Who Goes with Fergus
Who Goes With Fergus This poem is about the dichotomy of the thinker and the actor. Yeats, in love with Maud Gonne, was the thinker, the courtly lover — the one who would “brood upon love’s bitter mystery. ” Yeats was Mr. Nice Guy. Yet Yeats wanted to be the actor – the alpha male – the Fergus. Note the sexualized subtext that permeates the poem, who will “pierce the deep wood’s woven shade”? Who will “drive” with Fergus. Finally, we get the reasons to be the alpha male – the man of action, in the repetition of the word “rules. The alpha commands and takes what he wants. • I’m not sure if Fergus is man or God as the last four lines talks of his rule over woods,sea and stars. Well for me Yeats is asking his readers to model Fergus’s actions. He renounced all materialistic desires (including love) and sought a life of simplicity and spirituality, and danced upon the level shore because of it. The deep wood’s woven shade = the unknown. And in response to the previous comment, in my opinion I think that “brazen cars” is in reference to battle/warfare.
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Summary The poet asks who will follow King Fergus’ example and leave the cares of the world to know the wisdom of nature. He exhorts young men and women alike to leave off brooding over “love’s bitter mystery” and to turn instead to the mysterious order of nature, over which Fergus rules. Analysis This short poem is full of mystery and complexity. It was James Joyce’s favorite poem, and figures in his famous novel Ulysses, where Stephen Daedalus sings it to his dying mother.
On one level, the poem represents Yeats’ exhortation to the young men and women of his day to give over their political and emotional struggles in exchange for a struggle with the lasting mysteries of nature. He suggests that Fergus was both brave and wise to give up his political ambition in exchange for the wisdom of the Druids, as depicted in the poem “Fergus and the Druid. ” Of course, from that poem we know that Fergus’ sacrifice was complicated. He did not find a life of frolic and happiness with the Druids.
But he did find knowledge, wisdom and perspective – perhaps, indeed, too much. On a second level, the poem captures Yeats’ frustration at his own failed love affair. He seems desperate to turn from the contemplation of love’s mysteries that have preoccupied him for so many of the poems in The Rose, convinced that this meditation has only increased his sorrow without providing any means of improving his situation. The exhortation, on this level, is directed inward, to his own heart. He challenges himself to take Fergus’ direction and leave love behind him.
Moreover, the fact that Yeats draws upon the imagery of Fergus to make his point suggests his inclination to reference the mythic and legendary heritage of his country rather than the present political struggles that engaged Ireland. In this light, the question, “Who goes with Fergus? ” seems to ask Ireland to join him in contemplating the mythic past rather than the sticky present. A return to Fergus entails a move away from the reference points of contemporary politics, toward the mythology of the Irish people.
Finally, the poem suggests the journey toward death. A return to nature, as also seen in the previous poem, “The Countess Cathleen in Paradise,” expresses a movement away from worldly cares and possessions analogous to death. Yeats summons the courage that one requires to look beyond the mysteries one knows and suffers under – those of love, of politics – to deeper and weirder mysteries – the wood, the sea, the wandering stars. In all, the poem has a beauty, especially when spoken aloud, that evades simple readings and analyses.
It captures the political, social, emotional and national ambiguity at the heart of Yeats’ collection, as well as his reverence for the imagination. A Dialogue of Self and Soul In the first stanza the Soul calls the reader to the tower of learning where “the star,” the most distant part of our universe, “marks the hidden pole. ” The soul seems to be talking about the contemplation of eternity. On the other hand, the poem itself seems to imply that the soul’s goal is so vague as to be virtually unknowable. Thought,” as represented by the tower, cannot distinguish “darkness from the soul. ” In a later poem Yeats says the tower is “half dead at the top. ” If we see the tower as an individual, as a source of knowledge, this would seem to imply that there is no more original thought there. If, on the other hand, we see the tower as a phallic symbol, it has become impotent. posted by:Kurdish guy, B. A. M From college of language(Hawler)2010. As Yeats matures in life, the focus goes from what the wotld is doing and what he can do.
In other words, he focuses on the meaning of his life, this is shown in the poem a Dialogue of Self and Soul. A dialogue of Self amd Soul is broken down into two parts. The first part is the actuall dialogue between self and soul. The soul is driven by the past or acient events. The self is the reaction to the soul. In this poem Yeats soul can be describe as ” think of ancestral knight, that can, if but imagination scorn the earth and infellect its wondering. ” The self of Yeats in this play is describe as ” the wooden scabbard found and wound, can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn. In the second part of this poem his self is only expressed. The self and soul have become a whole. You can conclude from this poem that a person has matured,self-actualization is obtained. For example, in this poem Yeats says ” I am content to follow to its source every event in action or in though; measure the lot; forgive myself the lot! ” Byzantium At night in the city of Byzantium, “The unpurged images of day recede. ” The drunken soldiers of the Emperor are asleep, and the song of night-walkers fades after the great cathedral gong.
The “starlit” or “moonlit dome,” the speaker says, disdains all that is human—”All mere complexities, / The fury and the mire of human veins. ” The speaker says that before him floats an image—a man or a shade, but more a shade than a man, and still more simply “an image. ” The speaker hails this “superhuman” image, calling it “death-in-life and life-in-death. ” A golden bird sits on a golden tree, which the speaker says is a “miracle”; it sings aloud, and scorns the “common bird or petal / And all complexities of mire or blood. [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]At midnight, the speaker says, the images of flames flit across the Emperor’s pavement, though they are not fed by wood or steel, nor disturbed by storms. Here, “blood-begotten spirits come,” and die “into a dance, / An agony of trance, / An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve,” leaving behind all the complexities and furies of life. Riding the backs of dolphins, spirit after spirit arrives, the flood broken on “the golden smithies of the Emperor. The marbles of the dancing floor break the “bitter furies of complexity,” the storms of images that beget more images, “That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea. ” Commentary We have read Yeats’s account of “Sailing to Byzantium”; now he has arrived at the city itself, and is able to describe it. In “Sailing to Byzantium” the speaker stated his desire to be “out of nature” and to assume the form of a golden bird; in “Byzantium,” the bird appears, and scores of dead spirits arrive on the backs of dolphins, to be forged into “the artifice of eternity”—ghostlike images with no physical presence (“a flame that cannot singe a sleeve”).
