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Unit 27 – The Fascination of What’s Difficult

Difficulty: Medium/Hard

Time: 3 minutes


The Fascination of What’s Difficult
by W. B. Yeats


The fascination of what’s difficult
Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent
Spontaneous joy and natural content
Out of my heart. There’s something ails our colt
That must, as if it had not holy blood
Nor on Olympus leaped from cloud to cloud,
Shiver under the lash, strain, sweat and jolt
As though it dragged road metal. My curse on plays
That have to be set up in fifty ways,
On the day’s war with every knave and dolt*,
Theatre business, management of men.
I swear before the dawn comes round again
I’ll find the stable and pull out the bolt

*dolt: a stupid person


1. The above poem portrays the poet’s:

  • A      Difficulty managing a theatre
  • B      Struggle to recover his creativity
  • C      Crippling need for perfectionism
  • D      Pursuit of unprofitable projects


2. “I’ll find the stable and pull out the bolt” (final line), suggests:

  • A      Freedom
  • B      Quitting
  • C      Self-sabotage
  • D      Reverie
  • Answers:

    Q1: C
    A colt is a young male horse, metaphorically burdened by the poet’s need for perfection. He is bound by the difficult task of attaining technical perfection in his poetry to the point where it rends the spontaneity from his work. This is undoubtedly effecting the flow of Yeats’ creativity, but this is merely a symptom of the main issue.
    The theatre is a metaphor wherein management of men in theatre is compared to the management of the reader’s emotions in poetry.
    “My curse on plays / That have to be set up in fifty ways,” refers to the need for poetic perfection, the complexity of poetry and the ambiguity of its meaning.

    Q2: A
    Pulling the bolt from a stable door would result in horses running free.
    A reverie is a daydream. The image of releasing the horses is a daydream itself, but it an idea like this cannot imply itself.. it implies/suggests freedom.

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    June 7, 2012

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