Yeats Essay

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W.B Yeats Essay

Write an essay in which you give your reasons for liking/not liking the poetry of W.B Yeats. Support your points by reference to or quotation from, the poems that are on your course.

In my opinion and from the sample of his poetry which I have studied, I would say that the poetry of W.B Yeats is very enjoyable to read. The themes of his poems are often easily identified with and his simple style of writing makes his poetry easy to interpret and understand. Although easily engaging with the themes of his poetry contributes to my liking of Yeats’ poetry, it is his gift of writing that has an impact on me. His use of powerful contrasts and breath-taking imagery easily make Yeats one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. His poetry is interesting and thought provoking. As Seamus Heaney once said, Yeats “had this marvellous gift for beating the scrap metal of the day-to-day life into a ringing bell”.

One the themes of Yeats’ poetry which interested me quite a lot was the theme of escapism. This theme is apparent in two of the poems which I have studied, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and “Sailing to Byzantium”. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” expresses Yeats’ longing to return home as he was in London at the time when he wrote it. The poet desires to escape from the world of grim reality to a pastoral utopia. In “Sailing to Byzantium”, Yeats’ once more is longing to escape but in contrast to “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, he longs to escape the process of ageing as opposed to escaping from a physical place. The poet’s desire to return home is made clear in “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” as the poet describes the idyllic life of self-sufficiency “nine bean rows will I have there” and “a hive for the honey bee”. A place of great tranquillity is created in this poem, a place which we all aspire to go to “ And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow”. There is a sharp contrast in this poem, between the pastoral utopia of Innisfree and the dull, drab, urban world suggested by the image of “pavements grey”. The poem, “Sailing to Byzantium” concerns a voyage to perfection. In ordinary life, there is no perfection, a fact that Yeats recognises in the phrase “dying generations”. He rages against the weakness of an old man “a paltry thing” and claims that the body is “a dying animal”. Yeats intends to turn his back on the ageing process and seek immortality, hence his journey to Byzantium. Similar to “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, Yeats believes that the place he wants to escape to is a place of perfection. Another similarity between these two poems is the use of contrast. In “Sailing to Byzantium” we are given a chilling image of the thin, wasting frame of an old man as a scarecrow in tattered clothes “A tattered coat upon a stick” and in contrast to this, we are shown the wonders of intellect as the poet tells us that all schools of art study what they compose and what they produce “Monuments of unageing intellect”. I found this theme particularly interesting as I could easily identify with it. Yeats longed for a retreat from all the pressures of civilisation (such as in “The Lake Isle of Innisfree) and from a process which we are subject to, ageing (such as in “Sailing to Byzantium”) and I feel we all can identify with him.

Linking on from the previous theme was another theme which I found quite remarkable, the process of ageing. This theme is shown in the Yeats’ poems, “The Wild Swans at Coole” and “Sailing to Byzantium”. “The Wild Swans at Coole” is an intensely personal poem of Yeats’, which conveys the poet’s sadness as he approaches the autumn of his life and the beauty and continuity of nature. The swans in this poem remind Yeats that he is ageing. This fact upsets him quite a lot. The swans are counted carefully “nine-and-fifty”, and are all paired off but one. Perhaps this lonely swan represents Yeats himself, another contributing factor to his loneliness. The poet laments...
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