The narrative and imagistic arrangement of this poem is highly ambiguous and complicated; it is unclear whether Yeats intends the poem to be a register of symbols or an actual mythological statement. (In classical mythology, dolphins often carry the dead to their final resting-place. ) In any event, we see here the same preference for the artificial above the actual that appeared in “Sailing to Byzantium”; only now the speaker has encountered actual creatures that exist “in the artifice of eternity”—most notably the golden bird of stanza three.
But the preference is now tinged with ambiguity: the bird looks down upon “common bird or petal,” but it does so not out of existential necessity, but rather because it has been coerced into doing so, as it were—“by the moon embittered. ” The speaker’s demonstrated preoccupation with “fresh images” has led some critics to conclude that the poem is really an allegory of the process by which fantasies are rendered into art, images arriving from the “dolphin-torn, the gong-tormented sea,” then being made into permanent artifacts by “the golden smithies of the Emperor. It is impossible to say whether this is all or part of Yeats’s intention, and it is difficult to see how the prevalent symbols of the afterlife connect thematically to the topic of images (how could images be dead? ). For all its difficulty and almost unfixed quality of meaning—the poem is difficult to place even within the context of A Vision—the intriguing imagery and sensual language of the poem are tokens of its power; simply as the evocation of a fascinating imaginary scene, “Byzantium” is unmatched in all of Yeats.
The Circus Animals’ Desertion Summary The speaker describes searching in vain for a poetic theme: he says that he had tried to find one for “six weeks or so,” but had been unable to do so. He thinks that perhaps, now that he is “but a broken man,” he will have to be satisfied with writing about his heart, although for his entire life (“Winter and summer till old age began”) he had played with elaborate, showy poetic themes that paraded like “circus animals”: “Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot, / Lion and woman and the Lord knows what. ” pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]What can he do, he wonders, but list his old themes in the absence of a new one? He remembers writing of a “sea-rider” named Oisin, who traveled through “three enchanted islands”; but the speaker says that as he wrote about Oisin, he was secretly “starved for the bosom of his fairy bride. ” He remembers writing a play called “The Countess Cathleen,” about a “pity-crazed” woman who gave her soul away; but the speaker says that the dream inspired by a woman who was forced to destroy her own soul “had all my thought and love. ” He remembers writing of he hero Cuchulain’s battle with the sea while the Fool and the Blind Man “stole the bread”; but even then, he was enchanted by the dream—the idea of “Character isolated by a deed / To engross the present and dominate memory. ” He says that he loved the “players and painted stage,” and not the things they symbolized. The speaker says that those images were masterful because they were complete. He says that they grew in pure mind, and asks out of what they began. He answers his own question: they issued from “Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can, / Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut / Who keeps the till. Now that his “ladder” is gone, the speaker says, he must lie down “where all the ladders start / In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart. ” Commentary “The Circus Animals’ Desertion,” one of the last poems Yeats completed before his death in 1939, finds him looking back over his poetic career, reinterpreting his past work and his motivations for writing it, and searching for the truths that remain when all the vanities and illusions of life have been stripped away by the decay of age and the corruptions of time. At last,” the speaker writes, he is “but a broken man,” and his poetic faculties have abandoned him. Sickened by what he perceives to be the gaudiness and illusion of his past work, he thinks of his former poetic creations as “circus animals” that have been “on show” his entire life, and which have now deserted him. In the three stanzas of the second section, Yeats looks back at three specific works from earlier in his life, and questions their honesty and his commitment to them.
In the first stanza of section II, he looks back at The Wanderings of Oisin, a long narrative poem from 1889 in which the hero Oisin follows his beloved Niamh across a trio of magical islands; Yeats claims that his real motive for writing the poem was not a noble one—that he was simply, pathetically “starved” for “the bosom of his fairy bride. ” In the second stanza of the section, he looks at a play entitled The Countess Cathleen, which was first performed (with Maude Gonne in the starring role) n 1899; in the play, the countess sells her soul to the devil to feed her starving subjects; Yeats says that his real motive for writing the play was the “dream” inspired by his belief that his “dear” “must her own soul destroy. ” In the third stanza, Yeats looks back at another play, this one entitled On Bailee’s Strand, and featuring a scene in which the mythological Irish hero Cuchulain, having unknowingly killed his son in battle, commits suicide by attempting to battle the ocean; at the same time, two characters called the Fool and the Blind Man rob the ovens.
Yeats says that in writing this play he was preoccupied with the theater and with the idea that character could be “isolated” by a single deed— but not with the actual symbols of the play itself. [pic][pic]In the final stanza of the poem, Yeats takes a hard look at his “masterful” imagery, and realizes that though it seemed to grow in “pure mind,” it actually began in the ugly, common experiences of everyday life, which work upon the mind. So in a sense, Cuchulain stemmed from “a mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street. Wearily but with resolve, Yeats states that he must lie down in the place where poetry and imagery begin: “In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart. ” The stark physicality of the final line of Yeats’s last great formulation of a poetic credo contrasts shockingly with his first one, in “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” in which he declared his fidelity to “the deep heart’s core. ” Throughout his fifty-year literary career, he has delved so deep into the heart’s core that he has discovered, not the lapping waters of Innisfree, but the foul rag and bone shop in which he now lies down.
As Yeats wrote in an earlier poem, “The Coming of Wisdom with Time,” Though leaves are many, the root is one; Through all the lying days of my youth I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun; Now I may wither into the truth. The Second Coming Summary The speaker describes a nightmarish scene: the falcon, turning in a widening “gyre” (spiral), cannot hear the falconer; “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”; anarchy is loosed upon the world; “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best people, the speaker says, lack all conviction, but the worst “are full of passionate intensity. ” [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]Surely, the speaker asserts, the world is near a revelation; “Surely the Second Coming is at hand. ” No sooner does he think of “the Second Coming,” then he is troubled by “a vast image of the Spiritus Mundi, or the collective spirit of mankind: somewhere in the desert, a giant sphinx (“A shape with lion body and the head of a man, / A gaze as blank and pitiless as the sun”) is moving, while the shadows of desert birds reel about it.
The darkness drops again over the speaker’s sight, but he knows that the sphinx’s twenty centuries of “stony sleep” have been made a nightmare by the motions of “a rocking cradle. ” And what “rough beast,” he wonders, “its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? ” Commentary Because of its stunning, violent imagery and terrifying ritualistic language, “The Second Coming” is one of Yeats’s most famous and most anthologized poems; it is also one of the most thematically obscure and difficult to understand. It is safe to say that very few people who love this poem could paraphrase its meaning to satisfaction. ) Structurally, the poem is quite simple—the first stanza describes the conditions present in the world (things falling apart, anarchy, etc. ), and the second surmises from those conditions that a monstrous Second Coming is about to take place, not of the Jesus we first knew, but of a new messiah, a “rough beast,” the slouching sphinx rousing itself in the desert and lumbering toward Bethlehem.
