Slim Adolescence That A Nymph Has Stripped

III
Slim adolescence that a nymph has stripped,
Peleus on Thetis stares.
Her limbs are delicate as an eyelid,
Love has blinded him with tears;
But Thetis' belly listens.
Down the mountain walls
From where pan's cavern is
Intolerable music falls.
Foul goat-head, brutal arm appear,
Belly, shoulder, bum,
Flash fishlike; nymphs and satyrs
Copulate in the foam.

by William Butler Yeats

Comments (1)

This is a fascinating poem on the contrast between romantic love and carnal love. The youth Peleus is so in love with Thetis he is blinded by tears, unable to act on his love. She responds to the call of carnal love represented by the satyrs, seen as something brutal. Freud has a chapter on why men must degrade women in order to act on their desires. If they remain at the stage of adolescent idealization of women they are impotent. Only by seeing woman in animal terms can they have sex. Yeats, himself a romantic dreamer who stayed a virgin till 30 and never made it with the love of his life, was obsessed by this dichotemy of idealistic and carnal love. This is a pessimistic expression of the theme: the nymph deserts tearful Peleus for a brutal satyr.