Man… man.. man… man…..

‘Man and the Echo’ is a poem by W.B. Yeats in which he talks with his Echo about how words can be manipulated to have an alternate meaning. The poem consists of 3 long stanzas, with an echoing line at the end of the 1st and 2nd that echoes the last line. The poem is made up of rhyming couplets. This emphasises the relationship between the Man and the Echo, but also gives the poem a repetitive feel, which gives the idea of an echo. The use of enjambment makes the poem sound like a rush of random thoughts. The poem is almost like a dialogue between the Man and the Echo, with either ‘Man.’ or ‘Echo.’ to introduce who is speaking, like a script.

The Echo could be interpreted in many ways. It only ever repeats what the Man is saying, almost agreeing with him. We could see the Echo as a spirit guide or a deity reassuring Yeats that what he thinks is true. The repetitive nature of the Echo brings the idea of gyres and the occult, something Yeats was fascinated in. As the Echo is only repeating the Man’s words it could be seen as a part of the Man himself, as if he is doubting himself and he is reassuring himself. This seems more plausible when you see the many rhetorical questions, “Shall we in that great night rejoice?” However the Echo’s repetition seems  to twist the phrase and makes it seem much darker, “Lie down and die”. This could suggest that the Echo is showing the Man what he is really suggesting. This could show how Yeats’ poems were twisted in meaning, and that Yeats is frustrated by this.

The poem is one of Yeats’ later poems, and we can see this in the more elegaic tone, he is looking back into the past. He looks back at certain things in a regretful way, the phrase “Did words of mine put too great strain on that woman’s reeling brain?” could show how his many love poems may have intimidated Maud Gonne, the love of his life. Yeats is questioning his past, and his actions, and may even be asking the Echo for it’s opinion. The rhetorical question “Did that play of mine send out certain men the English shot?” shows how he looks back and realises what the impact of his poems were, they could have encouraged men to run and fight in the Easter Rising, and maybe even get killed. This seems odd, as for most of his life in his poems he is upset over how his poems have little impact, and that only the apathetic Irish at the time read them, as in ‘The Fisherman’. Man has no control over how people interpret his work, and these interpretations could create “great strain” or inspire wrong deeds, and this frustrates him.

Yeats in the second stanza goes off topic, and has “lost the theme” and goes on to write about broader philsophical topics, such as the abuse of alcohol, or affairs, “Wine or love drug him to sleep”.  The phrase “cleans man’s dirty slate” could be a reference to the common idiom ‘wiping a slate clean’ to represent being forgiven. By making man’s slate “dirty” it shows the many sins that men have committed, and how Yeats disapproves of these. In the last stanza Yeats questions God and the afterlife, “Shall we in that great night rejoice?”. He is now accepting death, no longer questioning the past but questioning the future. 

The end of the poem has a violent distraction to Yeats’ thoughts:

“Up there some hawk or owl has struck,
Dropping out of sky or rock,
A stricken rabbit is crying out,
And its cry distracts my thought.”

This makes the poem truly seem like thoughts, and Yeats has now stopped pondering life as these animals have made themselves known. The use of animals, rather than another man, makes the end of the poem seem very pastoral  and natural.

Thanks for reading,

Jack

Songs to conjure images 3

This type of blog has appeared to have become a series.

Maybe it needs a theme tune.

Anyway, getting on, you know the score by now, I read poems and stuff and I find that in my musically obsessed head of mine they relate to songs from musicals, (yes I think I need to get a life too).

Memories

Many of Yeats poems concern themselves with memories and looking back into the past. Here are two songs that I think reflect this topic perfectly. The first is a song called ‘Wishing you were somehow Here again’ in which Christine, the protagonist of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ laments over her Father’s death and how she needs his comfort in her current hard times. The second is a song called ‘Memory’ from ‘CATS’ in which Grizabella, a cat who used to be in the spotlight but has now become haggered and pushed side, laments over her new situation. I find that the song ‘Memory’ reflects best on the poem ‘In Memory of…’ because it shows the effects of time on beauty, and how all things will come to such an end that memories are the only thing that can comfort you. 