This brief exposition, though intriguingly blasphemous, is not terribly complicated; but the question of what it should signify to a reader is another story entirely. Yeats spent years crafting an elaborate, mystical theory of the universe that he described in his book A Vision. This theory issued in part from Yeats’s lifelong fascination with the occult and mystical, and in part from the sense of responsibility Yeats felt to order his experience within a structured belief system. The system is extremely complicated and not of any lasting importance—except for the effect that it had on his poetry, which is of extraordinary lasting importance.
The theory of history Yeats articulated in A Vision centers on a diagram made of two conical spirals, one inside the other, so that the widest part of one of the spirals rings around the narrowest part of the other spiral, and vice versa. Yeats believed that this image (he called the spirals “gyres”) captured the contrary motions inherent within the historical process, and he divided each gyre into specific regions that represented particular kinds of historical periods (and could also represent the psychological phases of an individual’s development). The Second Coming” was intended by Yeats to describe the current historical moment (the poem appeared in 1921) in terms of these gyres. Yeats believed that the world was on the threshold of an apocalyptic revelation, as history reached the end of the outer gyre (to speak roughly) and began moving along the inner gyre. In his definitive edition of Yeats’s poems, Richard J. Finneran quotes Yeats’s own notes: The end of an age, which always receives the revelation of the character of the next age, is represented by the coming of one gyre to its place of greatest expansion and of the other to its place of greatest contraction…
The revelation [that] approaches will… take its character from the contrary movement of the interior gyre… [pic][pic][pic][pic] [pic][pic][pic][pic] [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic] In other words, the world’s trajectory along the gyre of science, democracy, and heterogeneity is now coming apart, like the frantically widening flight-path of the falcon that has lost contact with the falconer; the next age will take its character not from the gyre of science, democracy, and speed, but from the contrary inner gyre—which, presumably, opposes mysticism, primal power, and slowness to the science and democracy of the outer gyre.
The “rough beast” slouching toward Bethlehem is the symbol of this new age; the speaker’s vision of the rising sphinx is his vision of the character of the new world. This seems quite silly as philosophy or prophecy (particularly in light of the fact that it has not come true as yet). But as poetry, and understood more broadly than as a simple reiteration of the mystic theory of A Vision, “The Second Coming” is a magnificent statement about the contrary forces at work in history, and about the conflict between the modern world and the ancient world.
The poem may not have the thematic relevance of Yeats’s best work, and may not be a poem with which many people can personally identify; but the aesthetic experience of its passionate language is powerful enough to ensure its value and its importance in Yeats’s work as a whole. Crazy Jane… ‘Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop'”‘ is a short poem in three six-line stanzas. The poem is the sixth in a series of seven in which Crazy Jane is the persona.
The title refers to a fictional character whom William Butler Yeats based upon an old woman who lived in a little cottage in Gort, a small village near Galway in western Ireland. He admired her for her audacious speech, her lust for life, and her satirical eye. She had clearly become an important symbol for him by the time he came to write this poem; for some time, he had been thinking about what it was that such a cantankerous old woman might represent. The poem begins as a confrontation between Jane and a bishop, who happen to meet on a road.
The bishop speaks in the first stanza, and Jane is the sole speaker in the second and third stanzas. That is the extent of the poem”‘”s actions, and they can be understood easily enough at face value. The reader, however, cannot fail to be struck by the emotionally charged content of the conversation, which is highly personal in tone. The bishop condemns the woman, apparently for her unkempt appearance. The implication seems to be that she is leading an unchaste life. Jane responds somewhat defensively, but even more defiantly.
In fact, she seems didactic, as if she is attempting to teach the bishop a lesson of some sort. Since the first stanza notes that the two said ‘”‘much'”‘ to each other, the implication is that the conversation recorded here is only part of what transpired, or, more likely, that the persona believes that she has distilled the incident into something of greater significance than its brevity might at first suggest. Forms and Devices This poem can be appreciated and understood on its own.
Insofar as Jane introduces the reader to a bishop as ‘”‘the'”‘ bishop, however, and thereby suggests some familiarity between them, there is an implication that one is coming upon this scene in medias res—that there is a prehistory, which may be culled from a reading of the other poems in the Crazy Jane series. In this regard, therefore, it shares somewhat in the balladic tradition, where poems frequently begin without much explanation of all that led up to the current situation being narrated.
The rhythm in each stanza is basically iambic, alternating each line between tetrameter and trimeter. The last two lines of each stanza are less regular, ending with a more emphatic spondaic pulse. The rhyme scheme is abcbdb, efgfhf, ijkjlj (every other line rhymes). For such a short poem, with a rather humble woman as its central focus, there is a surprising gravity of tone.
Yeats achieves this effect through his masterful use of several devices. The regular rhythm and rhyme, first of all, call the reader”‘”s attention to an artificiality in the discussion, a careful crafting of the supposedly spontaneous interchange between the bishop and the woman. This artificiality is accented by the surprising juxtaposition of a childlike nursery-rhyme rhythm and a blunt reference to the woman”‘”s bodily parts by the bishop.
The sing-song effect and the crudity of the bishop”‘”s gaze raise further questions in the reader”‘”s mind when one looks more closely at the scriptural overtones of the bishop”‘”s language (the parallelism of the consonance in ‘”‘flat and fallen,'”‘ the biblical allusion to one”‘”s ‘”‘heavenly mansion,'”‘ and the possible allusion to the parable of the Prodigal Son in ‘”‘some foul sty'”‘). The woman”‘”s language is also heavily referential, and it might be said that allusion is the ‘”‘shaping'”‘ device in this poem.
By avoiding any biblical references of her own and replacing them with religious allusions that are less clear, she makes her message even more earthy than the bishop”‘”s. Lines 7 and 8, for example, call to mind the opening scene of William Shakespeare”‘”s Macbeth (1606), in which three witches frame what is to follow: By setting a countervailing anti-Christian tone, their words and presence suggest that there may be a fate controlling Macbeth and all other humans that cannot be easily contained within any theological explanation.
Lines 17 and 18 seem an allusion to the sexual violence of Yeats”‘”s own poem ‘”‘Leda and the Swan'”‘ and bring with the allusion all that earlier poem”‘”s respectful references to a pre-Christian philosophy of life. Such simple yet highly referential language maintains a lyrical and even lilting sound to the lines while forcing them to carry more freight than immediately meets the eye. In effect, Yeats asks the reader to look beyond the niceties of poetic diction to the brutal dichotomies (nursery rhyme/lyric ballad of loss; man/woman; religion/sex) that are central to the controlled discussion between these two characters.
