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Gun”, we are initially greeted by a very peculiar metaphor: her life was a loaded gun, in the opening lines. Then to finish off the stanza, the gun’s owner identified her as such, and departed with her. In the next stanza, she speaks of ‘the Sovereign Woods’ and ‘hunting the Doe’, another metaphor continuing the theme. The third stanza makes an allusion to a ‘Vesuvian face’, a simile and in the next another simile refers to guarding her master’s pillow as better than sharing a pillow made from Eider-Duck. Continuing to the next stanza, she writes of ‘ a Yellow Eye --/Or an emphatic Thumb’, metaphors both. The last two lines sum up the poem very neatly: ‘For I have but the power to kill, /without --the power to die --‘, the final metaphor. In William Butler Yeat’s “No Second Troy”, the images are equally complex. The title, in fact, is a metaphor that carries through the length of the poem. The next image involves the subject of the poem teaching the men violence, and ‘hurling the little streets upon the great’, a metaphor. Next he asks if the courage of the men was equal to their desire, a simile. He writes of her mind, the ‘nobleness made simple as a fire’, simile, and ‘with beauty like a tightened bow’, again a simile. And finally concludes with a metaphorical question: ‘was there another Troy for her to burn?’ These two poems are indeed very complicated, but after a close reading
and inspection, one can discern that these are both poems about love – but from very different viewpoints! In the Dickinson, she compares herself to a loaded gun in the past tense, meaning she is no longer that way – standing in corners, etc… She is expressing that there once was a great amount of passion that she kept bottled up inside, a great potential waiting to be unleashed, until she met her lover (the gun’s owner). When Dickinson uses the metaphors of the Sovereign Woods, and the Doe, she is referring to nobility; the love they share is powerful, noble, the pinnacle. The image of Vesuvius references an explosion – an uncontrollable force. Then she shows her protective side as she protects her master’s head, as the gun, and in the next stanza where no enemy of his can escape her Yellow Eye (the flash of the fired gun), or emphatic Thumb (probably the hammer coming down). Finally, as a summation, her last two lines show the metaphor of the piece: she has the power to kill, but not die, meaning that she has become his weapon, his instrument, and thus can be used as he pleases, but as an object is removed from the world of mortality. The Yeats, on the other hand, takes a much different tack. Here he is writing also of love, but of a woman he compares to Helen of Troy: capable of destruction and ‘filling his days with misery’. We do not see the selfless subjugation of the Dickinson, but rather a very critical, jealous, and yet longing portrait of a woman. When he writes of her teaching ignorant men violence and hurling little streets upon the great, what he means is that she will lead men who don’t know any better into an uprising to destroy the history and greatness of his homeland, Ireland, in favor of something new and paltry by comparison. He
writes of her mind as simple as a fire, a paradox perhaps, but also symbolizing a double-edged sword: an archaic image capable of both life and death, beauty and destruction, Yin and Yang. The same goes for the next line, as she is clearly beautiful, but that beauty also makes her extremely dangerous. The poem ends with his summation of the central metaphor, which is that there is No Second Troy: the beauty and destruction she embodied were destined to fulfill themselves because there was ‘no other Troy for her to burn’. One cannot change the fate of history: she was destined to be who she was…as was he.