Sailing to Byzantium

Banksy Echoes in Eternity

Discuss how Yeats presents the role of the artist in “Sailing to Byzantium”.

In ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ Yeats is confronted with the reality of his ageing self and thus endeavours to avoid a ravishing death by proclaiming a rebirth in art. He uses art and the role of an artist to show how life can be commemorated and immortalised through transcending nature  and lodging your soul in something eternal; art. Therefore in this poem Yeats heralds the role of art in its ability to create something which defies time’s derision and survives in the ‘artifice of eternity’.

By displaying transient images of nature and short-lived youth Yeats shows the need for some things to be preserved and endure time, and he refers to these are ‘monuments of unageing intellect’. In this wage the role of the artist is to craft something permanent and enduring in contrast with changing nature and the shifting transience of youth. Nature, though deplorable beautiful, is seen to be existing within a cycle of time and not escaping it. This sense is iterated by the tricolon of ‘fish, flesh or fowl’ and ‘begotten, born and dies’. The use of alliteration of ‘f’ in the first repetition is sound and transient, the sounds slip away just as the existence of nature; things are born and they die. This sense is created through the phrases ‘begotten, born and dies’ and the use of a caesura, followed by a full stop, shows the flow and then stop of life. Similarly Yeats shows how the ‘young in one another’s arms’ live in the moment. The enjambment in line one creates this sense that their live is a flowing continuum with no consideration of death, unlike Yeats who admits his own sense of ageing and mortality in the monosyllabic, punchy phrase ‘That is no country for old men’. In contrast with the flowing, cyclical mood of nature Yeats commends the role of an artist to create something which outlives this and is outside of the imminent gyre describes in line six; he suggests art is necessary to create ‘monuments’ which are ‘unageing’ as oppose to ‘sensual music’. The contrast in this rhyming couplet, which in the Elizabethan form echoing Shakespearean form follows an argument with an epigrammatic summation, between music which is transient, just like emotions of the younth, ‘sensual’, and sculpture which is enduring, relates to Yeats endeavour to use art to immortalise his ‘intellect’ now that he has seen no place for himself in the cyclical life he will ineviatbly soon depart. This idea is linked to ‘The Man and the Echo’ in which Yeats rejects the echoes suggestion that he ‘lie down and die’, as he rebukes and proclaims that to die through ‘bodkin or disease’ is to ‘shirk the spirit intellects great work’. The sharp ‘k’ here in ‘shirk’ and ‘work’ as well as the repetition of shirk, ‘and shirk in vain’, represents Yeats’ passion in his passionate defence of the enduring life of the mind in the face of ageing. Therefore in both of theme poems he wishes to preserve and animate the soul, in ‘Byzantium’ by immortalising it in art, and in ‘The Man and the Echo’ by arranging his thoughts all ‘in one clear view’.

Yeats represents the role of the artist as a method of illuminating the life of the soul, which Yeats suggests does not wither like the body but should instead by animated even greater as age increases. He represents this through the weary description of old age as ‘a tattered coat upon a stick’. This metaphor, used also in ‘Among Schoolchildren’ gives a ‘paltry’ rendition of an ‘age man’ to be nothing more than ‘old clothes upon sticks’. This image is despairing, elevated by the assonance of ‘t’ in ‘tattered’ and the antagonism of ‘t’, ‘c’ and ‘k’ in ‘sticks’; these harsh notes show their is no repreve in old age if one is to allow their soul to weather alongside their body. However, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ is by no means a despairing rendition of old age; Yeats optimistically suggests that the soul can be preserved through art and that the artists role is to ensure that the soul remains alive and kicking despite its exterior becoming withered by time’s derision. This sense is displayed through a vivid metaphor which analogises the life of the soul to a song and dance; ‘soul claps its hands and sing, and louder sing’. This metaphor is effective by contrasting images of lifelessness and the vitality connoted by the ‘song’ which will although Yeats to preserve his ageing self just as ‘Byzantium’ is a site of the preserved Greek art and culture, a comparison elevated through the use of the ancient name of the city. Through the comparison between an ageing exterior and a lively soul Yeats shows how art has a role in keeping the soul alive, as he calls out to ancient culture and art, ‘o sages’, to be the ‘singing masters’ of his soul; therefore explicitly showing how art illuminates the soul.

Finally Yeats relates the role of an artist to create a piece of artwork, such as Yeats poetry, which will outlive him once his physical body has been ‘fastened to a dying animal’. Therefore art offers the chance of a rebirth after destruction; enabling him to transcend nature and become some eternal. This is related by Yeats commands to the ‘sages standing in God’s holy fire’ to take him from a ‘natural thing’. He decides that art could make his spirit ‘hammered gold and gold enamelling’ which echoes the ‘mosaic’ mentioned in stanza three. This image of ‘gold’ is transcending and permanent and the act of it being ‘hammered’ suggests that his ‘intellect’ before he dies will be unified, reflecting Yeats desire that his thoughts be ‘hammered into unity’. In this way established art can transcend bodily limitations and exist forever to ‘sing’ ‘of what is past, or passing or to come’. This tricolon postively antitheses that used in stanza one of bodily death without the immortalising intervention of art ‘begotten, born and dies’. This shows how art has the ability to transcend the first cycle of life and divulge into another, one of the past, present and future. In this way art is able to establish something unchanging and ideal, and the mention of nature in the final stanza, as the art is a golden bird ‘set upon a bough’ shows that art has the ability to give transient things, nature ‘dies’ in stanza one, a permanence. The same effect is seen in ‘Wild Swans at Coole’ where Yeats poetry shows the ‘nine and fifty swans’ to represent a sense of permanence as they remain ‘unwearied still’, the repetition of ‘still’ throughout the poem suggesting an enduring ideal, and therefore serves as another example of the use of art to immortalise an object which is mortal. The conclusion is that the role of an artist is to achieve something which can defy the restrictions of body and nature, and create something permanent for the future; Yeats does this in his poetry both here and in poems such as ‘Wild Swans’ where the picture of the swans remains in his readers mind long after they have ‘flown away’.


The Man and the Echo

Banksy Echoes in Eternity

‘Did that play of mine send out / Certain men the English shot?’

 Discuss ways in which Yeats presents past regrets in ‘Man and the Echo’.

‘The Man and the Echo’ is a poem in which ‘human consciousness is up against the cliff-face of mystery, faced with the limitations of human existence itself’. In these extreme state Yeats is prompted to consider his past conduct and acknowledge his own regrets, concluding that ‘pain necessarily accompanies the cycles of life’. Thus in this harrowing poem where Yeats considers his own life and his own mortality, regret becomes prominent, and this expresses through the use of the echo the psychological conflict which exists within all of us, a combat between our optimism and our pessimism, our hopes and our darkest thoughts. Present regrets are therefore displayed as blackening Yeats’ current conscious, but also something which must be confronted and moralised, with the hope to make sense of historical existence in a blood stained world, ‘to hammer one’s thoughts into unity’.

