Discuss Yeats presentation of how Ireland has changed in September 1913

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Discuss Yeats’ presentation of how Ireland has changed in ‘September 1913’. In your answer, explore the effects of language, imagery and verse form and consider how this poem relates to other poems by Yeats

‘September 1913’ reflects upon Yeats’ distaste at the modern state of Ireland; the poet discusses his outrage at the fact that the Irish society has become one that is self-absorbed, and Yeats condemns the fact that Irish culture and art is no longer in the prime focus of society, instead  lost to materialism and mundane routine.

Yeats’ initial gripe is revealed in the first line of the poem, where he questions Irish society ‘What need you, being come to sense’; he sees the new modern society as one full of disappointment, and an apparent lack of purpose. He presents his views of disgust at the fact that society has being stagnated and its life force drained from it, ‘you have dried the marrow from the bone’. Significantly Yeats puts the blame on the Irish themselves – the first stanza takes on an accusatory tone in that the poet directly and repetitively refers to the people as ‘You’. Yeats especially seems angry with the fact that Ireland has not changed for the better; people are still described as adding ‘prayer to shivering prayer’, alluding to the un-pragmatic nature of society, who are perceived by Yeats as hopeless and inert in promoting Ireland’s greater cause. The ‘shivering’ prayer serves to represent the de-humanisation of society from within, where the ‘true’ Ireland has become metaphorically cold in response to modernism. ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’ also references a change in humankind, where Yeats would ‘awake someday to find that they have flown away’.  This metaphor is repeated in that the people are ‘[fumbling] in a greasy till’, only to ‘add the halfpence to the pence’, an image of self-absorbed interest without any greater cause – the grubby ‘greasy’ nature of the till emphasises this fact that their actions are stained by their lack of Irish ideals, and Yeats is disgusted with this.  Irony is used when Yeats describes humankind as simply being ‘born to pray and save’; he is in fact making accusations that Irish society has no greater ideal, and there is an element of accusation towards Catholicism in Irish society as he criticises their routine.  The ending lines end with the refrain ‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone’, pointing at the apparent destruction of Irish culture. This is also portrayed in ‘The Fisherman’, where Yeats similarly criticises ‘the commonest ear’ for ‘[beating] down’ Ireland’s ‘great Art’.

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The poem also expresses Yeats’ dismay at the fact that the new modern Ireland has failed to bring about any greater change; he can only allude to ‘they’ who ‘were of a different kind’, in reference to the historical Irish nationalist figures who Yeats believes in this line to be more well-learned, especially in comparison to the current Irish nationalists such as in ‘Easter 1916’, where he criticises Con Markievicz for staying ‘in ignorant good will’. Yeats repetitively accuses modern society of failing to meet their grandeur, even though they had ‘stilled’ (their) childish play’; these great characters held ...

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