These dichotomies are most obvious in the use of puns in the last stanza, specifically the play on the words ‘”‘sole'”‘ and soul, hole and ‘”‘whole. ‘”‘ ‘”‘Rent'”‘ may pun on the double meaning of tearing something in two and leasing rather than owning outright. Themes and Meanings The Crazy Jane series, like much of Yeats”‘”s poetry, remains enigmatic. Why, after all, choose such an unlikely persona for this series? Why, in this particular poem, is there the harshness of this encounter with a bishop?
Every poet develops a personally significant vocabulary and set of place names and images, but this is especially true of Yeats. Part of the reason for the particularity of his imagining in this poem can be explained by its theme, but, as with much of Yeats”‘”s vision, part of the reason remains (probably intentionally) mysterious. The claim made for him by many to be the greatest lyric poet of the twentieth century rests upon his unique expression of three worlds: that of the rustic Celtic imagination he found in Sligo in western Ireland, that of the politics of Dublin, and that of the literary sophistication of London.
Crazy Jane arises from the world of Sligo. To these influences Yeats added a truly extraordinary interest in finding something meaningful beyond the material world, while at the same time celebrating the material world specifically as a manifestation of the ethereal. This quest for a non-Christian, quotidian ‘”‘incarnation'”‘ is the key to this poem and to many of his best poems. What becomes clear from the other Crazy Jane poems is that one is to listen more respectfully to her insights into life than one is to those of someone like the bishop.
He has far more importance in the eyes of the world, and he represents an orthodox interpretation of life”‘”s meaning, but his pharisaical judging of Jane suggests that it is he who is essentially dead inside. The reader also learns from the earlier poems that the bishop may, himself, have loved her at one time. The dichotomies of this poem are, in fact, the key to its theme, which has to do with the resolution of ‘”‘antinomies'”‘ (as Yeats called sets of opposites) that obsessed him throughout his poetic career.
It is true that Jane”‘”s breasts are flat and fallen, but her retort is an exuberant celebration of the fact that this very body remains for her the physical location of love. That is a painful and difficult ‘”‘resolution,'”‘ but Yeats seems to suggest that it is the only one possible for a human being to make. Rather than reject love (and lust) as worthless because impermanent or somehow filthy, Jane takes what may seem to be a carpe diem position: make hay while the sun shines.
The implication of her lesson to the bishop goes further, however, since the sun is no longer shining for her and she is nevertheless affirming the value even of transient love. Yeats was almost seventy when he wrote this poem, and, like many of the poems from this period, it expresses his own renewed passion for life and for love. Among the closest in theme to this one is ‘”‘The Circus Animals”‘” Desertion'”‘ (1939), especially in its closing stanza. ‘”‘Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop'”‘ An Acre of Grass An Acre of Grass” is from Yeats’ “Last Poems” (1939). The poem graphically describes the plight of the old and aged W. B. Yeats. He realises that he has come to the end of his life and reveals to us the loneliness and joylessness of his sad situation “at life’s end. ” He first bemoans his weakened and restricted physical state. He is confined to “an acre of grass” which serves as an exercise ground. He has only a few books and pictures to look at. He has no human companions. His only companion is the mouse which keeps him company during his insomnia.
But worse, Yeats feels saddened that the intellectual frenzy and fire has been completely extinguished and pleads that somehow he become like King Lear, Timon of Athens, William Blake or Michael Angelo who even in their old age asserted their individuality and were creative and productive: “Grant me an old man’s frenzy, Myself must I remake Till I am Timon and Lear Or that William Blake Who beat upon the wall Till Truth obeyed his call. ” The single common characteristic of all these great men was their misanthropy.
In their old age all of them realised their foolishness in trusting their friends or family members who abandoned them in their old age. The poem relates to old age and revitalization . It is a confessional poem . The poet has grown old in body , but his mind is still young . He wishes to bid farewell to his carnal desire , that like a mouse haunts his body , and mind . He needs a calm weather and a calm mind . And an acre of grass is suggestive to display the atmosphere of meditation and contemplation .
He wishes to be a poet-passed . He confesses the truth that so long one is preoccupied with temptation of sensual gratification , one can not be aflame d with poetic -madness . The references of William Blake , Timon of Athens are aptly employed to focus on the desired poetic-frenzy . [pic] http://www. jstor. org/stable/27559755 for above seamus heaney The Man And the Echo Hayley Karlan 1st Semester Freshman English 118W Prof Josh Epstein The Role of Voice in “Man and the Echo”
William Butler Yeats’ poem “Man and the Echo” employs an ironic dialogue between Man and his echo to argue that the impossibility of controlling the interpretation of one’s voice creates irresolvable internal conflicts between one’s body and spirit. Man, a guilt-ridden, elderly writer, goes to “the bottom of a pit” (3) to reflect on his life and mentally prepare for death, but is distracted by his echo. He interprets his echo’s repetition of “lie down and die” (19) as a command and defends his need to reflect and introspect without actually doing so.
Echo is presented as an individual, separate voice rather than a possession or derivative of Man’s voice. Man’s inability to control Echo parallels his inability to control how readers interpret and react to his written works and emphasizes the disconnect between Man and his voice. Man desperately wants to unite his spirit and body in order to die peacefully, but his distraction with his echo prevents him from doing so. The poem ends abruptly when the cry of a “stricken rabbit” interrupts Man’s train of thought.
Man has “lost the theme” and the poem cuts off leaving Man confused and disoriented. The impossibility of controlling one’s voice creates internal conflicts and prevents Man from connecting with his spirit while the irresolvable nature of these dualities makes efforts to mentally prepare oneself for death through the unification of body and spirit futile. The dialogue structure of the poem presents a conflicting duality between Man and his voice and emphasizes Man’s lack of control over his voice. Man and Echo are presented as 2 separate, formally capitalized individual voices.
Echo is an entity of its own as it seems to selectively repeat Man’s words in a way that alters their meaning and tone. For example, in the first stanza Man says, “Could my spoken words have checked / That whereby a house lay wrecked? / And all seems evil until I / Sleepless would lie down and die” (6-18). Echo only repeats “lie down and die,” taking Man’s words out of context and changing them from an expression of the difficulty of answering questions before death to a brisk command to die immediately.