In the first stanza Yeats emotively grapples with what he feels are his sins, and the setting of the monologue is indicative of his personal mood and grievances. The pilgrimage to the ‘cleft thats Christened Alt,’, a harsh place emphasised by the antagonism of ‘c’ and ‘t’, is a parody of the journey to the Oracle of Delphi and therefore shows that in reflecting on his past regrets he is seeking answers. The strength of the rhyming couplets transforms the lines into a chant, echoing desperation and a man contending with defeat, the setting at the ‘bottom of a pit’ had both physical and psychological resonance. The distance from the ‘broad noon’ shows how his recollections of past events are cloaked in darkness, emphasised by the rhyme of ‘pit’ and ‘never lit’. Yeats explores his actions, including his play Cathleen ni Hoolihan which he fears instigated revolutionary spirit ‘send out certain men the English shot’, his relationship with Magaret Collis which led her to have a ‘reeling brain’ under ‘strain’ and finally the upheaval in Irish politics he spoke about which left country houses ‘wrecked’. These actions, each encircled by a strong and defiant rhyming couplet, end with a rhetorical question which shows how Yeats consideration of his regrets all ‘turn into a question’. This explains how he cannot recieve answers relating to his conduct in past lift and that this is the limits of the human consciousness. The futility of searching for answers for the unanswerable is further shown through the sibillance in the line, ‘shout a secret to the stone’, which uses soft, transient sounds to reflect the lack of certain approval he will gain from this exercise of attempting to moralise his past regrets. This creates a highly despairing, agonising tone which reflects on the inability of Yeats to shorn his past regrets causing considerable emotional turmoil. leading him to ‘lie awake night after night and never get the answers right’. The repetition of ‘night’ and the fact he can ‘never’ reach a conclusion shows that reflection on reject is stormed by uncertainty and self-doubt, and therefore Yeats shows the inability to put into context his mistakes and rationalise them. Instead ‘all seems evil’ until he wishes his thoughts suggest that he show ‘lie down and die’. The physical nature of the echo is implicit but it further has a pschological resonance which envisages internal conflict we all experience between the negative and positive forces which questions our historical existence and struggle to come to a conclusion. This inability to rationalise, and to come to a positive conclusion, when considering one’s mortality is echoed in ‘The Cold Heaven’ where Yeats is seen to ‘take all blame out of sense and reason’ in his actions in his relationship with Maud Gonne. Here similarly reflection on past regrets instigates uncertainty, the poem ends on a rhetorical question and the revelation of knowledge, ‘riddled with light’, is a harrowing and not a transcending process, reflected through the use of ‘riddled’ which is usually used with negative nouns. In both poems Yeats is confronted with the limits to human consciousness but attempts to look back on his faults in life to engineer his life into ‘one clear view’, as Yeats sees the ambition of each of us to ‘hammer’ your thoughts into ‘unity’. However by created a emotional, painful tone in the first stanza and echo Yeats explains the use of ‘hammer’ in this expression; reflection on past events is by no means an easy process.

Yeats move’s on from a deeply negative explanation of his tormented psyche to consider the importance of reflecting on past regrets. He rejects the echo’s plea for him to ‘lie down and die’ instead replacing the strong negative tone of this echo, emphasises by the harsh, pounding alliteration of ‘d’, with a more hopeful tone in his ambition to preserve and celebrate the ‘spiritual intellect’s great work’. This aim which relates to how Yeats wants to ensure that his thoughts are ‘arranged in one clear view’ so that the existence of his thoughts are purified in present also in ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ where he wills to allow his sould to ‘clap its hands and sing, and louder sing’. The use of personification here animates his soul to show how even as age and past regrets may wear you, you must preserve the spirit of you soul in lively abundance, here analogised by singing. Though the process of consulting mistakes and regrets is torturous, Yeats sees it as a necessary process of life and one which cannot be taught, ‘there is no singing school’, but is experienced. The necessity and importance of self-reflecting is shown in ‘The Man and the Echo’ through the line ‘nor can there be work so great as that which cleans man’s dirty slate’, showing the act of absolving yourself cleans your ‘dirty slate’, a metaphor for a historical existence plagued with mistakes. This process leads man to ‘stand in judgement on his soul’, showing that unlike the echo who wills him to die ‘into the night’, Yeats shows a passionate defence of the life of the mind. This process is similar to that observed in ‘The Cold Heaven’ where Yeats similarly suggest that even with ‘body gone’, ‘confusion of the death bed over’, unless one attempts to achieve remorse their soul will remain tortured and ‘sleeps no more’. Therefore in this stanza Yeats explains the importance of reflecting on past regrets as a means of achieving unified thoughts and allowing the life of the mind to be purified, thus enabling all to be arranged in ‘one clear view’, a achievement which will cause resolution, emphasised by the use of three monosyllabic words. This bears great resonance to ‘An Irish Airman Forsees his Death’ in which Yeats shows how a fight pilot, Robert Gregory, has achieved this endearing unity and certainty in his thoughts upon facing death. The ‘clear view’ is reflected by the use of antithesis and chiasmus which create a stoical sense of metre showing how he has been able to reach as much of a degree of resolution as one can facing up to death, as expressed vividly in the chiasmus ‘the years to come seemed waste of breath, a waste of breath the years behind,’.

There are limits to the ‘clear view’ which Yeats, and man, can achieve as questions remain about the afterlife which Yeats expressed in this poem cannot be answered in this world. The desperation in the apostrophe ‘O Rocky Voice’ disrupts the trochaic tetrameter metre to echo the lack of perfect unity Yeats can achieve. Even through grappling with past regrets Yeats is unable to reach a full conclusion as his ‘theme’ is interrupted by the blind indifferent world of nature. This contrast between a man moralising for his sins and an animal who has ‘stricken rabbit’ shows the differentiation between man and beats but also the inability to reach a certain conclusion about heaven and the afterlife as Yeats, like the animals, is living in the moment and therefore has reached the limits of the human consciousness.

In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz

‘The innocent and the beautiful / Have no enemy but time’

 Discuss ways in which Yeats presents ideas about ageing and death in ‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz’.

‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz’ Yeats presents the contrast between the idyllic garden of youth and the rancor of adulthood, undercutting his blissful reminisciences of past times with the present vision he has of the two sisters now withered and old. Through this exploration of ageing and death Yeats considers the affects of ageing, time’s derision and painful yet pleasurable act of nostalgia to bring these memories into the present where they are in contrast.

The effects of ageing are negated in this powerful elegiac sequence, through a vivid metaphor which analogies them to withering nature and the central conflict between the previous, untarnished beauty of the sisters in their ‘silk kimonos’ and the age-ravaged image of them before death, ages physically and mentally by their involvement in Irish politics. The first stanza is extremely effective in creating a scene which appears like the landscape of a dream; the sequence of verbless noun phrases creates static images which appear like images before Yeats eyes, images which bear little resonance to the contemporary reality. The soft, sonorous alliteration of ‘l’ stills the lines with an enduring beauty ‘in the light of evening, Lissadell’ gives the scene a setting, at a delightful country house, and a romantic colour with the diminishing ‘light’ of day. This time is symbolic by relating the girls at their peak before their condition darkens with age. The emphatic positioning of ‘Great windows’ both creates the grandeur of the country house and depicts the visually illuminated scene framed by the ‘old Georgian mansion’, a scene which has connotations of the old Ascendency culture these two women defied as they grew up. Yeats then focuses in from this panoramic exploration to the girls themselves, who he describes to be wearing ‘silk komonos’, portraying them as soft and gentle, unwithered by the weariness of the world, and this affect is heightened by the soft sibillance in the line ‘girls in silk komonos’. Referring to the women as ‘girls’ colours the vision with a youthful intensity, offering pure grace and elegance, as also connoted by the metaphor of a ‘gazelle’, a similarly elegant animal. This sense of untainted beauty Yeats admires and remembered with bliss echoes the description of Constance Markievicz in ‘Easter 1916’ with a voice ‘sweet’ and a figure riding to ‘harriers’. Similarly, the image is connotated with beauty and is intensified by the use of rhetorical questions are Yeats asks ‘what voice more sweet than hers…?’ to heighten the contrast between her blissful girlhood and later aged persona. The undesirable affects of ageing are analogised by a metaphor which shows how time ravages youth in the same way that ‘autumn’ ‘shears’ the delights of spring. The onomatopoeic verb ‘shears’ is harsh and has associations of destruction and death, echoed by describing it as destroying ‘summer’s wreath’ as the ‘wreath’ is transformed into a funeral ‘wreath’ therefore envisaging death and destruction. Yeats negates the destruction of the ‘blossom’ of the two women, a metaphor which vividly shows the fragile and transient nature of the woman’s beauty, and references the fates of the two with harsh, guttural sounds to create a distinct antithesis with the early delightful sounds. For example the harsh, gutsy ‘g’ in ‘drags’, ‘ignorant’ and ‘skeleton-gaunt’ create a negative tone which mourns the loss of the beauty and innocence of the ‘two girls in silk komonos’. Therefore in reference to the affects of ageing Yeats perceptions are all negative, he laments how time has ravaged the beauty from these two girls he once knew.

