genius from history and contrasts the similarities

and differences between them.

The first stanza talks about Julius Caesar, a great political and military

genius of who was responsible for the expansion of the early Roman empire.

However, in his poem Yeats does not focus on Caesar as a warrior, instead

he introduces him as a thinker, one who?s tactical skills are not derived from

his actions but from his own careful thought and intellect as ?his mind is fixed

upon nothing, a hand under his head.? Most importantly Yeats introduces the

need for silence in order for a great thinker to achieve full potential for his

wisdom. Here he stresses to the reader to ?quiet the dog, tether the pony to a

distant post? because these noisy disturbances may interfere with Caesars

genius ability, for ?like a long legged fly upon the stream, his mind moves

upon silence.?

The second stanza deals with Helen of Troy, whose genius transcends

from her own mystical beauty which resulted in her capture by the Trojan

prince Paris, marking the beginning of the Trojan war. The first line of this

stanza, ?that the topless towers be burnt?, represents the downfall of Troy at

the end of the war when Helen was finally freed and reunited with her

husband King Menelaus of Sparta. Helen?s genius, although different from

that of Caesars, is again motivated by peace and silence, without which she

would not be capable of exhibiting her remarkable gift of beauty and poise. It

is with this aspect that Yeats commands ?move most gently if you must?,

signifying the importance of a calm and tranquil environment for her state of

mind. Yeats concludes this stanza with the same line stated earlier, ?like a

long legged fly upon the stream his mind moves upon silence.?

The third an final stanza describes yet another kind of genius, that of

the famous artist Michaelangelo who painted the Sistine Chapel. Yeats

describes Michaelangelo as having an almost supernatural ability from which

he is inspired by visions which enable him to create his magnificent painting.

Similarly, as in the previous two stanzas, Yeats again expresses the need for

peace. This is pointed out when he orders to ?shut the door of the

Pope?s chapel, keep those children out.? The children must me removed

because they present a distraction to Michalangelo completing his work.

The obvious theme that is emphasized throughout the poem is the need

for peace and tranquillity of mind. This seems to be Yeats? central idea to

developing genius. Each of the three stanzas provide an example of how

human genius has shaped history and how the ways in which they work have

the potential to shape the future.