This drastic alteration stresses the difficulty in controlling how one’s own voice is interpreted and used; even repeating one’s words changes them. Echo’s ability to alter the meaning of Man’s words by leaving out two key words, “sleepless would,” hints at the potential ability of other people to change one’s words and emphasizes the lack of control Man has in how others interpret his voice; if Man can not control his own echo, there is no hope in controlling other listeners.
Man is just as powerless in controlling the interpretation of his written voice as he is in controlling the interpretation of his spoken one. As an author, he worries about the effects of his written work on readers. He asks, “Did that play of mine send out / Certain men the English shot? / Did words of mine put too great strain / On that woman’s reeling brain? Could my spoken words have checked / That whereby a house lay wrecked? ” (11-16). Man questions the effect of his written work on readers and is plagued with guilt for events his work potentially caused.
He worries that his words caused negative action, such as inspiring men to go to war, and failed to cause positive action, such as stopping a house from being “wrecked. ” His unanswered questions, however, reflect the impossibility of knowing the actual affect of his words. While his work certainly could have motivated certain men to go to the “English shot,” Man has no way of knowing that it actually did. In this case, are Man’s feelings of responsibility 3 justified?
Man does not have control over how readers interpret his words and he fears that his words “put too great strain” on people’s minds, failing to understand his intentions altogether. Regardless of how carefully Man writes his words down, a reader’s interpretation of these words can alter their intended meaning as easily as Echo alters his spoken voice. Even if Man writes with a good or specific goal in mind, there is no guarantee that readers will understand or act upon his intentions, and even if they do he has no way of knowing this. Perhaps, then, Man’s feelings of responsibility are not justified and this is what
Echo is trying to tell him when he says “lie down and die” (19) and “into the night” (38); Man shouldn’t worry so much about his voice because he has no way of knowing to what extent he is responsible for anything. Instead, he should accept death peacefully. Man fights Echo’s advice to accept death throughout the poem, reflecting the rift between his physical self and his voice and spirit created by the inability to control the interpretation of his voice. Both the dialogue format of the poem and the inherent qualities of an echo draw attention to this disconnect.
For example, an echo has a uniquely different sound than the voice it came from. Whether faint and muffled or throaty and whispery, an echo is different than its parent voice, which may explain why Man responds to his “rocky voice” (39) as if it were another person instead of ignoring it as a reverberation of his own voice. Man derives meaning from Echo’s words and responds to them, and Echo influences the direction and topic of Man’s words. For example, after Echo says “Lie down and die” (19), Man says, “That were to shirk / The spiritual intellect’s great work” (20-21).
He explains he cannot “lie down and die” yet because he needs to clean his dirty slate. Instead of ignoring the echo, Man feels a need to justify his actions and explain himself. Whereas in the first stanza the Man reflected upon his own life, the Echo’s advice to “lie down and die” launches Man into a defensive rant explaining 4 why men can not die until they have awakened their “spiritual intellect” and reflected upon their lives; Man’s thought-process broadens from his individual situation to mankind in general.
For example, he says, “While man can still his body keep / Wine or love drug him to sleep, / Waking he thanks the Lord that he / Has body and its stupidity” (26-29). This change in course reflects the power of Echo’s words and demonstrates Man’s treatment of his echo as a separate, individual voice. It also highlights Man’s avoidance of the task at hand; he can’t stress enough the importance of reflection and introspection before death, but just talking about reflection is not the same as actually going through the process.
The implication of Man’s failure to act upon what he advocates as so important is that he really does not want to undergo a reflection process and would rather, as his own voice tells him in the form of an echo “lie down and die. ” This suggests that Echo is not separate from Man at all but rather represents his true, underlying desires. Is Echo really a separate, individual voice or is Echo a part of Man? Man’s strange interaction with Echo makes it seem like Echo is a separate entity, but both the setting in a stony cave and the fact that Echo only repeats Man says suggest that Echo is nothing more than an echo.
If Echo is just a reverberation of Man’s words, then the only meaning behind Echo’s words is the meaning that Man superimposes upon them. Man thinks that Echo is commanding him to “lie down and die” only because he inserts this meaning into Echo’s words. Without this interpretation, Echo’s words are hollow and meaningless, as are Man’s words; one’s voice is worthless unless someone hears and interprets it. As an author, Man is aware, however, of the tendency of an audience’s interpretation to charge one’s voice with a meaning quite different than what the author intended.
Once words have left a person’s body they are at the whim of the 5 listener. Thus, a person can only be in control of his voice when he is alone and no one can hear him, a fact which Man seems to be aware of based on the remote setting of the poem. The poem’s setting in an isolated cave reflects Man’s effort to control the consequences of his voice. Each opening line brings Man farther and farther away from people who could hear his words and change their intended meaning. Not only is Man “in a cleft,” but he is “under broken stone” and “at the bottom of a pit that broad noon has never lit” (2-4).
Man has taken great lengths to be alone and avoid the risk of having his words heard and manipulated. His retreat into a deep, dark, isolated cave reflects his desire to introspect and connect with his spirit, but he cannot escape the implications of his voice. Man is overwhelmed with guilt and confusion over the effect his voice has had on others and just wants to be by himself, but his voice haunts him. He confesses his secrets to the stone that cannot change his words, but Man’s own echo betrays him. Or does it? Perhaps Echo is just trying to help Man out by offering some good advice.
And if Echo is really just an echo, perhaps Man’s selective hearing of echo’s words represent a repressed desire to give in to death without dealing with all the reflection his guilt-ridden mind thinks is necessary. Regardless of Echo’s role in the poem, the juxtaposition between Echo’s short, simple lines with Man’s lengthy stanzas draws attention to Echo’s words. On a visual level, the reader’s eye is immediately drawn to Echo’s short lines because they stand out against Man’s large chunks of dialogue. Echo’s terse, simple lines are the most memorable f the entire poem because of their placement; they interrupt the rhythm and rhyme of the Man’s thoughts. For example, the first stanza follows a regular aabb rhyme scheme and Echo’s line is an additional “a” line where a “b” is expected. The regular rhythm and rhyme of the first stanza lends to a sing-songy feel that is abruptly interrupted by Echo’s line. This interruption highlights the lack 6 of control Man has over how his voice is used and interpreted. Each of Man’s lines is carefully structured and he does not rush or trip over his words, but he cannot do anything about his voice reverberating off the walls.