However Yeats does not attribute all blame to time’s derision, he is able to show how the involvement in politics created a hardened spirit and withered persona to the two girls and this is one of the reasons for the loss of their beauty Yeats so negates. For example, Con Markievicz is described to be ‘condemned to death’ because of her part in the Easter Rising, where she was found to have been ‘conspiring among the ignorant’. The use of progressive aspect here in ‘conspiring’ alludes to the length of her sacrifice to assist the independence of Ireland and how it is to blame for the destruction of the beauty Yeats admired in stanza one. This is also present in ‘Easter 1916’ where the voice of Con Markievicz grew ‘shrill’, a harsh onomatopoeic sound drained of the beauty and grace present in Yeats’ blissful reflections, as a result of her involvement in the Easter Rising, as when ‘withered old and skeleton-gaunt’ they become an ‘image of such politics’. Yeats references ‘such politics’ with disdain, as can be seen through the powerful ‘skeleton-gaunt’ image which reflects on the corruption nature of participation in the revolution, also seen in ‘Among Schoolchildren’ in reference to Maud Gonne, also involved in ‘such politics’ who is compared to the emaciated statue fashioned by Quattrocento, with ‘hollow of cheek’. He resents the withering of women politics allows both because it corrupts their beauty but also become their involvement was laced with futility, as is expressed in the final stanza of the poem. The use of alliteration of ‘f’ in ‘all the folly of the fight’ is insubstantial and transient, suggesting their actions lacked impact, and to describe the fight as full of ‘folly’ Yeats trivalises their politics. One reason he does this is explained through the imagery of the ‘great gazebo’, emphasised by alliteration and its central position in line 30, as it becomes a symbol, like Lissadell, of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy which was rendered marginal and redundant by the Irish Free State, ‘represented by senate Con Markievicz’. Therefore in a complex political statement Yeats negates the politics Con Markievicz was involved in, and in turn also laments how the Free State which activists like Constance were se fervent to erect was complicit in negating the Anglo-Irish Ascendacy and Irish Literary Revival due its links to the British; ‘they convicted us of guilt’. Yeats, in this elegy which mixes emotions of sorrow and anger, blames the involvement in politics in part for the destruction of the sister’s beauty and for the rejection of the Anglo-Irish Ascendacy, which Yeats increasing associated himself with during the period in which this poem was written.

Finally Yeats brings into question time’s unending derision, its ability to wither and to age what he once admired, and how it remains the enemy of the ‘innocent and the beautiful’. In the closing half of the poem he wishes to indulge in bliss nostalgia with the sisters and ‘mix pictures of the mind’ and ‘recall that table and the talk of youth’. The use of enjambment here displays his will to experience a flowing of memories with the two sisters, but the use of the verb ‘seek’ suggests, in light of the fate of the two sisters previously explained, that he will search and not find. This creates a despairing, negative tone and presents the duality of nostalgia; the pleasure of bringing memories into the present but the sadness that they remain only memories. This same negative attitude towards time and a desire for permanence is present in ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’. Yeats envies the swans who paddle ‘unwearined still’, ‘passion and conquest attend upon them still’. The repetition of ‘still’ here, with its sonorous, static double ‘ll’ sound reflects the unchanging nature of the swans and the reference to ‘passion and conquest’ puts the swans in direct antithesis with the two revolutionaries who despite their efforts became wearied and withered. Yeats wishes, in the final stanza, to ‘strike a match…till time catch’ which reflects his negative attitude towards time; the ‘enemy’. Just as he wished to be ‘unwearied’ like the swans, he wishes that the ‘innocent and beautiful’ could remain so for ever. The final protest against time and its ravishing shears is enigmatic and vividly represents Yeats’ anger both towards time and the new age of politics spearheaded by women such as Con Markievicz which has both wearied their beauty and destroyed the Irish Ascendancy he also admired. Therefore when he wills them to ‘bid me a match and blow’, a powerful statement intensified by the plosive alliteration of ‘b’ which bookends the line, he wills to destroy time, and the raging politics, both which have wholly negative affects.

Banksy In Memory Of

The Cat and the Moon

Banksy Cat and Moon

‘The Cat and the Moon’ uses a simple rhyme scheme and metre to create a stunning lyrical fluidity; the trimeter and regular rhyme scheme creates a swift but measured movement reminiscent of a dance. This dance reflects the relationship between the animal, here portrayed by the cat Minnaloushe, and the moon, symbolic of external super-natural forces. The memerising relationship which shows simultaneously a connect and disparity is reflection of each human’s relationship with forces we cannot understand or escape as well as possibly alluding to Yeat’s relationship with Maud Gonne.

Yeats shows the parallel contrast and similarity between the ‘Cat and the Moon’ to show the inherent link huans have to the world of ethereal forces, such as those of the mystical and spiritual, alongside the exisiting inability for them to exist rhythmically and symbiotically as one. This is reflected in the movements of the cat, ‘the cat went here and there’, in contrast to the moon which ‘spun like a top’. The first line fits the trimeter used in the poem but the second line, with its focus on an externalised force, is anaepestic. This shows that the sporadic and random movements of the cat cannot be mapped onto the constant, unchanging rhythm of the moon, as the simile ‘spun like a top’ is mechanical and therefore in bleak antithesis with the uncontrolled ‘animal blood’ of the ‘creeping cat’. The alliteration of ‘creeping cat’ is ominous and thus displays the natural, stalking movement of a cat as he ‘runs in the grass’. This animalistic movement is juxtaposed by the constancy and transparency of the moon described here as ‘pure cold light’ illuminating ‘black minnaloushe’. The etheral remoteness of ‘pure cold light’ is seemingly clinical and thus in antithesis with ‘animal blood’ which sensualises hotness and passion. The use of monosyllabic language in ‘pure cold light’ further intensifies the separation between the forces of the ‘Cat and the Moon’. However alongside this apparent disparity which is reflective of humanities inability to understand the forces at work in our universe, Yeats visualises the strength of connection between the two, showing that although humans and other forces exist as different entities, they are ultimately connected. ‘Minnaloushe’ ‘stared at the moon’ and its light is ‘troubled’ in his ‘animal blood’. By referencing ‘blood’ Yeats indicates the depth of connection and the use of alliteration of ‘w’ in ‘wander and wail as he would’ in contrast to ‘troubled his animal blood’ shows the shift from glide sounds ‘w’ which reflect the cat’s natural transient complacency to plosive ‘b’ sounds which echo the deep stirring of his blood evoked by the moon.

