Adam’s Curse

In 1903 William Butler Yeats wrote the poem Adam’s curse. This poem was first published in 1904. This poem is about the creating of something beautiful. A magnificent poem that is more than one hundred years old, but hasn’t lost its strength.


This poem is based on his own life. Not in the way he pictured it though. The love of his life, Maud Gonne, had turned him down and she married someone else. Yeats wrote this poem just before Gonne married John MacBride.

Adam’s curse is based on the Bible. And in particular the book of Genesis. The poem is divided into three stanzas and consists of both full and half rhyme. Sometimes, Yeats turned to slant-rhyme. This poem shows what a great poet he was. In this poem, he also looked back on his own life in a way.

Beauty is something that is subjective. Yeats believed that beauty in art comes from something that we know as zeal or enthusiasm. These efforts poets take, they are sometimes mocked by others. With this poem, Yeats also takes the stand when it comes to criticism. Thus making this poem a claim to respect the efforts of those who write (poetry).

Adam's Curse


Adam’s Curse

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’
And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

— William Butler Yeats

Adam's Curse
Article Name
Adam's Curse
A poem about beauty in art.
Publisher Name
The Ministry of Poetic Affairs

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