Study Guide

Down by the Salley Gardens Youth

By William Butler Yeats

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The speaker of "Down in the Salley Gardens" makes young love out to be a kind of fairytale nestled in willow trees and pretty rivers. All that's missing are the rainbows and unicorns. But then reality rears its ugly head as he gets too pushy, which inevitably lands him in a pool of his own tears—sad. Still, it's all part of being young and learning some tough lessons that help us to grow up. Every young person at some time has to take a trip on the pain train. Next stop: adulthood—and wisdom.

Questions About Youth

  1. Why doesn't the speaker at least try to agree with his lover or see what she's trying to say? What is it about him that makes him so stubborn? 
  2. Does young love always have to end in tears? Is it always a necessary part of growing up? Why or why not?
  3. Why do we get all the romantic imagery? Does young love always need to be accompanied by willow trees and pretty rivers? 
  4. Would the ballad be as relatable to the theme of youth if it sounded less singsong-y?

Chew on This

Youth involves not having much life experience, so it makes sense that young love in the poem would end in heartbreak. Better luck next time, kid.

In the ballad, young love is accompanied by some clichéd romantic imagery because young love itself tends to end up as a sort of cliché. (Spoiler alert: it never pans out.)

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