Phrases such as ‘close kindred’ and ‘nearest kin’ show the strong connection between creature and moon in what Yeats visualises as a ‘dance’. The waltzing tone creates the swift yet deliberate movements of Minnaloushes’ ‘delicate feet’ and the large variation in line length, intensified by repetition, such as in ‘Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?’ adds to this musicality. The sense of synchronisation is described through the relationship between the changing phases of the moon and the the changing shape of the cat’s pupils. The use of repetition creates a strong rhythm and reflectes the visual sense of one force being reflected in another; ‘Does Minnalouse know that his pupils will pass from change to change and that from round to crescent, from crescent to round they range?’. This shows the mutualistic relationship between nature and beast; Yeats indulges in his thoughts about the supernatural and their influence on the everday. Notably, by including a rhetorical question, Yeats engages the audience to consider whether Minnalouse as he ‘creeps through the grass’ is aware of the unknown forces at work in his reality. Through this question, emphasised by the strong full rhyme of ‘range’ and ‘change’, Yeats also appeals to his audience to consider how other forces of the supernatural, aloof and eternal, are at work in our daily lives.

Finally Yeats explores the power balance between other forces and the cat; and concludes that nature is changed by supernatural forces. Yeats suggests that the moon may learn ‘a new dance turn’ and this line disrupts the metre of the poem by boasting four syllables per line rather than three, which outlines how the ‘sacred moon’ will not changed from its ‘courtly fashion’. Some readings of this poem analogise the moon to Maud Gonne and the doting Minnaloushe to Yeats and therefore this line shows how Maud would not respond to Yeats’ affection. However this volta in the poem is a watershed moment in which Yeats can be seen to overcome his desperation for Maud to supplicate to him, a moment of realisation that she will not change for him. This ‘turn’ in the poem, reflected in the metre, shows also that creature responds to the supernatural, ethereal forces at work in the universe and although we can rationalise them to make ourselves seemingly ‘alone, important and wise’ in the end they remain an integral mystery which demand our supplication, shown by the final image of the lyrical poem ‘lists to the changing moon his changing eyes’. The repetition of ‘changing’ here shows the unbreakable connection yet the missing beating in the last line shows the different power balance which prevents the two entities existing in complete harmony, they remain separate but indefinitely connected.

The Fisherman

Part A – Summary of Poem (including context)

In this poem, completed in 1916, Yeats compares an idealised vision of an Irishman (the Fisherman of the title) with the “reality” of the Irish public, ‘craven’, ‘insolent’ and ‘drunken’. In the end, he makes it clear that this ideal audience, the Fishermen, ‘does not exist’. In a 1934 broadcast he introduced the poem by saying ‘I used to say to myself, “I do not write for those people who attack everything that I value…I am writing for a man I have never seen. I built up in my mind a picture of a man who lived in the country where I had lived, who fished in mountain streams where I had lived. I said to myself “I do not know if he is born yet…but it is for him I write’

Part B – Effects of Verse Form and Structure (rhyme scheme, metrical patterns and variations, alliteration and other sound effects)

1. Rhyme Scheme

Regular rhyme scheme of alternate rhyme

Most of rhymes are full but there are some half-rhymes and para-rhymes

‘be’ (line 10) and ‘reality’(line 12)

‘hate’ (line 13) and ‘seat’ (line 15)

Full rhyme of ‘wrist’ and ‘exist’ ties in the words to show the fluent perfect of man fishing sharply undercut by the revelation that he is not real. This antithetical juxtaposition of a beautiful fiction and the reality that it is a myth is the ‘volta’ of the poem, and emphasis is appropriately drawn to by the full, poignant rhyme.

2. Metrical patterns and variations

Rhyme scheme is broadly iambic trimeter with some notably variations –namely examples of 2 consecutively stressed syllables, some of which are spondees and occasional trochaic feet (or lines).Image

Double stress of ‘dead man’ (gives a low, hanging, mournful and solemn tone to draw attention to the loss of Synge)

‘catch-cries’ The overstress here makes the action of the ‘fake’ Irishman seems artificial and forced – in contrast to Yeats usual ability to attach stresses appropriately and use emphasis subtly. Thus the spondaic phrase draws out our attention on the ‘crown’ and how his is disgenuine in manner and lacks the humble, under shown decency of the titled ‘Fisherman’.

‘Art beat(en) (down…)’ The spondee here makes ‘art beat’ sound like heart beat and the slow, stressed rhythm also echoes one. This clever allusion shows how for Yeats art in this manner – which advocates the important of working class men and women – is the heart and soul of ‘Romantic Ireland’ and thus beating it down as is happening here will, in turn, kills the soul leaving it ‘in the grave’ with O’Leary.

Spondees of ‘down-turn’ and ‘flies drop’ slows down the action of the fisherman so that we see it almost in ‘slow motion’. This brings out the details, adding realism (which in turn adds sadness that Yeats has intricately idealized this Irish man but he does not exist) and showing how skilled and difficult the art of fishing in. By making a first thought as simple task become an artform Yeats triumphs the humble Irishman – not the aristocracy – and thus exposes his wish that Ireland’s sentiment will return to humble roots.

The rhyme also falls apart in the final lines – just as the strange image of ‘cold and passionate’ is shown – this draws attention to Yeat’s admittance that he wrote his poems for his idealized vision of the Irishman (a fisherman) and the difficulties of this in the modern Ireland.

3. Alliteration and other sound effects

Repetition of guttural sounds ‘g’ and ‘k’ (also hard ‘c’) is Yeat’s description of the fisherman illustrates the farmer as being in touch with his roots – the sounds are natural and unexaggerated. The raw, graphic sense we get give the impression this man is ‘from the earth’ and uncorrupted by the showy, elaborate and largely ‘fake’ new Ireland. This impression is furthered by the focus of the poem; it is talking of ‘freckled skin’ (as he has been out in the sun), ‘on a hill’ (with nature) in simple clothes at dawn – a strict routine unaffected by the rest of the world.

Negative alliteration in ‘no knave’ suggests that although these modern Irishmen are not being ‘reproved’ for their crimes, they should be. The repeated negative sound condemns these men in Yeat’s minds, because although they are not criminals in the conventional sense, they have defied their culture and are lying to themselves – he is condemned how fake the new Ireland has become.

Alliteration of ‘c’ (hard) and ‘k’ (also hard) in lines 21/22 has the effects of being over shown so that it sounds gaunt, repetitious and consequentially artificial. This relates to how the new inhabitants of modern Ireland are not genuine as is the fisherman but the swathe themselves in unnecessary façadery which isn’t true to themselves or the country to which they allege themselves.

Part C – Analysis of Language and Structure (diction, repeated grammatical structures, figurative language, imagery and symbolism)

4. Analysis of language and structure: Although the fisherman is ideal and ‘does not exist’ he is depicted with a degree of realistic detail – quotes ‘freckled man’ / ‘grey Connemara clothes’ / ‘wise and simple man’ / ‘sun-freckled face’ / ‘grey Connemara cloth’

The allusion to ‘grey Connemara clothes’ is reflective of a place in Ireland – rooting the Fisherman in a realistic but also traditionally Irish place. His orthodox dress therefore shows how remains true to his culture and is not concerned with his appearance – his clothes are a simple ‘grey’ and the repeated focus on them (but they remain the same) shows he is humble. The colour grey is also often used to show the spirit of the revolutionaries (September 1913 ‘spread the grey wind on every tide’) – this attributes strength in the fisherman’s humility and thus Yeats heralds him as someone who should be held up as an example.

