The Style and Content of William Butler Yeats

Topics: Poetry, William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound Pages: 6 (2187 words) Published: December 2, 2007
The Style and Content of William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats was a man who is known for his extraordinary writings of the nineteenth century, and is considered to be one of the greatest poets of the English language. Yeats was a poet with extensive knowledge and was thought to have been born ahead of his time. Throughout his poetry and literary works he uses a combination of technique and style to express his meaningful ideas. Yeats became a pioneering poet who had a revolutionary type of style and content throughout all of his works. In these analyzed poems, Yeats demonstrates how he is authentically unique, through his innovative utilization of style and content. In the different stages of William Butler Yeats' life, the subject matter of his poems changes as if they were phases. During the beginning stage of his life he had many poetic themes that displayed; romantic, dreamy, escapist, and anti-Victorian subjects and content matter (Anne Mary 1st). Yeats displays some of these themes in one of his earlier poems called "When You Are Old," where he uses a dreamy type of nostalgic premise to the poem. In this poem Yeats describes a woman who is in the future reminiscing over her unforgotten pastimes. The main theme of this somber poem is a depressing one about unrequited love, into which Yeats influences in an interesting way. Yeats achieves this poems dreamlike quiet feeling to it by using an undulating (ABBA) rhythmic scheme along with the use of straightforward, soft-sounding, words that are nonetheless powerful (Anne Mary 2nd). "When You Are Old" is about an old widowed woman who looks back to her young and graceful days when she was desired by many, but never loved by the one man who truly loved her. The lonesome woman's memories make her grieve over her lost past, of her former lover, with whom that she'd never acknowledged his love for. This poem has a hypnotic quality to the descriptions that are used which entrances the reader, in the beginning, by making them imagine the reality of there own future. The rich imagery used in this poem essentially gives the reader a visual image of there self as an old and wrinkled person. In the first stanza of the poem, the phrase "full of sleep" carries two meanings; which is to be near death, and to describe the type of sleep that leads to dreaming. The second stanza of this poem is a descriptive into her dream of the past. As a transition from the first stanza into the second, she remembers her own "soft look," her eyes and "their shadows deep." From this image of her youthful gaze we are brought back to a more general view again where she reminds herself of those who loved her "moments of glad grace" and her "beauty with love false or true." The line in the third stanza that says, "But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you", seems to suggest that there was only one man in her life who she remembered that truly loved her for what she was. The line as told in the fourth stanza, "And loved the sorrows of your changing face", means that even as her face starts to change while she gets older, he would still always love her. However, in the last stanza when it says; "Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled", gives the conception that her one lover leaves her some reason, and that she regretfully misses him. She is probably sad because she never accepted his love towards her, and the missed opportunities that she could have had with him. The final two lines that say; "And paced upon the mountains overhead, and hid his face amid a crowd of stars," mainly delivers the core emotional impact of this poem which suggests that his love for her was never returned. Instead of focusing upon the present or the past that is usually occurred by the other poets who often uses this theme, Yeats looks to the future, a future in which the two people in the poem are already destined to be forever apart (Simpson). After the end of the nineteenth century Yeats started to expand his poetical...

Cited: Anne, Mary (1st), Andrade Ph.D. Sabbatical Report: British Literature II. 12 Nov. 1999 22 Mar 2007. < >
Anne, Mary (2nd), Andrade Ph.D
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