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AS and A Level: W.B. Yeats

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Knowledge of these contexts will help you to understand Yeats' poetry

  1. 1 Irish nationalism.
  2. 2 The Easter rising.
  3. 3 Irish myths and legends.
  4. 4 Keats' relationship with Maud Gonne.
  5. 5 The poet's interest in spiritualism, mysticism and the occult.

Common errors by students who are studying Yeats' poems

  1. 1 Do not gloss over the difficulties in Yeats’ poems. Sometimes there are problems of interpretation, and it is acceptable to acknowledge obscurities and speculate on meaning. This is preferable to simply ignoring an obscure line or image.
  2. 2 Check quotations. Misquotations, including incorrect spellings, always fail to impress.
  3. 3 Remember that commenting on technique is as important as discussing content and meaning.
  4. 4 Use the apostrophe accurately. If you are referring to the poet by name, there is no apostrophe (for example, Yeats describes.) The apostrophe should be used to indicate possession (for example Yeats’ poems, or more rarely Yeats’s poems.) The form Yeat’s is never accurate (because it would indicate that his name is Yeat.)

A private symbol is one that a writer or artist assigns a personal and individual meaning to, as opposed to a universally recognised symbol (for example: the rose = love.) Yeats employed various private symbols, and researching their meanings will aid an understanding of the poems. Some common private symbols in Yeats’ poetry are

  1. 1 The gyre.
  2. 2 The dancer.
  3. 3 Birds, including swans.
  4. 4 The terrifying beat.
  5. 5 The city of Byzantium.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 4
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    Sailing to Byzantium

    3 star(s)

    Byzantium (which was renamed Constantinople, then Istanbul) was a city in the Eastern Roman Empire. The journey to Byzantium is not a literal one, but a metaphorical one which represents the acceptance of mortality, artistic splendour and a way of immortalising oneself through art. Art is an artificial creation, and is something which can stand the test of time and will remain beautiful from the moment it is first created. The use of symbolism and themes are very prevalent in conveying this message of mortality, which leads me to my guiding questions: 'How does Yeats use language to distinguish the difference between mortality and immortality for the reader?'

    • Word count: 1969
  2. Marked by a teacher

    By close examination of "An Irish Airman Forsees his Death" and one other appropriately selected poem, discuss the effectiveness of the poetic methods used by Yeats in his presentation of heroic figures from his own lifetime.

    3 star(s)

    Through his effective use of poetic methods - imagery, language, form and structure Yeats allows the reader a clear insight into his personal reaction to these heroic figures. "An Irish Airman Forsees his Death" expresses Yeats' glowing admiration for his recently deceased friend Robert Gregory, son of Lady Gregory of Coole Park. Robert Gregory was considered by Yeats as a "dear" friend and a "perfect man". He was killed in action on the Italian front in the First World War in 1918.

    • Word count: 1143
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Commentary on 'The Wild Swans at Coole' by W.B. Yeats

    3 star(s)

    This helps to endure a feeling of movement/flow and it reinforces the calm tone created by the other literacy techniques used. The use of words such as 'October', 'Autumn' and 'Twilight' not only create the sense of time at which this poem is set, but all three evoke images of nearing the end of a time period and could be interpreted as a refection of Yeats's idea that he is nearing the end of his life. Most of the images Yeats uses throughout are of a natural and almost elementary theme, 'paths', 'stones', 'sky' and 'water' and this is introduced

    • Word count: 1098
  4. September 1913 vs Easter 1916

    Yeats is possibly writing this at a time were the aftermath of the war was only viewable. Yeats opens the poem by describing a nightmarish scene - "Turning and turning in the widening gyre The Falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold" A frightening image of a falcon and a falconer arising into the heavens were the falcon is unable to sense the falconer. "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world The blood dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned" I believe when Yeats describes the ceremony of innocence being drowned he is referring to Herods massacre of the innocent children at the time of Jesus' birth.

    • Word count: 924
  5. W.B. Yeats - A Fisherman vs September 1913

    to the eyes This wise and simple man" The method of Rhyme and language used in the first stanza is 'simple' for Yeats. Being simple it helps to illustrate his point that 'simple' men like this don't exist in the society of the Ireland of his time. The words and sentence structure are remarkably restrained and plain for Yeats style of poetry. In the second stanza Yeats goes on to mention: "The living men that I hate, The dead man that I loved" Here Yeats is referring to William Martin Murphy, the leader of the Dublin 1913 lockout as a man that he hates and John Synge as the man he loved.

