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The theme of aging in Yeats' poems Among School Children and Wild Swans at Coole

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´╗┐Toni Gardyne ________________ Yeats? poetry communicates potent and universal ideas, which continue to make his poetry of relevance to today?s audience. His excellence in artistic expression enables him to intertwine his own ideas and philosophies and contextual issues, and as such we as responders are presented with the unique view points, philosophies and Yeats' self perceptions whilst simultaneously provided with an opportunity to broaden our understanding and perspectives on life, and explore universal themes, which are still relevant in our society. ?Among School Children? and? Wild Swans at Coole?, deep examine the transcendental tensions between the purpose of life and the eventual decline of physical and spiritual aging through self reflection and retrospection. Yeats' intense preoccupation with the processes aging is clearly evident. Among School Children reflects an intense concern with the process of growing old with its associated notions of decay and the looming threat of death on both a psychical and spiritual level. The imagery of an aged man as a 'scarecrow' is prominent throughout several of Yeats poems and it is certainly not coincidental that nearly all the examples of this image are connected to his thoughts on aging. ...read more.


Through this action in particular Yeats is attempting to recapture youth through the idea of being born, of questioning not only the aesthetics of a child, but also what they would become and how they would age. Among School Children is certainly a poem rife with imagery of youth, it is still ultimately a poem about the process of aging and decay which reflects the artist's ruminant and contemplative nature. In the final stanza of Among School Children Yeats ends his quest to unite his fragmented existence by concluding with idea that there is no way to separate the 'dancer from the dance'. He learns that it is impossible to divide life into each individual part and that instead we must view life with a 'brightening glance', seeing the beauty of life in its entirety, including the inevitable stage of decline. Through the deep examination of the universal questioning of the value of life, Yeats comes to terms with his own life and comes to a sense of contentment with his old age. ...read more.


Despite this rather grim analysis of life, his observations are not all tinged with anxiety and estrangement. While the reader gets the impression that Yeats wishes he could travel back in time and correct his mistakes or live again in youth, there are few, if any, comments made in any of his poetry about such a wish. Even though he may feel unfulfilled, he is content to wonder about becoming the 'scarecrow' of old age and eventual death, but rarely, if ever, does he drift into long examinations of what he might have done differently. While his love of Maud Gonne may not have been fulfilled and although he may have second thoughts about the poetry of his youth, he remains realistic in his acceptance of inevitable decline. Although this is hardly something to reflect upon with beauty, it is something that can be discussed with integrity, despite the tone of sadness. Yeats may never have felt completely satisfied with his life, but his vast collection of poetry gives attention to the inevitable dilemma of aging and decline and the innate questioning of life?s purpose. ...read more.

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