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Commentary: The Scholars by W.B. Yeats.

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Introduction

Commentary: The Scholars by W.B. Yeats. William Butler Yeats is a renowned turn of the century poet. He composed a countless number of works while alive, one of which was The Scholars. The Scholars was written in two stanzas, each comprised of six verses. While on the surface level this poem may not carry much deep meaning, a little research and understanding of the more meaningful allusions and other literary devices within the poem reveals a whole other level. The first stanza is the more bland of the two. Yeats starts out by writing: "Bald heads, forgetful of their sins." Here we see Yeats referring to the scholars as 'bald heads', which can say a lot. First off, by the tone and way in which he uses it, along with the fact that bald is somewhat socially unacceptable and therefore implies a negative connotation, we can assume he is saying it with a negative connotation. 'Forgetful of their sins' refers to the idea that as the scholars write commentaries on Yeats' work, and on others, they criticize the work as though they had forgotten their own mistakes, or sins. The next verse, "Old, learned, respectable bald heads", shows that even though Yeats is referring to the critics and scholars as being the 'bald heads', he is still showing them some respect. ...read more.

Middle

Notice that the rhythm of the first four verses had been a bit choppy, and this helps the flow of the last two to be a bit more distinct. The first stanza is comprised of six verses, the first four of which are eight syllables each, the fifth verse is six syllables and the last is nine. This struck me to be a bit irregular. Thus far through the poem, the speaker has remained omniscient and the tone has remained calm. In the second stanza, the speaker is still omniscient, however the tone along with the rhythm changes a great deal. Yeats not only says 'ALL' at the beginning of each verse, referring to the 'bald heads', but he even splits the first verse into two smaller verses: "All shuffle there; all cough in ink." Notice that the 'all' really affects the rhythm of the poem, and puts a lot of emphasis on the scholars. Again, like in the first stanza, Yeats has used repetition. Here, instead of having the second and fourth verses rhyme, it's the first and third. The most important two lines are the last two, which again rhyme with each other yet apart from the rest. The first 4 verses of this stanza all each have eight syllables, and the first was subdivided into two smaller verses, each of four syllables. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is saying that they translate or comment on something based on what the other scholars had commented about it or how the other scholars had translated it. 'Lord, what would they say' is asking just that; if the scholars could step back and look at the way they are mistranslating and misinterpreting the works, what would they say, how would they react. 'Did their Catullus walk that way' is asking if the individual scholar's interpretation was actually what the interpretation of Catullus was as a whole. Basically, here Yeats is asking the scholars if they actually agree with what they had written, and if their translation or commentary would not have been different had it not been influenced by the rest of the scholars. When one first reads this poem, it is hard to understand its meaning with out already knowing about Catullus and the situation that surrounded him. I found the poem to be rather meaningless and bland prior to researching Catullus. There was a point where I believed this poem was an allegory, referring to a deeper meaning. But now I don't really believe that it is an allegory so much as it is a metaphor. Catullus and his mistranslations and misinterpretations is a metaphor for the possible interpretations of Yeats' work by the scholars. All and all, this poem when from a seemingly bland poem into something rich and full of meaning. - 1 - ...read more.

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