    • Word count: 1143
  6. Sunil Mirpuri

    Moreover, the word "still" is a motif throughout the poem as it is repeated in various occasions. For example, when Yeats writes, "Unwearied still, lover by lover,/They paddle in the cold." In these lines, Yeats is referring to the swans as to being still, motionless. Since the swans are a symbol for time, it is reasonable to assume that Yeats is referring to his desire to remain still in time, motionless from his aging self. This idea is also expressed in the following line, "But now they drift on the still water,/Mysterious, beautiful."

    • Word count: 1557
  7. Analysis of Literary Devices: ""Leda and the Swan" ""Leda and the Swan" written by William Butler Yeats in 1928, is about a powerful god named Zeus

    In this poem, Yeats gives the swan humanlike qualities. A swan being able to rape Leda is personification. For example, the swan is rubbing Leda's thighs with his webs, "Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed / By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill," (2-3). A swan does not have the ability to rape a human, or caress Leda's thighs. In line 4, there is another example of personification, "He holds her helpless breast upon his breast."

    • Word count: 676
  8. Stealing Innocence

    (Rickman, 1). This historical analysis adds more to the argument that Leda truly was raped by the god. The tale is that when Zeus came down to earth he changed himself into a swan in order to disguise himself and commit the rape. The rape itself was violent and degrading stripping the poor girl of her innocence. Later, as the story goes, Leda gave birth to four children from the rape but most notably Helen and Clytemnestra. The first, Helen, would later go on to spark the infamous Trojan War and the latter, Clytemnestra, would kill the victorious king of the Greeks, Agamemnon.

    • Word count: 1485
  9. Yeats' Leda and the Swan

    Darkness suggests night time. He has her by the nape (back of neck). "He holds her helpless breast upon his breast" (4) suggests that the rapist is on top of Leda holding her so she can't move or fight back. Yeats uses alliteration to help bring the tension to the poem. In the second stanza, the speaker is describing the forceful intercourse. Lines five and six: "How can those terrified vague fingers push, The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?" suggests that he is forcefully thrusting his "finger" (5) into her and she is giving in because she knows she can't fight back.

    • Word count: 687
  10. Write a comparative discussion of 'Wild Swans at Coole' and 'The Second Coming' focusing on Yeats's varied themes and style

    Yeats seemed to take all these events as signs that the Christian ear was coming to an end and the birth of a new god, the poems poses the question of what form this new god will take. At the time the 'Wild Swans at Coole' was written, Yeats had proposed to Maude for a second time and been refused for a second time and some of Yeats's friends had been executed in the Easter Rising of 1916.

    • Word count: 531
  11. Poetry Analysis of W. H. Auden's "In Memory of W. B. Yeats"

    and the "disfigur[ing] of the public statues" (line 3). In fact, starting from the second stanza, Auden has made use of the metaphorical use of different parts of the nature like the "wolves" (line 8), the "evergreen forest" (line 8) and the "peasant river" (line 9) to represent the approaching of a terrible war in the Eastern Europe. In my opinion, Auden, in the third stanza, wisely draws a parallel between the dysfunction of Yeats' different body parts and the disruption of the European society so that by describing the chaos within Yeats' body, we get the idea of the tumult in the actual world.

    • Word count: 1920
  12. Language and Literature Assignment. Analyse 'The Stolen Child' By W.B Yeats.

    This use of metonymy is used by Yeats to aid the reader/listener to visualize an abstract idea. The speaker of the poem, an enticing faery, refers to the entire world when pointing out its troubles to the child. The effect of this generalization is to increase the impact of the issues, to show the child that within his reality there is no escaping such troubles. This adds considerable weight to the faeries persuasive tone that he has adopted in this poem.

    • Word count: 2028
  13. Poem Analysis: The Second Coming by W.B.Yeats

    This gyre also represents a whirlwind, or a storm that shakes the whole world. The falcon and falconer, as referring to a medieval sport, represent a leader and a follower. As the falcon cannot hear the falconer, it means that the followers cannot, or rather, do not want to follow and obey the leader anymore. Imagery is again painted in the fifth line, with the blood-dimmed tide representing an attack or a surge of emotion or action, with blood, meaning with violence. Civilized living, or the ceremony of innocence, by any means, no longer exists.

