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To Go
No Second Troy
No Second Troy
by William Butler Yeats

Sound Check

Read this poem aloud. What do you hear?

The poem sounds like a guy standing in front of a mirror and having an argument with himself. Because it's a person talking to himself, it also sounds a lot like a Shakespearean sonnet or soliloquy, and, indeed, the poem's twelve-line form is rather similar to a Shakespearean sonnet (see "Form and Meter").

The poem is centered on four questions, and although it is broken up into verses, these questions are really the poem's basic units. The most substantial end stops (or pauses at the end of a line) occur after the question marks. Otherwise, Yeats uses a conversational tone that is accentuated by the technique of enjambment, which is when a sentence or phrase carries over the line break without a pause. The transition between lines 2 and 3 is classic enjambment: "...or that she would of late / Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways." Notice how you just barrel right over the line break when you read these lines.

Shakespeare's sonnets and soliloquies similarly use a lot of enjambment, and they often feature characters that try to talk themselves into or out of doing something. True to form, the speaker of this poem tries to talk himself out of blaming the woman, even though he clearly does. Reading this poem well means you have to become an actor and channel the inner conflict that the speaker experiences. It's the perfect poem to read at home, in front of your bathroom mirror. That is, read it whenever you need a break from practicing what to say to the cute guy/girl you have a crush on in front of said mirror...

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