Thus, Echo interrupts him twice, both times encouraging him to give in to death immediately. The reader is tempted to trust Echo more than Man, as Echo’s short, simple lines are the only answers to Man’s dilemma presented in the whole poem. Man’s nervous questions and rambling make him seem insecure while Echo’s simple replies make him seem sure and comfortable. While Man harps on the importance of making sure “that all’s arranged in one clear view” (32) and judging one’s soul, he never presents the reader with a way of doing this and he himself never does this.
On the other hand, Echo’s advice to “lie down and die” and go “into the night” is simple and straightforward and does not require further instruction. In lieu of Man’s unanswered questions and unresolved conflicts, Echo’s advice makes a lot of sense. The rabbit cry at the end of the poem symbolizes the hopelessness of Man’s efforts to either control his voice or to connect his body and spirit. Just before Man is interrupted by the rabbit, he asks, “O rocky voice / Shall we in that great night rejoice? / What do we know but that we face / One another in this place? ” (39-42).
Man finally realizes and confronts the rift between his body and his voice and practically begs to feel some connection with it, but Echo does not reply with a comforting reassurance of their connection and Man forgets what he has been talking about when the rabbit cries out. This pathetic cry is the uninspiring answer to Man’s queries. The helpless rabbit being attacked by a bird of prey is a symbol of Man’s hopeless situation; just as it is impossible for the rabbit to escape the hawk, Man will never be able to “rejoice” with his voice and will forever view the world in sets of dualities. The irony of Man’s dialogue and the impossibility of ever resolving the mind-body dilemma suggest that death is mystery that cannot be mentally prepared for. Rather, one must submit to death naturally. Man’s inability to find a way to reflect and introspect as well as Echo’s straightforward advice to simply give in to death support this idea. Man’s inner conflicts and the disconnect between his body and spirit are the results of the impossibility of controlling the interpretation of his voice.
It is impossible to control how other people interpret and apply meaning to one’s words and therefore, once words leave a speaker’s body they are no longer in his control but are dependent on the listener’s interpretation. Unfortunately, the only way to possibly maintain complete control over one’s voice would be to remain in isolation and never talk to anyone, which we see Man try to do unsuccessfully. Perhaps this is Yeats’ way of encouraging his readers to not be afraid of using their voices. Certainly his use of the name “Man” suggests a global audience as well as Man’s discussion of mankind.
Is this poem Yeats’s call to humanity to forget their unjustified guilt and use their voices freely? Wild swans ….. The Wild Swans at Coole” Summary With the trees “in their autumn beauty,” the speaker walks down the dry woodland paths to the water, which mirrors the still October twilight of the sky. Upon the water float “nine-and-fifty swans. ” The speaker says that nineteen years have passed since he first came to the water and counted the swans; that first time, before he had “well finished,” he saw the swans mount up into the sky and scatter, “whelling in great broken rings / Upon their clamorous wings. The speaker says that his heart is sore, for after nineteen autumns of watching and being cheered by the swans, he finds that everything in his life has changed. The swans, though, are still unwearied, and they paddle by in the water or fly by in the air in pairs, “lover by lover. ” Their hearts, the speaker says, “have not grown cold,” and wherever they go they are attended by “passion or conquest. ” But now, as they drift over the still water, they are “Mysterious, beautiful,” and the speaker wonders where they will build their nests, and by what lake’s edge or pool hey will “delight men’s eyes,” when he awakes one morning to find that they have flown away. Form [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]“The Wild Swans at Coole” is written in a very regular stanza form: five six-line stanzas, each written in a roughly iambic meter, with the first and third lines in tetrameter, the second, fourth, and sixth lines in trimeter, and the fifth line in pentameter, so that the pattern of stressed syllables in each stanza is 434353. The rhyme scheme in each stanza is ABCBDD.
Commentary One of the most unusual features of Yeats’s poetic career is the fact that the poet came into his greatest powers only as he neared old age; whereas many poets fade after the first burst of youth, Yeats continued to grow more confident and more innovative with his writing until almost the day he died. Though he was a famous and successful writer in his youth, his poetic reputation today is founded almost solely on poems written after he was fifty.
He is thus the great poet of old age, writing honestly and with astonishing force about the pain of time’s passage and feeling that the ageless heart was “fastened to a dying animal,” as he wrote in “Sailing to Byzantium. ” The great struggle that enlivens many of Yeats’s best poems is the struggle to uphold the integrity of the soul, and to preserve the mind’s connection to the “deep heart’s core,” despite physical decay and the pain of memory. The Wild Swans at Coole,” part of the 1919 collection of the same name, is one of Yeats’s earliest and most moving testaments to the heart-ache of living in a time when “all’s changed. ” (And when Yeats says “All’s changed, changed utterly” in the fifteen years since he first saw the swans, he means it—the First World War and the Irish civil war both occurred during these years. ) The simple narrative of the poem, recounting the poet’s trips to the lake at Augusta Gregory’s Coole Park residence to count the swans on the ater, is given its solemn serenity by the beautiful nature imagery of the early stanzas, the plaintive tone of the poet, and the carefully constructed poetic stanza—the two trimeter lines, which give the poet an opportunity to utter short, heartfelt statements before a long silence ensured by the short line (“Their hearts have not grown old… ”). The speaker, caught up in the gentle pain of personal memory, contrasts sharply with the swans, which are treated as symbols of the essential: their hearts have not grown old; they are still attended by passion and conquest.
Poems of W. B. Yeats: The Tower Summary The Tower begins with an exposition of the poet’s fixation: how to escape aging. In “Sailing to Byzantium,” he dreams of leaving Ireland, a young man’s country, to be reincarnated as a singing mechanical bird in a Byzantine Court. In “The Tower,” Yeats laments his lost love for Maude Gonne, and ruminates on how to reconcile the difference between his youthful spirit and his aging body. Meditations in a Time of Civil War” and “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen” are the most explicitly historical poems of this collection; the former is an intensely personal account of Yeats’ family history and his place in the Civil War, the second a more universal account of the chaos that gripped Ireland from 1922 to 1923. [pic][pic]In “The Wheel,” “Youth and Age,” and “The New Faces,” the poet takes another tack on the issue of aging, dealing with it not viscerally but intellectually. Rather than examining his own tattered body, he compares death to the passing of the seasons.