Realistic action of fishing: ‘At dawn to cast his flies’ / ‘And the down-turn of his wrist’ / ‘When the flies drop in the stream’

Realistic image of the river: ‘Climbing up to a place’ / ‘Where stone is dark under froth’

Comparison to Easter 1916 – description of ‘new Irishman’ as clowning, fake humour and drunkenness – the modern Irishman is a disgraced image.

5. Repeated grammatical structures: pattern of repetition in lines (13-16) / lines (21-23) and lines (35-36) creates affects of several comparisons aligned next to each other – Yeats is showing the different men and foiling one against another. Structure is – adjective – noun – verb – to give encompassing microcosmic image of the type of man he is referring to.

6. Figurative language, imagery and symbolism: ‘wise and simple’ to be wise, it is suggestive that one knows much about complex things – and thus is not simple. This is the conventional opinion of wisdom but Yeats overturns this by showing that wisdom can be humble.

Just as wisdom can be humble, passion can be ‘cold’. The Fisherman is an image of a man searching the depths of the world for the wisdom that hides beneath the surface of things. Fishing – quest/desire. Blurring of reality and fiction – his imagination and the reality / reality and the imagination – strongly associates Yeats with modernism, modernity and Dublin – the crisis of the moment etc.

‘The stone is dark under froth’ – sees sheet in notes with reference to possible symbolic meanings. The ‘stone’ could be the sense of Irish (passion? Romanticism?) which remains constant and unwavering (‘dark’) despite the turmoils and troubles of a changing world (‘froth’) – link to Easter 1916

The poem to be ‘cold and passionate’ simultaneously – two favourited interpretations:

A) Yeats is rejecting his more purely ‘passionate’ earlier poetry and tempering his passion with cold rationality. In earlier poems Yeats laments a lack of passion (‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone’ September 1913’) but later in 1919 in ‘The Second Coming’ he says ‘the worst are full of passionate intensity’.

B) The fisherman is an ideal man; an ideal audience for Yeat’s poetry; the poem that Yeats wants to write is an ideal poem that, as a work of art, will last forever – will be eternal; whenever Yeats talks about eternity he describes it as ‘cold’ e.g. ‘The Cold Heaven’ ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’ are symbols of eternity and paddle in the ‘cold companionable stream’.

Easter 1916



‘Easter 1916’ is a powerful commeration of the events of the Easter Rising; a revolution which heralded Irish independence but was curtailed by violence and resulted in numerous deaths and the consequential execution of 16 integral men. Yeat’s feelings towards the rebellion were thus torn, he supported the cause but rejected violence as a means by which to achieve Irish independence. Therefore the poem is questioning and weighs up the ‘beauty’ of the fight for Irish independence with the tragic violence ensued; it is an exploration of the change not only to the political and social conscious of Ireland but to the revolutionaries themselves and Yeat’s consequential opinions of them.

Yeats begins this reminiscence by describing a dull, disappointing city as it existed before the events of Easter 1916; and his opinions of  those he new who were involved. These revolutionaries existed withing the realms of ordinary, ‘grey’ society yet were sustained by their hope and fantasy of rebellion, and this is related by Yeats through the antithesis of ‘vivid faces’ and ‘grey…houses’. The description of the houses as ‘Eighteenth-century’ is a direct allusion to Ireland’s past of exploitation by the British, reinforcing how the figures who instrument the Rising, ‘them’, lived under the shadow of imperialism and their revolt can be seen as an attempt to end this domination. However, Yeats treated these acquaintances with a casual disregard, unsuspecting of their plans for Ireland, and this first impression develops through the stanza to show how the poet’s opinions are changed ‘utterly’ by the events. At first he exchanges meaningless motives of politeness with the men, ‘nod of the head’ for example is seen to be impersonal through the detached grammar. The repetition of ‘polite meaningless words’ reinforces the sense that Yeats held the future leaders of rebellion in no regard, and the stresses sibillance of ‘meaningless’ and the intangible glides in ‘awhile’ and ‘words’ are soft, transitory sounds which audibly reflect his ambivalence to these men. Yeats even admits, notably in past tense to show how since then his opinions have changed, that he took his encounters with ‘them’ as an opportunity to scorn them later with closer friends; ‘mocking tale or a gibe’. This contrast between Yeat’s frivolous disregard and the simultaneous selfless sacrifices of the leaders of the revolution is striking and underlines the poet’s own misconceptions; the reference to ‘motley’ being worn by the Irish envelopes his evident low opinion of the seriousness of any plans of revolution. This all changes as a result of the witnessing of the Easter Rising, and the refrain ‘all changed, changed utterly’ outlines this. The repetition of ‘changed’ which pivots around a caesura in the penultimate line of the first stanza pre-empts the trans-formative change which unravels in the next stanzas.

Yeats describes the revolution as a ‘terrible beauty’ and this oxymoron distinctly exposes his mixed feelings towards it; he admires the rebellion of the Irish against English exploitation but laments the use of violence. The thudding use of ‘b’ is the refrain ‘terrible beauty is born’ creates this sense, the sound is ominous and sinister yet also echoes the beating of a heart, a symbol of hope and new life. The duality of the revolt is exposed in Yeat’s description of how the participants have been ‘transformed utterly’ by their experience. Firstly he contrasts the existence of Constance Markiewicz before, ‘sweet’, ‘young and beautiful’, and after, ‘voice grew shrill’. The antithesis of ‘sweet’ with its appealing connotations and ‘shrill’ with its harsh onomatopoeia would suggest that the rebellion has negated her beauty and youthful innocence by transforming her into a loud and argumentative figure. However with this negative change Yeats acknowledges that despite becoming hardened, she no longer spends her days in ‘ignorant good-will’, a state of passive acceptance of English rule. Therefore Markiewicz has changed from someone Yeats saw to be ‘beautiful’ to someone who is no longer ‘ignorant’, both negative and positive, in the same spirit of the revolution which was both ‘terrible’ and beautiful. Noticeably the Easter Rising also prompts Yeats to change his opinion of his acquaintance Markiewicz and realise the discrepancy between appearance and reality. The direct contrast between ‘days’ and ‘nights’ shows this, and echoes Yeats disregard in the first stanza, showing how he has been forced to reconsider his opinions and realise that figures he believed to be unassuming were fighting for the very cause he so admires.

Similar duality is observed in the other leaders of the Easter Rising. MacDonagh is deemed to be ‘so sensitive’ in nature, with ‘daring and sweet’ thought, yet he must revert to ‘force’ in ‘Easter 1916’. This expresses Yeats conflicting opinions, admiration for the honourable principles these men were fighting for but an undying regret for the ‘force’ used which cause a man, who ‘might have won fame’, came to an untimely death. In the same spirit the most prominent leader of the Rising is personally of great importance to Yeats and has both merit and crime, just like the revolution. He is denounced as a ‘drunken, vainglorious lout’ and the use of polysyllabic, spondaic language here slows the pace allowing extended focus on the undesirable characteristics attributed to this man. However Yeats, despite abhorring him for his ill-treated of Maud, ‘most bitter wrong’, must acknowledge and even respect him to a degree for his matyrdom in the ‘casual comedy’. In the  utterance ‘casual comedy’, where the alliteration of ‘c’ emphasises its sarcastic and artificial tone, Yeats alludes to the futile loss of life and senseless killings; offering a tone of regret and not one of denunciation. Just like MacBride who was ‘changed in his turn’, the experience of the ‘terrible  beauty’ has forced Yeats to reassess his opinion of MacBride.