    • Word count: 698
  14. William Butler Yeats' poem "The Second Coming" is filled with metaphoric imagery that reflects the tumultuous times of Yeats' Ireland as well as its actual physical geography.

    (Cahill 21) Irish mysticism, the countryside and Yeats' religious background are readily evident in "The Second Coming." The first two lines present a vivid image of the falcon and the falconer, and image that young William would have witnessed many a time at his grandparents country home near Sligo which is of "mystical towers, lakes, swans, and mountains." (Hyman 44): Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; The center cannot hold; The image is of a falcon and falconer.

    • Word count: 1779
  15. In 1936 Yeats wrote, "I too have tried to be modern". How does his poetry reflect the modernist movement?

    One of Yeats' most famous and most anthologised poems is The Second Coming, which represents (in Yeats' conception) the end of modern history. The dramatic, fierce imagery that Yeats employs in the poem creates an apocalyptical world for the audience. The poem begins with the image of a falcon wheeling about in the sky, far away from the falconer who released it. The bird continues to wheel and gyre further and further away from the falconer. It gets so far away that it "cannot hear the falconer"(2). This is a metaphor for the loss control and it prepares us for the "mere anarchy" mentioned in line 4.

    • Word count: 2386
  16. Many issues led to Yeats love affair with Ireland souring, especially Maud Gonne and his dealings with her, the Elaine Gallery affair, the Death of Parnell and many others. This new sour affair with Ireland was easy seen.

    In one of the poems of this book, " September 1913", Yeats looked about him at the country, which he had served with such devotion and found nothing but dissolution. Seeing with sudden bitter clarity the littleness, the greyness, the meanness, the self-glorification, the prudish savagery and false piety gathering - as it seemed, incurably over the face of the land and her people he cried; "romantic Irelands dead and gone its with O'Leary in the grave". The volume "the green helmet" was carefully constructed.

    • Word count: 867
  17. 1881 Yeats and "The Countess Cathleen".

    Although she refused, she begged him for his friendship. In that year, with his mind obsessed with thoughts of her and her own obsession to deliver the Irish people from bondage, he wrote the play, "The Countess Cathleen", whose heroine he moulded in the image of his beloved; (Cathleen is a beautiful noble woman who - like Dorian Gray - sold her soul to the Devil so that her people may be saved from starvation, despite this act she eventually goes to heaven). The production of this play, which took place in 1899, caused much religious and political controversy.

    • Word count: 2037
  18. Leda and the Swan Commentary.

    However, the irony in the structure of this poem is extremely non-traditional. The reader sees violent images of rape rather than a traditional love sonnet. The structure of the poem also matches the structure of the mythological incident. The first quatrain depicts the assault of Leda (1-8), whereas "A sudden blow" initiates the octave; the second quatrain reflects Leda's emotions, whereas "A shudder in the lions" initiates the sestet (9-15). Between the first half of the sestet, "A shudder in the lions,"(9) which represents the moment of ejaculation, and the second half of it, which shows a receding into memory and the question for meaning, a cut line, "Being so caught up," (12)

    • Word count: 1011
  19. Sir James Connolly.

    Here he set up the Irish Socialist Republican Party in 1898. Its agenda was a combination of his two interests - nationalism and socialism. He published a newspaper called the Workers Republic in which he expressed his ideas. He soon became noted world wide and was invited to American to lecture on socialist topics. He returned to Belfast in 1911 after almost ten years in America and he became the local organiser of the new trade union, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, at the request of Jim Larkin. Because of his interest in Nationalism, he worked to reconcile Catholic adn nationalist workers with their Protestant and Unionist counterparts, and the dock strike of 1911 where they stood side by side showed that he certainly had some success.

    • Word count: 850
  20. The poem

    What he means is that the Scotch Quarter is richer than the Irish Quarter and they can afford residential houses but the Irish live in slums for the blind and halt. The word Scotch Quarter and Irish Quarter were intentionally placed together to show the divisions which existed at the time. We can also see the use of onomatopoeia when MacNeice says, "to the hooting of lost sirens and the clam of trams." MacNeice says in the third stanza that there was a stinking smell of chlorine and his lights looked over the Lough to the lights of Bangor, from

    • Word count: 710
  21. Examine three poems by Auden and Yeats and compare how they present the struggle of man.