This more peaceful approach to death is an appropriate transition to “A Prayer for My Son,” which expresses some hope for the new generation, which seems worth protecting. In “Two Songs from a Play,” Yeats returns to the theme that all joys are passing, all summers on their way to winter. “Fragments” mashes reason, science, and progress, depicting Locke in a faint and God creating fabric, rather than humans. “Leda and the Swan,” is a very real substitute for reason: a sensory description of mythological rape. After the climactic poem of the collection, Yeats returns to a more somber tone. On a Picture of a Black Centaur” illustrates not passionate love, but the desire to protect. “Among School Children” emphasizes the poet’s new role as a senator, a possible mentor. This is undercut, however, by the poet lustfully imagining what the woman he loves looked like when she was the age of these children. Yeats returns to Classical themes in “Colonus’ Praise. ” He ironically praises the civilization and refinements of the place where Oedipus met his horrible end and continues with Classical allusions in “Wisdom. He addresses his leaps back and forth in time in “The Fool by the Roadside,” casting the poet as the fool for attempting to make events run from “grave to cradle” instead of in their natural order. “Owen Aherne and his Dancers” addresses a different type of foolishness, namely the love of an old man for a younger girl. “A Man Young and Old” traces the speaker’s life from his first love to his knowledge of “the secrets of the Old. ” Yeats ends the collection with two poems that bring the reader back away from Classicism to Ireland, and to Yeats’ familiar circle of theosophists. The Three Monuments” is a satirical observation on the three monuments that stand in the middle of Dublin, the irony being that they are of men that are heroes, but could also be considered morally corrupt. “All Soul’s Night,” features the speaker calling upon old friends who have died to come drink the spirit of his wine. By assigning ghosts the possibility of joy, Yeats seems to have reconciled somewhat the agony of death that preoccupies him throughout this collection. Nine hundred and nineteen Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen
The beautiful belongings that had astonished the mob are all destroyed. There had been an ancient olive statue, ivories, ornamental bronze and stone. The mob, which the speaker calls “we,” had pretty toys in childhood, including laws that functioned and were not vulnerable to threats or violence. This way of life, however, was “unlearned” when the mob formed. Now the nightmare is everywhere, says the speaker. Drunk soldiers murder mothers without punishment. Everyone fears everyone else during the night. “We” thought we had an ideology, but we are nothing but animals fighting in a hole.
Anyone who thinks clearly knows that nothing permanent, whether intellectual or physical, can be built during this period in history. No one dares to object when the ivories, the statues, and all the other beautiful things are broken. As Loie Fuller’s Chinese dancers were burnt, the new year rips in, and the men dance like barbarians. [pic][pic]Some poet has already compared the soul to a swan. The speaker is satisfied with that, so long as the swan knows what it looks like. A man thinking alone is lost in a labyrinth.
A Platonist says that to cast off the body for thought is the luckiest death. The image of a dead swan brings a rage to end all things, and stops thought halfway. “We” learn we were crazy when we thought we would fix all things. “We” who seven years ago talked of honor and truth now shriek with the cries of the animal in the pit. The speaker invites the reader: let us mock the great, who toiled greatly and left a monument. Come let us mock the wise, the good. Mock mockers who would not lift a hand to help the good, wise or great to stop the storm, for we deal in mockery.
Violence on the road includes some attractive riders, horses with flowers, dusty wind, and thunder of mass movement. If any touch a girl, all are angry or lustful. The dust drops for insolent Robert Atisson, with whom Lady Kyteler was in love. Analysis The title of this poem is the year in which the Anglo-Irish War began. Yeats had agonizingly mixed feelings about the independence movement in Ireland. He was in love with Maude Gonne, a revolutionary, and had been steeped in the Irish mythology that the IRA used as propaganda to get young men to ight (they often spoke of the heroism of Cuchulain, for example). However, Yeats was from an Anglo-Irish family, and was born a member of the Protestant Ascendancy – the very group that saw to lose from Irish independence. Yeats’ identification with this group was always ambiguous, but this poem does express horror at the destruction of their belongings. Yeats had a strong affinity for art and history, so it is with horror that the speaker describes the destruction of art in Ireland’s large (Protestant) manors.
This poem is more regular in form than many of Yeats’ looser lyrical poems, even rhyming alternate lines toward the end. This represents the longing for order that juxtaposes the subject matter of the poem. This is a highly unflattering portrait of the IRA, who were very popular among the Irish during the Anglo-Irish war. Yeats describes them as full of bloodlust, rather than as being guided by a strong ideological purpose. Toward the end of the poem, we see that the destruction is not only of the artwork in the great houses, but of thought itself.
The speaker self-identifies as a trafficker in mockery, indicating that even thinkers have lost their way. The last stanza returns to visceral imagery, and the speaker indicates the seductive nature of the violence that is sweeping Ireland. The horses and men are powerful, beautiful, and strong, and announce their sexuality without fear. But in their wake are ancient witches and demons, indicating that the brute feelings that have been called up in support of the Anglo-Irish War are more ancient and more sinister.
Themes, Motifs and Symbols Themes The Relationship Between Art and Politics Yeats believed that art and politics were intrinsically linked and used his writing to express his attitudes toward Irish politics, as well as to educate his readers about Irish cultural history. From an early age, Yeats felt a deep connection to Ireland and his national identity, and he thought that British rule negatively impacted Irish politics and social life. His arly compilation of folklore sought to teach a literary history that had been suppressed by British rule, and his early poems were odes to the beauty and mystery of the Irish countryside. This work frequently integrated references to myths and mythic figures, including Oisin and Cuchulain. As Yeats became more involved in Irish politics—through his relationships with the Irish National Theatre, the Irish Literary Society, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and Maud Gonne—his poems increasingly resembled political manifestos.
Yeats wrote numerous poems about Ireland’s involvement in World War I (“An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” , “A Meditation in Time of War” ), Irish nationalists and political activists (“On a Political Prisoner” , “In Memory of Eva Gore Booth and Con Markiewicz” ), and the Easter Rebellion (“Easter 1916” ). Yeats believed that art could serve a political function: poems could both critique and comment on political events, as well as educate and inform a population.
The Impact of Fate and the Divine on History [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]Yeats’s devotion to mysticism led to the development of a unique spiritual and philosophical system that emphasized the role of fate and historical determinism, or the belief that events have been preordained. Yeats had rejected Christianity early in his life, but his lifelong study of mythology, Theosophy, spiritualism, philosophy, and the occult demonstrate his profound interest in the divine and how it interacts with humanity.
Over the course of his life, he created a complex system of spirituality, using the image of interlocking gyres (similar to spiral cones) to map out the development and reincarnation of the soul. Yeats believed that history was determined by fate and that fate revealed its plan in moments when the human and divine interact. A tone of historically determined inevitability permeates his poems, particularly in descriptions of situations of human and divine interaction. The divine takes on many forms in Yeats’s poetry, sometimes literally (“Leda and the Swan” ), sometimes abstractly (“The Second Coming” ).