Stanza three, with its move from first person, is a literal metaphor to display vividly the steadfastness of the revolutionaries with their ‘one purpose’ contrasting sharply with the shifting transcience of popular moods. It is this single mindedness, compared to having a heart like a ‘stone’ which allows them to cut through the complacency and indifference of Irish society and ‘trouble the living stream’ which is seen to represent history. Yeats cloaks this image of permanence, the stone, with several of movement to show how strongly the Irish rebels kept to their focus despite the mood of politics and of people, constantly changing its course. This contrast is related by the language as the first four lines of this stanza have only one verb ‘trouble’ which is intransitory yet the preceding narrative is laden with transitive verbs echoing a mass of movement. This turbulence, shown through the ‘tumbling cloud’ where the present participle stresses ongoing movement, is foiled by the ‘stone’s in the midst of all’. Thus Yeats positively remembers the irresolute nature of the Irish figures who remain fixated on their goal despite changes and challenged all around them, reinforced by the repetition of ‘minute by minute’ to stress the frequency of changes here. However, as is a prevalent theme in ‘Easter 1916’, anything endeared by Yeats possess another side which warrants criticism. Thus the determination of the revolutionaries also has negative connotations suggesting insensitivity and cold-heartedness, which is proclaimed in the line ‘too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart’. The emphatic positioning of ‘heart’ at the end of the sentence, and not in the middle, reflects Yeat’s concern that too much focus on one ideal can lead to a dangerous degree of apathy leader to senseless death and ‘terrible’ loss. Despite this negative side to the courage of the leaders, which drives them ‘wild’ and allows them to become ‘bewildered’, Yeats, in the final stanza ensures that the dark side to their passion does not eclipse what was an ‘excess of love’ for their motherland, and this idea is relayed through the rhetorical question ‘What if…?’.

The final focus of ‘Easter 1916’ is declarative; Yeats explains his reasons for writing the poem. He moves on from the  helpless, despairing tone ‘O when may it suffice?’, which begs to know when the sacrifice of such revolutionaries will be enough, to assume his role in immortalising the contribution of the leaders of the Easter Rising both for his readership and the next generation of Irish men and women. He expresses through a metaphor of a woman calling her children how he wants the names of the leaders of Irish independence to be repeated ‘name upon name’, just as ‘name’ is repeated here. He attains his role as a poet to ‘write it out in verse’ so that it never be forgotten ‘now in and time to be’. He wishes for the sacrifice of these men, including their faults, to be celebrated with Ireland ‘whenevever green is worn’. The final line of the poem repeats the refrain and the use of present tense here suggests that the birth of a revolution and the resulting death of the leaders has changed the nature of Irish society forever.

An Irish Airman Forsees His Death

Written at the close of the First World War in 1919, ‘An Irish Airman’ is an elegiac poem in which Yeats adopts the persona of Major Robert Gregory, a fighter pilot, and recounts last thoughts before death. This powerful, emotive reminiscence is in stretched sonnet form but reverts the usual connotations of this medium, reflecting on both the courage of the Airman, the political undercurrents of the war and a more panoramic consideration of mortality.

The stretched sonnet form boasts a regular rhyme scheme, abab, giving the poem a balanced rhythm. This balance, which echoes the motion of flying, weighs up the sounds and syllables to perfection. This sense is further extended by the ideas in the poem which are embellised by anaphora and antithesis to show how Major Robert Gregory is weighing up considerations in the moments before his death.  For example, the lines ‘Those that I fight I do not hate, those that I guard I do not love’. The repetition of ‘those that’ creates the anaphora whilst the direct contrast of ‘hate’ and ‘love’ is antithetical. In this statement Yeats expresses a sense of nihilism through Gregory, suggesting a void of emotions in connection to the war, ambivalence even. This is reflected in the repetition of ‘not’ which negates the line. However, Yeats shows that although the ‘Irish’ Airman has no emotional connection to the patriotic British war, to which he sees no part for himself of his countrymen, this does not detract from his bravery by any means. Instead it endears the poem with a political stance, by showing how the First World War offered no benefit to Gregory’s own ‘countrymen’ ‘Kiltartan’s poor’; ‘no likely end could bring them loss’. The use of direct geographical allusions here heralds this as an elegy both to Gregory and to all Irish patriots, as is suggested by the indefinite article of the title, and repeating ‘Kiltartan’ stresses that it is his Irish countrymen, not the British who he fights for, that he loves. The rhyme here of ‘Cross’ and ‘loss’ to convey who whoever wins the Irish people will not be left ‘happier’ also has a dual meaning in reference to the sacrifice of Gregory; the ‘likely end’ of the war will, as the first and last line of the stretched sonnet suggest, cause the ‘loss’ of his life. Thus Yeats attributes both respect and gratitude by adopting an entirely selfless persona in these lines but indicating to the reader to sacrifice of the ‘Airman’ through words such as ‘Cross’; connotating sacrifice with clear biblical allusions.

By describing the motives which encouraged Gregory to fight in the war, Yeats heralds the Romantic hero, again exposing his own views to praise the actions of Gregory and other suchlike Irish Airman. Yeats describes how Gregory was not persuaded to fight by ‘law’, ‘duty’ or ‘public man’. The use of anaphora of ‘nor’ here stresses the individualism of Gregory, who acted against the crowd to become an Airman, thus supporting his characteristic of courage. The repetition also heightens expectation, creating a crescendo for the truth reason why he fights; ‘a lonely impulse of delight’. Thus the reader learns that this man fought through his own desire, and was not curtailed into his duty, portraying him as a Romantic hero in Yeats opinion as he believed that it was individuals who changed society. The antithesis of ‘lonely impulse’ and ‘cheering crowds’ is stark, the sense of comaradery and noise is present through the lively present participle of ‘cheering’ and the alliteration of ‘c’, whereas ‘lonely impulse’ is indicative of isolation. The attribution of ‘lonely’ is ambiguious, Yeats could be describing the impulse as ‘lonely’, meaning it was detached from all his other, possible more rational, persuasions, or he could be describing it in context with the desires of Gregory’s peers. Either way the ‘impulse’, which is emphatically positioned in the centre of the line just as it was central to Gregory, separates Gregory from others and shows him to answer to his desires, the plosive ‘p’ reinforces the sense of impetus the young man possessed. Whilst Yeats is able to positively praise Gregory for his reasons to fight, he cannot escape the tragic reality of warfare as a ‘tumult’. The use of ‘drove’ here is harsh and suggests that the rational young man was passively brought to the war through his desires and that the conflict is chaotic and confused. This sense of havoc and hysteria that ‘tumult’ suggests could be both external, fighting other planes in the ‘clouds’, or could allude to the confusion that the war, and its threat of death, brings to the internal mind of Gregory which must be prepared to face his own mortality; ‘I know that I shall meet my fate somewhere among the clouds above’.

