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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

WARNING, by                 Poet's Biography

George William Russell's "Warning" is a short but thought-provoking poem that addresses the idea of purity, focus, and determination in pursuit of higher ideals. Through the lens of companionship and shared goals, the poem explores the importance of staying committed to one's quest, emphasizing the spiritual or philosophical nature of this pursuit.

Theme Analysis

Purity and Focus

The theme of purity and concentration on a higher goal is central to the poem. The poet and the comrade are depicted as being united in their quest, which is something lofty and significant, transcending everyday desires and distractions.

Commitment and Dedication

The commitment to the shared mission is also a crucial theme. The emphasis on not looking away or being distracted underscores the idea of unwavering dedication and a sense of purpose.

The All-or-Nothing Stakes

The poem culminates with a declaration that there is no middle ground: the quest demands total commitment, and anything less results in "sadness and decay." This binary perspective highlights the serious and intense nature of their pursuit.


The poem consists of four stanzas, each emphasizing the purity and focus required in the divine quest. The repeated line "Pure at heart we wander now" serves as a mantra that underscores the essential purity and unity of the seekers. They are cautioned against distractions and are reminded of the lofty company they keep, being "one with all the great and wise."

Poetic Devices

Repetition: The use of repetition emphasizes the essential principles of purity and focus.

Metaphor: The quest is depicted metaphorically, representing the spiritual or philosophical pursuit.

Imagery: Visual imagery, such as turning from the stars and looking into each other's eyes, creates a vivid picture of their unity and purpose.


"Warning" by George William Russell is a concise yet profound exploration of dedication, purity, and focus in the pursuit of higher ideals. Through the depiction of two comrades in this shared quest, the poem offers a timeless message about the importance of unwavering commitment and the potential perils of distraction. The poetic devices employed, particularly repetition and metaphor, reinforce the poem's central themes, lending it a meditative quality. By reminding readers that love and the pursuit of greatness allow no compromise, "Warning" offers a stern but inspiring reflection on the nature of human striving, illuminating the path of the true seeker.

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