Discuss ways in which Yeats presents his vision in The Cold Heaven

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Discuss ways in which Yeats presents his vision in ‘The Cold Heaven’

‘The Cold Heaven’ presents Yeats’ epiphany in his understanding of his life; the vision of the extremes, the icy cold bleakness of life, as well as the hysteria which erupts from him upon this realisation. His vision of life is presented with searing pain, memories of his wasted youth and sadness in his relations to Maud Gonne which eventually consume his willpower, and he concludes that life is without use, a punishment from ‘the injustice of the skies’.

Yeats’ vision focuses on the pain in life, describing his youth memories as ones ‘that should be out of season’; he has spent much of his youth in search of Maud Gonne, only to be met with rejection and in this moment of realisation he senses that he has in fact wasted his youth, and has been unable to fulfil his goals of creating happy memories. This failure is attributed to Yeats’ vision, where he sees that the future only holds a bleak outcome for him: his version of ‘heaven’ is only described ‘as though ice burned’ in this heaven, and ‘was but the more ice’, a supposed paradise that to him will only bring him more pain. The iciness in Yeats’ ‘heaven’ creates the painful image of raw coldness, almost akin to his vision itself, a cold and unhopeful view of his life ahead. The vivid description of ice also serves to describe his future as almost lifeless, and this can be attributed to the fact that much of his youth could also be considered lifeless and full of inertia; ‘Broken Dreams’ similarly describes this inertia and his failures in his pursuits for Maud Gonne which only ended in ‘vague memories, nothing but memories’. ‘The Cold Heaven’ similarly describes how Yeats is simply left with these broken fragments of his memories, all of which have almost ‘vanished’ in his pain.

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Yeats alludes to the ‘imagination and heart’ which ‘were driven so wild that every thought of this and that’ would simply vanish, and we see how Yeats’ vision has a profound effect on himself; it consumes him wholly in that he is sent simply into a frenzy of fear, describing himself as having ‘cried and trembled and rocked to and fro’ in this sudden icy shock. The metaphor of ice is sustained as a description of the shocking, almost physical-like blow Yeats receives from his vision; a new sense of realisation and an epiphany which only seems to suggest damnation ...

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