Therefore this poem as well as being an elegy with political undertones, is also another attempt by Yeats to consider the implications of death, and the life that preceded it. This is inferred by the first line with its certainty of the danger of death, ‘I know’. However in the first line Yeats uses a euphemism for death, referring to it with the less explicit diction ‘fate’. The place of death is describes as ‘somewhere’ which undercuts the certainty of the first spondee ‘know’. The noun ‘somewhere’ exposes the confusion and uncertainty, heightening the fear of death, and thus creating a greater appreciation of the calibre of Gregory to approach his ‘fate’ with such balance. The sense of balance is most clearly seen by the repetition in the line ‘I balanced all, brought all to mind’ which encapsulates the process of reflecting on one’s own life before death. The lack of emotion here, and earlier in the poem, show that Gregory has transcended the fear of death and is now able to reflect on life in a more pragmatic, apathetic way. The chiamus ‘The years to come seemed waste of breath, a waste of breath the years behind’ express this sense of apathy to a greater and almost nihilistic degree, as if the ‘Airman’ in his solitude now possesses an indifference towards his past and his future, the fractured grammar reinforces this detachment. Through this harrowing reflecting on Gregory’s own futile life Yeats begs the question of whether this man’s ‘death’ was a worthy sacrifice and laments on the atrocity of war in how it brings such early death to such heroic Irish men. The final declarative line of the poem disrupts the clipped, stoical metre which laced through the poem and thus exposes a emphatic sense of emotion when he reflects on the very near possibility of death. The caesura which fractures the line delays ‘this death’, thus enshrining it with more emphasis and allow Yeats to expose the tragedy of this ‘Airman’s death and also through use of the two exact opposites ‘life’ and ‘death’ reinforce the tone of nihilism and thus criticise the futility of war.

Overall ‘An Irish Airman’ is a powerful elegy with which Yeats pays tribute to the undying stoicism and heartfelt sacrifice of Major Robert Gregory and in doing so prompts his readership to acknowledge the Irish heroes who died for a British war which owed them no benefit. This political stance is also present in the subtext of the poem alongside Yeat’s triumphing of Romanticism and Romantic heroes. However this positive spin is not enough to conceal the bitter tragedy of warfare which is reflected by the nihilism, exposing the futility of war and the solitude and detachment of the Airman as he confronts his own mortality in a level-headed apathetic manner; creating a sense of both heroism and yielding sadness for a life he feels was a ‘waste of breath’.


The Stolen Child

‘The Stolen Child’ is a mystical poem which visualises a young child being lured into the fantastical world of fairies which mingle among the glamour of nature. The lyrical, fluid stanzas evoke the saddened world of humanity parallel to unblemished nature. The fairies become a go-between which exposes the relationship between the two, creating a dark, chilling exploration of antagonism between the freedom and innocence of childhood, and nature, and the mundane, culpable lifestyle of modern society which Yeat’s revokes with strong dissatisfaction.

The innocence of nature is conveyed in the veracity of the first stanza. Yeats digresses how ‘there lies a leafy island’, where the lyrical sense of the verse is elevated by the mellow alliteration of ‘l’. In addition, the abundance of life and movement conveyed contrasts depravity of unrestrained spirit in the human world, expressed in the last stanza. The ‘flapping herons’, whose freedom of movement is emphasised by the present participle, ‘wake the drowsy water rats’, where the assonance of ‘w’ envisages the sounds of flowing water, are uncontrolled, unlike the human world. The enjambment in these lines also encompassed their freedom and consequential fluidity. This stanza, with wild images, is different from the last stanza, which encapsulates images of the sheltered family home, such as the ‘kettle on the hob’ and the ‘calves on the warm hillside’. These images are perfectly measured due to human intervention, and through them Yeats exposes his dissatisfaction with the monotony of the modern world, and portrays the sadness of the time when the freedom of childhood dies away, and the images of unequalled free will are replaced by those of an adult world, which enslaves nature for its own needs. The fairies are thus a vehicle of the expression of the feelings inside all humans, disillusioned by the sadness and monotony of modern day society, who wish to escape to a fantastical world.

On the other hand, Yeats subtextually comments on the nature of humanity with regards to its greed. For example, the poem purposefully stimulates feelings of disgust at the way the faeries steal a young child, but at the same time, humans have continuously poached from nature to fuel a world driven by wealth and selfish desire. This is conveyed in the gluttonony of the fairies as they have filled their ‘faery vats full of berries and of reddest stolen cherries’, where the colours of red represent those of lust and greed, and the rhyme of ‘berries’ and ‘cherries’ is one which conveys decadence and extravagance. The fairies steal from nature and humanity, with the fruit and the child, in the same way that humans have taken from nature, but ironically, have failed to harness its freedom and innocence. All of these vivid images further support the idea of the human world as one clotted with guilt, and thus is deemed by Yeats as ‘weeping’, where the present participle pessimistically conveys that the sadness is ongoing.

The darkness of the faeries presence in ‘The Stolen Child’ is chilling, and it contrasts their beauty which is also evident. This dual focus embodies the sadness of the child leaving behind his home and family, but also the glamour and beauty of the world he escapes to. For example, the faeries are shrouded in beauty in stanza two, especially line six, ‘mingling hands and mingling glances’ where the repetition of the soft, sensitive ‘mingling’ is lyrical and enticing, suggesting that superficially, the life of the faeries is serene. However, the following line, linked by seamless enjambment, which portrays the flowing elegance of the faeries, is suggestive of a darker presence as ‘the moon has taken flight’ from the world of the faeries. Yeats use of personification here implies fear and escapism in the moon, hinting that the world of the faeries is not as glamorous as it seems. This dark, gothic image conflicts with the one of Romanticism previously endowed and thus conveys that every world, even the faeries, had conflict and turmoil, and that whilst the child is being taken away to something better, his ‘flight’ will leave sadness in its wake. This idea is shown by the description of the child as ‘solemn eyed’ as he leaves the human world, as although he will lose human suffering and sadness, he also relinquishes domestic peace and happiness. The imagery of the moon also contrasts night and day, with the night being one endowed by fantasy, innocence and unblemished joy, and day the harsh reality of the Irish troubles. This idea of innocence and darkness shown in the chorus of the poem ‘the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand’ and the title, where ‘Child’, an image iridescent of innocence, is juxtaposed by ‘Stolen’, a dark, foreboding adjective. Yeats thus reflects on the turmoil of Irish life at this point parallel to the joy of nature, as though the child is able to encompass nature’s innocence and glory, he will never again feel the Romanticised joys of human life expressed in the last stanza.

In the second half of the poem, Yeats begins to show how the Romanticism Irish nature, which was once serene and undisturbed, is becoming corrupted by the sadness and political turmoil of the times. The faeries, which are a manifestation of human sadness, as those discontented by reality escape into a world of fantasy and dreams, are becoming a darker presence, symbolic of the sense that it is no longer possible to escape from reality. This is conveyed in stanza three, where the menacing faeries give the ‘slumbering trout’, an image of contentment and serenity, ‘unquiet dreams’. This oxymoron is used by Yeats to envisage the corruption of the imagination links strongly to the image that ‘world is full of troubles and anxious in its sleep’, suggesting even that sanctity of sleep has been removed. The impression of this sadness on nature is striking, and the chilling personification of the ‘ferns that drop their tears over the young streams’ suggests that nature is mourning the loss of peace in the human world, envisaged in this poem by the loss of the young child, an image linked with the ‘young streams’, showing how the innocence of water is becoming polluted by the cares of the ‘weeping’ world.