    Yeats' work can be compared with the work of Auden as both often metaphorically represented a journey or quest. Both poets attempt to convey the struggle of man and in order to do these they implicitly insert this image in their poems. Yeats portrays his version of the struggle a man has to experience through life by portraying Irish society like an "enchanted...stone" as Ireland is immovable and "the living stream" represents life moving on around them. Alternatively, Auden presents his poem The Novelist in a sonnet form and reveals a novelist and his struggle to write a superior piece of work.

    • Word count: 2110
  22. Analysis of Leda and the Swan. Greek mythology.

    The poem begins with Yeats emphasising the brutality of Zeus' actions, describing the initial impact as a "sudden blow". The two words carry the connotation of brutality, urgency and forcefulness; the harshness of the word "sudden" consolidating the phrase's power. There is an implication that the action is unnaturally rapid, thus godlike and powerful. The power and forcefulness of Zeus' actions is reinforced as the line continues, with the word "great" used to describe the wings of the swan which represents him, while the harshness of harshness of the word "beating" re-emphasising the brutality of Zeus' actions. Furthermore, Yeat's use of the word "great" implies glory and majesty, conveying the idea that Zeus' actions are unnatural for someone of his nature.

    • Word count: 1549
  23. To What Extent Was the Failure of the Easter Rising Due To Internal Divisions?

    Nor did it mean that even those who held the sacrificial doctrine went into the struggle without doing what they could to plan for victory. And however deficient their planning may seem in retrospect to have been it was done in deadly earnest and in full knowledge of the consequences of failure. The earliest initiative appears to have been taken in America, where in August 1914 a special committee of clan na gael met the German ambassador in New York to tell him of their intention to organize an armed revolt in Ireland and ask for military assistance.

    • Word count: 3466
  24. "Irish nationalism was a propaganda concept" - Discuss, with reference to the sources.

    The destruction, couple with the fact that deaths would also have been incurred by the entrenched Irish, implies that the Irish fighters must have felt they were fighting for something worthwhile which they believed in. Irish nationalism was most definitely present, according to this picture. There is also little chance that this photograph was taken to be used as nationalist propaganda. However it is only a photograph, and it does not show a wide picture or give any view from either side.

    • Word count: 785
  25. Irish Ports - Political concerns.

    If this happens the company will become very low on funds and drastic measures will have to be taken on allocation of funding. Whereas if the company stayed under funding from the government they know that if it comes down to it they can get a cash injection to help sort any problems that may occur. An example of a poor decision to privatise is the British railways. This has become under close observations since the many dreadful crashes that have occurred.

    • Word count: 1276

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Language and Literature Assignment. Analyse 'The Stolen Child' By W.B Yeats.

    "In conclusion by analysing use of metaphor, metonymy and sound patterning in this poem by W.B Yeats I have discovered how each literary device assists the other to highlight key points in the faeries enticement plan. On their own they each create imagery and connotations for the reader/listener but together they express the meaning that the poet intended to show. Shell Woodward 2004 Words"

  • Discuss with reference to at least three poems, Yeats' treatment of Irish Concerns.

    "Yeats' change in his treatment of Irish concerns can be seen in the poems 'September 1913', 'Easter 1916' and 'Under Ben Bulben'. The poem 'September 1913' shows Yeats approaching the nationalist movement with pacifist intentions and exhibits anti-Catholic propaganda. He disapproves of human sacrifice as he believes it is unnecessary and fruitless. In 'Easter 1916' Yeats' treatment varies slightly. He is thrown into a state of turmoil as he tries to find a balance between the achievement of the Easter martyrs and the pacifist views he had previously upheld. He then accepts that death is sometimes advantageous but combats this with the argument that very little is worth sacrificing human life for. 'Under Ben Bulben' shows a mature, understanding Yeats. He believes in this poem that the power lies within the mind and turns to art to recruit nationalists. He makes a plea for artists to keep up past traditions as he views them as the means of remembrance. It is evident in these three poems that a transgression in Yeats' thought process and his treatment towards Irish concerns has taken place, and it reveals the road to self-discovery Yeats endured in his lifetime."

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