In other poems, the divine is only gestured to (as in the sense of the divine in the Byzantine mosaics in “Sailing to Byzantium” ). No matter what shape it takes, the divine signals the role of fate in determining the course of history. The Transition from Romanticism to Modernism Yeats started his long literary career as a romantic poet and gradually evolved into a modernist poet. When he began publishing poetry in the 1880s, his poems had a lyrical, romantic style, and they focused on love, longing and loss, and Irish myths.
His early writing follows the conventions of romantic verse, utilizing familiar rhyme schemes, metric patterns, and poetic structures. Although it is lighter than his later writings, his early poetry is still sophisticated and accomplished. Several factors contributed to his poetic evolution: his interest in mysticism and the occult led him to explore spiritually and philosophically complex subjects. Yeats’s frustrated romantic relationship with Maud Gonne caused the starry-eyed romantic idealism of his early work to become more knowing and cynical.
Additionally, his concern with Irish subjects evolved as he became more closely connected to nationalist political causes. As a result, Yeats shifted his focus from myth and folklore to contemporary politics, often linking the two to make potent statements that reflected political agitation and turbulence in Ireland and abroad. Finally, and most significantly, Yeats’s connection with the changing face of literary culture in the early twentieth century led him to pick up some of the styles and conventions of the modernist poets.
The modernists experimented with verse forms, aggressively engaged with contemporary politics, challenged poetic conventions and the literary tradition at large, and rejected the notion that poetry should simply be lyrical and beautiful. These influences caused his poetry to become darker, edgier, and more concise. Although he never abandoned the verse forms that provided the sounds and rhythms of his earlier poetry, there is still a noticeable shift in style and tone over the course of his career.
Motifs Irish Nationalism and Politics Throughout his literary career, Yeats incorporated distinctly Irish themes and issues into his work. He used his writing as a tool to comment on Irish politics and the home rule movement and to educate and inform people about Irish history and culture. Yeats also used the backdrop of the Irish countryside to retell stories and legends from Irish folklore. As he became increasingly involved in nationalist politics, his poems took on a patriotic tone.
Yeats addressed Irish politics in a variety of ways: sometimes his statements are explicit political commentary, as in “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” in which he addresses the hypocrisy of the British use of Irish soldiers in World War I. Such poems as “Easter 1916” and “In Memory of Eva Gore Booth and Con Markiewicz” address individuals and events connected to Irish nationalist politics, while “The Second Coming” and “Leda and the Swan” subtly include the idea of Irish nationalism.
In these poems, a sense of cultural crisis and conflict seeps through, even though the poems are not explicitly about Ireland. By using images of chaos, disorder, and war, Yeats engaged in an understated commentary on the political situations in Ireland and abroad. Yeats’s active participation in Irish politics informed his poetry, and he used his work to further comment on the nationalist issues of his day. Mysticism and the Occult Yeats had a deep fascination with mysticism and the occult, and his poetry is infused with a sense of the otherworldly, the spiritual, and the unknown.
His interest in the occult began with his study of Theosophy as a young man and expanded and developed through his participation in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a mystical secret society. Mysticism figures prominently in Yeats’s discussion of the reincarnation of the soul, as well as in his philosophical model of the conical gyres used to explain the journey of the soul, the passage of time, and the guiding hand of fate. Mysticism and the occult occur again and again in Yeats’s poetry, most explicitly in “The Second Coming” but also in poems such as “Sailing to Byzantium” and “The Magi” (1916).
The rejection of Christian principles in favor of a more supernatural approach to spirituality creates a unique flavor in Yeats’s poetry that impacts his discussion of history, politics, and love. Irish Myth and Folklore Yeats’s participation in the Irish political system had origins in his interest in Irish myth and folklore. Irish myth and folklore had been suppressed by church doctrine and British control of the school system. Yeats used his poetry as a tool for re-educating the Irish population about their heritage and as a strategy for developing Irish nationalism.
He retold entire folktales in epic poems and plays, such as The Wanderings of Oisin (1889) and The Death of Cuchulain (1939), and used fragments of stories in shorter poems, such as “The Stolen Child” (1886), which retells a parable of fairies luring a child away from his home, and “Cuchulain’s Fight with the Sea” (1925), which recounts part of an epic where the Irish folk hero Cuchulain battles his long-lost son by at the edge of the sea. Other poems deal with subjects, images, and themes culled from folklore. In “Who Goes with Fergus? (1893) Yeats imagines a meeting with the exiled wandering king of Irish legend, while “The Song of Wandering Aengus” (1899) captures the experiences of the lovelorn god Aengus as he searches for the beautiful maiden seen in his dreams. Most important, Yeats infused his poetry with a rich sense of Irish culture. Even poems that do not deal explicitly with subjects from myth retain powerful tinges of indigenous Irish culture. Yeats often borrowed word selection, verse form, and patterns of imagery directly from traditional Irish myth and folklore.
Symbols The Gyre [pic][pic][pic][pic] [pic][pic][pic][pic] [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic] The gyre, a circular or conical shape, appears frequently in Yeats’s poems and was developed as part of the philosophical system outlined in his book A Vision. At first, Yeats used the phases of the moon to articulate his belief that history was structured in terms of ages, but he later settled upon the gyre as a more useful model. He chose the image of interlocking yres—visually represented as two intersecting conical spirals—to symbolize his philosophical belief that all things could be described in terms of cycles and patterns. The soul (or the civilization, the age, and so on) would move from the smallest point of the spiral to the largest before moving along to the other gyre. Although this is a difficult concept to grasp abstractly, the image makes sense when applied to the waxing and waning of a particular historical age or the evolution of a human life from youth to adulthood to old age.
The symbol of the interlocking gyres reveals Yeats’s belief in fate and historical determinism as well as his spiritual attitudes toward the development of the soul, since creatures and events must evolve according to the conical shape. With the image of the gyre, Yeats created a shorthand reference in his poetry that stood for his entire philosophy of history and spirituality. The Swan Swans are a common symbol in poetry, often used to depict idealized nature. Yeats employs this convention in “The Wild Swans at Coole” (1919), in which the regal birds represent an unchanging, flawless ideal.
In “Leda and the Swan,” Yeats rewrites the Greek myth of Zeus and Leda to comment on fate and historical inevitability: Zeus disguises himself as a swan to rape the unsuspecting Leda. In this poem, the bird is fearsome and destructive, and it possesses a divine power that violates Leda and initiates the dire c