Overall therefore, ‘The Stolen Child’ is a paternal poem in tribute to the renowned Irish mythology which beautifully encompasses the serenity of Irish nature with the sadness of the nation’s troubles. This idea is envisaged by an innocent child becoming lured from a world of ‘weeping’ to one of superficial serenity. In this focus Yeats addresses many wider issues, including the darkness of man’s heart in its harvesting of nature for its own unnatural endeavours, the loss of innocence as childhood is quelled by political turmoil and the monotony of modern life which has relinquished the freedom of nature. The poem has a mournful, gothic tone which digresses that the world of humanity is no longer one of innocence, and uses the young child choosing the fantastical world over the ‘weeping’ world to show the true extent of human sadness and suffering. Yeats attains a sense of unknowing and questioning from the last stanza however, when the child is described as ‘solemn-eyed’ which could be because he has left or could reference his existing sadness; thus doubt remains about whether the world of faeries is a better alternative to the world of humans.Banksy Stolen Child

September 1913

Written in 1913, this poem expresses Yeat’s yielding disappointment at the contemporary state of Ireland, with its rising Catholic bourgeoisie or ‘shop-keeping class’ who have no interest in the fight for Irish independence or herald the Romantic heroes of Ireland’s past. The stimulus for this poem was the Hugh Lane bequest, in which Ireland’s municipal gallery refused Hugh Lane’s artwork, epitomising Romantic Ireland, on moral and economic grounds. Yeats uses this instance to lament on the changing morals of Irish society and the apparent death of the Romantic revolutionary spirit. The title thus is a direct allusion to the events of ‘September 1913’ and therefore foreshadow the unwinding focus of the poem.

Yeats vividly encompasses his disillusion with the contemporary Irish in stanza one; the use of monosyllabic words and short sentences create a bitter and accusing tone. The use of personal address, ‘you’, confronts his readers with a rhetorical question which he uses to denounce the new state of Ireland. He reprimands their selfish motives through use of the verb ‘fumble’ which connotates a lack of sophistication or principle, suggesting they lack genuine purpose in life and satisfy their ‘need’ rather than acting on desire to change Ireland for the better as Yeat’s heralded revolutionaries did. Furthermore he describes the till as ‘greasy’ which is spondaic and unappealing with the sinister sibillance of ‘s’, giving his description with a cynical, negative tone reinforced by the repetition of ‘pence’ in line three which reflects the futile nature of their lives; contenting themselves with counting money. Yeat’s elaborates his assault on modern Ireland by reprimanded their ‘shivering prayer’, which he suggests are, like their penny pinching, self-seeking. The present participle ‘shivering’ again undermines the image of prayer, supposedly comforting, with one of desperation and hopelessness. Yeat’s allows his political views, as he was deeply unhappy with the rise of Catholicism which had no view to fight for Irish independence. The metaphor of the new Irish people having ‘dried the marrow from the bone’ reflects how they have allowed all vitality to be removed from their lives; the ‘bone’ if seen to be life needs ‘marrow’ to survive and thus to say that the bone is now dry is to suggest that their lives are futile and not worth living if all they seek is money and selfish prayer. This is further reinforced by the heavily sarcastic utterance ‘for men were born to pray and save’; both these actions are not immoral but the way in which modern Ireland has used them is – saving for themselves, praying for themselves.

The refrain is used by Yeats to reinforce his disappointment in the new state of Ireland, because it has strayed from the beauty of the old, Romantic Ireland which heralded heroes such as those referred to in stanza three. This Ireland which fought against British tyranny, instead of adopting its self-seeking practices, is said to be both ‘dead’ and ‘gone’. The use of pleonasm here reinforces that unlike the names Yeats is able to remember in poetry, the spirit of Romantic Ireland cannot be remember because of how different the new Irishmen are. The use of paired synonyms also stresses the complete disillusion of Yeats at this point in history, the magnificence of ‘O’Leary’ is buried, never to be relived.

Stanza two contrasts the desperate image of Irish life with the previous calibre of men who steered the country to better sights. Yeats describes them to be of a ‘different kind’ which automatically puts those of ‘Romantic Ireland’ in transcendence to the new shopping-keeping class. He describes how they ‘stilled’ the childish play of his contemporary readership, and through this allusion, and the personal ‘your’ he prompts his readers to remember the Irish heroes who they seem to have forgotten. Yeats then compares the revolutionaries presence to be like ‘wind’ which has a disputable meaning; is he referring to how the men were able to spread their influence wide like the wind or alluding to their memories being transitory and now intangible? The next line ‘but little time had they to pray’ suggest that both interpretations have some substance; their names are both everywhere and nowhere, for the Irish know of them, so they spread like the wind, but like the wind, once they were gone their impact left no tangible remnants.

Yeats vividly remembers the sacrifice the Irish revolutionaries, described as ‘wild geese’, itself an allusion to them fighting for their country, in order to provide a vivid antithesis with the contemporary Irish behaviour. He figuratively describes their matrydom; ‘for whom the hangman’s rope was spun’. This envisages the act of their execution euphemistically, pre-empting the more graphic descriptions in the next stanza which build Yeat’s passionate elegy to a chilling crescendo ‘for this that all that blood was shed’. The harsh antagonism of ‘this that’ with the sharp, guttural assonance of ‘t’ undercuts this line with a bitterness. This anger and disillusionment is expressed also through rhetorical questions such as ‘what, God help us, could they save?’; this is a cunning turn of phrase and thus a direct foil to the phrase ‘for men were born to pray and save’. Unlike the Irish painted in stanza one, Yeat’s Romantic heroes attempted to save Ireland, not money, and the reference to God here subverts religion as it is used in modern Ireland. The passion and courage of this revolutionaries is echoed in the phrase ‘delirium of the brave’. This suggests that the men’s courage knew no bounds so much so that they would be deemed mad. ‘Delirium’ also suggest a cluelessness, and thus also undermines the imagine of infallibility with one of naivety. The allusion to ‘Robert Emmett’ reinforces this, as he attempted to lead a revolution but called it off when he witnessed a casualty. This suggests the madness the men had was not always positive, it allowed them no consideration of the consequences and inevitably them made mistakes. However Yeats captures their bravery in its intentions and contrast it with those in ‘September 1913’ who reject any outside the status quo, like Hugh Lane’s art, as ‘inflammatory’ and ‘radical’; very words used to describe the Romantic heroes.

The final stanza of ‘September 1913’ imagines the contemporary Irish’ reaction if ‘we turn the years again’. Yeats woefully envisages that the people of 1913 would dismiss the bounding courage of these men, who suffer in ‘loneliness’ and ‘pain’. The use of paired synonyms here reinforces the selfless suffering of the men, as does the reference to them as ‘exiles’, alluding to their stance against their own country whilst it was subdued by British rule. At this feat of bravery Yeats predicts the modern Irishman would suggest that they fought for Irish independence on a whim, with no real principle and no vital goal, in the same way a ‘maddened’ son may pursue a girl’s affection. Though this simile would normally attribute a passion and adoration for a cause and thus be positive, Yeats ensures the comparison is entirely negative by describing the infatuation of the ‘mother’s son’ as superficial; he adores the ‘yellow hair’ not the girl, suggesting the modern Irish denounced the old heroes for whimsically wanting independence. The use of ‘yellow’ also assumes the girl as fake and distorted, artificial unlike the true golden locks of Cathleen ni Houlihan. This thus arises a direct antithesis between the Irish would deem the heroes futile, and the heroes who ‘weigh so lightly what they gave’; cared not for their own safety but for the future of their country. The rhythm here of ‘gave’ and ‘grave’ reinforces the link between the loss of their livelihood and their sacrifice.

Overall ‘September 1913’ is a poem which Yeats uses to react to the changed morals of a society which once fought back against British rule and heralded Romantic heroes. He uses the medium of poetry to simultaneously voice his disillusionment and bitter disappointment with and endearing respect and admiration; thus providing a vivid contrast between the revolutionaries in Irish and the current Catholic bourgeoisie.tumblr_ml1ob3FaeS1s4kiu7o3_400