In Memory of W.B. Yeats Essay

In Memory Of W B Yeats Term paper

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An Analysis of In Memory of W.B. Yeats Friends often share stories or poems of loved one at their funeral. This helps to ease their pain and can also express accomplishments of the deceased. When W.B. Yeats passed away, one of his contemporaries, W.H. Auden, wrote a poem in memory of him. Auden’s poem entitled In Memory of W.B. Yeats, presents the life of Yeats from Auden’s perspective in three different sections. Using literary techniques such as diction, varied meter and rhyme, alliteration, and personification, Auden comments on poetry and its ability to outlive its author. Each of the three sections of this poem is different. The first section is composed of five stanzas each containing six lines. This mainly touches on the death of Yeats and contains neither meter nor rhyme. The second section is one stanza composed of ten lines and is a transitional section showing the human aspect of Yeats. It is written in iambic hexameter with a rhyme scheme of abbaccdeed. The last section is made up of nine stanzas each only four lines long. It is written mostly in iambic meter, although each line contains seven syllables due the amphimacers at the beginning of the line. This section touches on the nature of poetry and its impact and its rhyme scheme is aabbcc etc. In the first stanza Auden immediately begins throwing words at his readers which imply decay and death such as, “disappeared” and “dead of winter”. The natural surroundings reflect Yeats death as the “brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,/And snow disfigured the public statues”. Auden uses personification and alliteration in his description stating that “The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day”. The last two lines contain alliteration and are repeated again at the end of this section: “What instruments we have agree/ The day of his death was a dark cold day”. Auden again describes nature in his second stanza, except this time he is portraying how nature pays no attention to Yeats’ death. “The wolves ran on…” despite his death and “The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays.” Auden utilizes pathetic fallacy in that last line giving emotions to the river. The final line, “The death of the poet was kept from his poems”, also illustrates how life keeps going on after Yeats dies. During the third stanza Auden focuses more on the actual passing of Yeats. He uses geographical diction to describe his Yeats’ death: “The provinces of his body..”, “The squares of his mind…”, and “Silence invaded the suburbs”. Auden also personified silence in that last line. Auden employs alliteration as well, “The current of his feeling failed”. Yeats “became his admirers”, living on in their memory. The fourth section discusses what will become of Yeats. His works are “scattered among a hundred cities”. He finds “his happiness in another kind of wood”, a bookcase as opposed to the forest. Yeats survives “in the guts of the living”. The last stanza pays attention to the future making an allusion to the “Bourse”, the French stock exchange, and juxtaposing that with “the poor”. However they will all go about their daily lives “each in the cell of himself”. The significance of his poetry will become mitigated because only “a few thousand will think of this day…The day of his death…” Auden repeats the last two lines from the first stanza, which alters the number of lines from six to eight. Auden’s second section comments on what Yeats had to deal with during his lifetime, and how his “gift survived it all”. Auden gives us examples of what he overcame, “The parish of rich women, physical decay,/Yourself”. Auden suggests that the conflict between Ireland and England “hurt [Yeats] into poetry”. Employing inverted syntax Auden states that “Ireland has her madness and her weather still” because Yeats’ poetry did not affect it. Poetry “survives” because it is an art form and it can stand alone with its integrity. It “flows…From ranches of isolation” , a cliché that we are all isolated from each other, and from “busy griefs” which are our everyday burdens. The rhyme has shifted from nonexistent in the first section, to near rhyme in this section, and perfects itself to end rhyme in the last section. Auden’s final section comments on the nature of poetry and begins with the death of Yeats. Using personification and apostrophe Auden makes a request, “Earth, receive an honoured guest”, which refers to the physical body of Yeats. Auden also personifies time mentioning that it is “intolerant of the brave and innocent,/ And indifferent…To a beautiful physique”. This is the universal truth that the average person is forgotten in time. However on the other hand time will “worship language” because words can never die. It “forgives/Everyone by whom it lives”. Auden is stating that time will “forgive” an author if they write words that are great because they will be remembered by those words. Auden gives examples of this by making allusions to “Kipling” and “Paul Cluadel”. In the fifth stanza of this section Auden shifts his focus to the present time and the events taking place around him. He is writing this poem during the dawn of World War II and illustrating how “All the dogs of Europe bark,/ And the living nations wait,/ Each sequestered in its hate”. Auden comments on the stupidity of war claiming that “Intellectual disgrace,/ Stares from every human face”. Next Auden instructs the poet in an apostrophe to “follow right” and “with your unconstraining voice,/Still persuade us to rejoice”. Alluding to the biblical story of creation Auden entreats poets to, “Make a vineyard of the curse [and]…let the healing fountains start”. In Auden’s last two lines he juxtaposes “prison” and “free” petitioning the poet to “Teach the free man how to praise”. That last line sums up the poem to make an excellent epitaph for William Butler Yeats. Auden breaks down his poem into three sections, each addressing different topics, but all conecting back to Yeats. These sections can also be look upon as stages in Yeats life. The first section represents his early years as a poet emphasized by the lack of meter and rhyme. Both of which also contribute to the sobering mood of Yeats’ death. The second section acts as a transition in the poem and can also stand for a transition in Yeats’ life which perhaps he accomplished by overcoming the obstacles described. The last section of Auden’s poem is written with flowing rhyme scheme and meter and suggests a time in Yeats life where he reached the pinnacle of his art. This is also the section where Auden described the benefit of words not only to the author, but to society as well and shows the triumphant end to Yeats’ life.

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