Yeats was born and educated in Dublin, but spent his childhood in County Sligo. He studied poetry in his youth and from an early age was fascinated by both Irish legends and the occult. Those topics feature in the first phase of his work, which lasted roughly until the turn of the 20th century. From 1900, Yeats' poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life. The destruction of the passing of time has become a very commonly expressed topic in poetry. WB Yeats is one of the many poets who have expressed the unstoppable destroying capability and the loss of beauty as the grains of sand slip through the hourglass of time. The Wild Swans at Coole and In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz are two pieces of Yeats’ work that illustrates the ageing process and its consequences that all people choose to avoid. In The Wild Swans at Coole, Yeats doesn’t hold back on his expression of the passing of time. “The trees are in their autumn beauty, the woodland paths are dry” Yeats is the “autumn” of his life, a time where he feels constantly empty, hurt and broken. The “nineteenth autumn has come upon him” and “upon the brimming water among the stones” are the same “nine and fifty swans” which had been there nineteen years earlier. The mist of time is clouding over. He feels that his dreams have been shattered and the remaining pieces were carried away upon the swans “clamorous wings” as they scattered and took off in flight. His “heart is sore” as he looks upon the swans, he admires the beauty of the swans whilst they evoke a feeling of a sorrowful longing for youth in the pit of Yeats’ stomach. Nineteen year ago he “trod with a lighter tread” when the loss of innocence and the baggage of life and old age wasn’t weighing him down. He was a happier man then and the human condition was only hibernating in the back of his mind. He comes to the conclusion that he will never be happy and will die as a lonely old man. I really enjoyed studying this poem. It felt like I was experiencing a philosophical journey with Yeats a he battles against the passing of time. It painted a beautiful word picture and created an atmosphere that made my mind wonder and reflect, to look at my own life and how it has changed as time passed. The incongruous detail is mind boggling, but then again the quintessential of a poet isn’t always as stereotypical as it seems.
In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz really plucked at my heart strings. The sorrowful and emotional image of Lisadell House, where the beautiful image of the “two girls in silk kimonos” who grace the scene, are quickly transformed into lifeless shadows like the” raving autumn sheers blossom from the summer’s wreath.” Con Markiewicz “drags out lonely years whilst conspiring in slum attempting to evoke people’s interest in Irish freedom after she was pardoned from condemned death. She was transformed by time into a skeleton of her former self. A heart breaking image floods into my mind of an abandoned, ill elderly woman wandering the streets alone, stopping people and debating Irish freedom. Yeats highlight that Eva, the other beauty became “withered, old and skeleton gaunt.” This image graphically displays the ageing and the decay of beauty that accompanies the passing of time. Yeats is struggling to understand what “all the folly and the fight” is about. The theme ‘passing of time’ is present in many more of Yeats’ poems but in my opinion these two poems display his concern perfectly as he reflects on life in all its beauty and sadness. He communicates with ghosts of his old, dearly missed friends “dear shadows, now you know it all” it seems that he is asking them for guidance and an explanation for the mystery of life. Yeats comes to the conclusion that “the innocent and the...
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