Before the World Was Made

Before the World Was Made

How does a beautiful woman respond to her jealous lover? Read the poem “Before the World Was Made” by William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) and you will have all the answers!

About "Before the World Was Made"

About “Before the World Was Made”

“Before the World Was Made”  holds no indication that this is a poem about jealousy. Well, according to tot the title. Still, this is about jealousy. Or better: the response to this.

She knows what she does to make herself attractive or more attractive to cosmetics. This can be seen as an act of vanity, but she disagrees. She is only out to display her face ‘before the world was made.’

Her beauty gives her power. She knows this. It can help her further and it can be disturbing for her lover. But in the end, she only wants him to love that what was there ‘before the world was made.’

In this poem, Yeats tells us this woman reveals that beauty is more than the looks. She is searching for inner beauty. Unfortunately, it was lost ‘before the world was made.’ At some point, something happened and it damaged her. It made her doubt her inner beauty.

She doesn’t want this beauty on the outside. All she longs for is to go back in time. To be able to see her inner beauty.

Yeats’ sister

Some say that this poem is about Yeats’s sister. This could either be Elizabeth Corbet Yeats (1868 – 1940) (Lolly) or Susan Mary Yeats (1866 – 1949) (Lily).

Before the World Was Made

Before the World Was Made

If I make the lashes dark
And the eyes more bright
And the lips more scarlet,
Or ask if all be right
From mirror after mirror,
No vanity’s displayed:
I’m looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.

What if I look upon a man
As though on my beloved,
And my blood be cold the while
And my heart unmoved?
Why should he think me cruel
Or that he is betrayed?
I’d have him love the thing that was
Before the world was made.

— William Butler Yeats

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