“Yeats uses evocative language to create poetry that includes both personal reflection and public commentary.” Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with reference to both themes and language found in the poetry of W B Yeats on your course.
“Easter 1916” is a prime example of how Yeats uses striking language to create poetry that has both personal reflection and public commentary. I was impressed by the clever structure of the poem. It has four stanzas, two containing sixteen lines and two containing twenty-four lines, thus commemorating the date of the Easter rising (24th April 1916). I also admired Yeats for having the humility to admit that he had been wrong about the people involved in the rising. Just as Yeats publicly condemned the patriots in “September 1913”, Yeats issues a public apology to the patriots.
Through the use of repetition “polite meaningless words” and “transformed utterly:/ A terrible beauty is born.” Yeats clearly suggests the points he is trying to get across to the reader. The oxymoron “terrible beauty” is used to show just how terrible but also how beautiful the result of the rising was. The use of sibilance “so sensitive” and alliteration “casual comedy” and “What is it but nightfall?/ No, no ,no not night” help the reader to visualise what Yeats I trying to show. Yeats uses a stone in a stream as a metaphor for how stubborn the people who supported the Easter rising were, but this is open to many other interpretations.
I would agree that Yeats uses expressive language in his poetry which, at times, can create both personal reflection and pubic commentary. His poems “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, “The Wild Swans at Coole”, “An Irish Airman Foresees his Death” and “Easter 1916” are almost all saturated with evocative, descriptive language, deeply explored personal feelings, universal, but profound, subject matter and strong political opinions.
Yeats’s poem “The Lake Isle of Inisfree” is a perfect example of how Yeats used striking language to create poetry that is personally reflective, but also a public commentary. “The Lake Isle of Inisfree” is one of Yeats’s first great poems, and one of his most enduring.
Yeats uses pastoral imagery to prove his point. Yeats use assonance and alliteration to recreate the rhythmic pulse of the tide “lake water lapping”. His use of assonance: “comes dropping slow” and “low sounds by the shore”, slows the reader down as they are reading the poem. Yeats lulls the reader into his idyllic fantasy, until the penultimate line brings the reader back to reality of his drab urban existence “While I stand on the roadway, or the pavements grey”. The poet dreams of moving away from the city to live on the island “I will arise now and go to Innisfree”.
Yeats wishes to escape to a beautiful place with wonderful lights and colours “there midnights all a glimmer and noon’s a purple glow” he celebrates the beauty of a private place on a country lake, but is dragged back to reality by the “pavements grey”. Here is a strong juxtaposition between the colour and beauty of the island and the mundane grey concrete jungle of the city.
Through his poetry, Yeats eulogises nature and he reminds us that nature is a very powerful force. The final line—“I hear it in the deep heart’s core”—is a crucial statement for Yeats. The implication that the truths of the “deep heart’s core” are essential to life is one that would preoccupy Yeats for the rest of his career as a poet; the struggle to remain true to the deep heart’s core may be thought of as Yeats’s primary undertaking as a poet. We get a very personal opinion from Yeats in “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, of which is his love of nature. This poem is almost a call for everyone to reject the drab, dull and complicated life of the city and to move away and adopt a simpler way of living. In this sense you could argue that the poem is a mix of both personal reflection and public commentary.
There is no doubt that in “The Wild Swans at Coole”, a very reflective Yeats creates a personal poem in which he contemplates the passage and impact of time using strong, vivid, pastoral imagery and moving language. Yeats sets up dynamic contrasts between youth and old age, and permanence and change.
One of the most unusual features of Yeats’s poetic career is the fact that the poet came into his continued to grow more confident and more innovative with his writing until almost the day he died. There are memorable images of the beauty and tranquillity of the natural world. Yeats uses sibilance “still sky” to create images that are easy to visualise. He also uses onomatopoeia “clamorous wings”, “They paddle in the cold” and “The bell-beat” to bring the reader side him as he looks at and listens to the swans. Yeats’s use of alliteration and juxtaposition “cold/ Companionable stream”, also adds another dimension to how we visualise the imagery. The slow rhythm and assonance “among the stones” help to reflect the poet’s meditative mood. The old weary poet is contrasted with the seemingly youthful, energetic, passionate swans.
The passage of time and transience of life are strong features in “The Wild Swans at Coole”. Yeats is struck by the fact that that nineteen years had passed since he first saw the swans for the first time at Coole Park. Yeats no longer “trod with a lighter tread”, he has burdens now. The setting of the poem is important, Yeats is in the autumnal period of his life, and the poem is set in the autumn. Yeats is both fascinated and jealous of the Swan, and how they are “Unwearied still, lover by lover” and “Their hearts have not grown old”, Yeats is intrigued by their timelessness and the permanent presence of beauty.
The simple narrative of the poem 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 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. “The Wild Swans at Coole” is a deeply reflective, personal poem for Yeats and he uses evocative language to show us this. In “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”, Yeats creates a public commentary through the use of expressive language. Yeats wrote this poem as an epitaph for Major Robert Gregory after he was shot down and killed accidentally by an Italian pilot. It is Major Robert Gregory’s imagined voice that we are listening to throughout the poem.
Yeats uses an ABAB rhyming scheme in the poem to make it memorable and to give it an easy flow when reading it. Yeats uses assonance “do not love” and “In balance with this life, this death.” to either slow down the reader or speed them up to make them feel happy or sad. Alliteration “Those that” is used to help us create an image in our head easier. There is a certainty about the man’s death in the first two line “I know that I shall meet my fate/ Somewhere among the clouds above;”
There is a strong sense of a bleak view of life in this poem. The airman knows that he will die in battle, he also knows that he will be shot down “Somewhere among the clouds above”. Even though the airman knows he will die, he still volunteers. The airman has no solid reason for joining the air force, he doesn’t hate the Germans, he doesn’t love the British, he didn’t volunteer to help his local people, he wasn’t forced to join the air force, he wasn’t inspired by politicians to do it and he didn’t volunteer out of a sense of duty. He joined out of “lonely impulse of delight”.
This simple poem is one of Yeats’s most explicit statements about the First World War, and illustrates both his active political consciousness (“Those I fight I do not hate, / Those I guard I do not hate”). The airman does not hate or love his enemies or his allies, his country will neither be benefited nor hurt by any outcome of the war, he does not fight for political or moral motives but because of his “impulse of delight”; his past life seems a waste, his future life seems that it would be a waste, and his death will balance his life.