Wishing you were somehow Here again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvLP7DmuBsI

Memory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-L6rEm0rnY

<BONUS FACT> The idea of gyres is also vaguely reflected in ‘CATS’ in which one cat (eventually Grizabella) is taken to the Heaviside layer and thus reborn as a new cat.

Broken Dreams

A song dear to my heart, ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, always comes to mind when I read a poem by Yeats in which his dreams are not fulfilled (most usually about how he can’t get with Maud Gonne – I think a song to represent that should be ‘On my Own’!!). In the song, Fantine reflects on how her life has been shattered and how the dreams of her youth have not been fulfilled.

Thanks for reading,

Jack

In Memory.

‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Constance Markiewicz’ is a poem by W.B. Yeats in which he remembers two friends whose principles and beauty had fallen victim to time. This poem is elegaic but also has features of a first person narrative. The use of enjambment makes the poem sound like memories. The rhyme scheme is fairly regular and contains many rhyming couplets. These couplets could represent the unity of the two women, Eva and Constance. The tone is world weary, sad, yet knowing and accepting. The poem shows how human innocence and beauty will be found out by and disapproved of by time.

There is a real tone of memory in the poem, Yeats seems to enjoy recalling “pictures of the mind” of the past. Yeats shows that all he thinks about is the past, which gives a sense of time gone by, “talk of youth”. Yeats contrasts these ideal old days with how the women are today (similar to how he compares “Romantic Ireland” with the Ireland of 1913 in ‘September 1913′). The women were “both beautiful” and we can see that Yeats held them in high esteem. There is a sense of glamour, opulence, aristocracy and grandure associated with them and Lissadell, “silk komonos”, “Great windows”. Yeats doesn’t want both their political and physical beauty to die. He reflects on the old days of the Easter Rising – “Conspiring amongst the ignorant”. The “ignorant” were the apathetic Irishmen and women of the time. This shows the womens’ political beauty.

As the poem progresses we can see that the women are still holding on to the ideal of a perfect world, a political “Utopia”. However time has passed by and “raving autumn shears Blossom from the summer’s wreath;” the use of the word “autumn” rings change, as autumn is a changing time, and the harsh word “shears” has connotations with death. In stark contrast the words “Blossom” and “summer’s wreath” have connotations with freshness and even fresh new ideas. We can see that only the memory of politics can comfort them now, “When withered old and skeleton-gaunt, an image of such politics”. The physical decay of Eva “withered” is a metaphor for their politics and ideals which have been forgotten.

There’s a tone of defiant anger in the poem, as Yeats is not going to give up the memory and the women aren’t going to give up who they are. The idea of the “match” symbolises the relighting of the passion, to commemorate and highlight their lies. The poem could be seen as ending irrationally, compounding bitterness with another futile gesture of striking a match.  The fire could represent a violent change or revolutionary action. It could also symbolise the lighting of a beacon of hope. The idea of relighting the fire shows rebirth and change, which brings the image of gyres, a common symbol in Yeats’ poetry.  The use of the supernatural in this poem is less than in some of his other works, but is nonetheless there, the rhyming couplets sound like simple mystical spells and the idea of “shadows” and “sages” also brings about the idea of the occult. 

Thanks for reading,

Jack

In, Out, In, Out, Shake it all about.

We can see the attitudes to women through the conversation about whether Fanny Price is “in” or “out”. In the Regency period, the time when Austen wrote ‘Mansfield Park’, women were deemed ‘in’ or ‘out’, ‘in’ meaning that you stay at home and are not ready to accept a marriage proposal, whereas ‘out’ meant that you were going to balls and dinners to try and attract the attention of a man to propose to you.

The first idea of girls being ‘out’ is presented in the engagement of Maria Bertram and Mr Rushworth, who “soon fancied himself in love” after attending a “proper number of balls”. We can see that  this is a family affair, with the attitudes of the families and even the public noted: “much to the satisfaction of their respective families, and of the general lookers-on of the neighbourhood, who had, for many weeks past, felt the expediency of Mr Rushworth’s marrying Miss Bertram”. We see here that everyone has an opinion, and wishes for marriage to occur.

We can also see that Maria has not engaged for love, but to climb the social ladder (as I talked about in my last blog post on ‘Mansfield Park’). This is shown through Edmund’s opinion, he saw “a fault in the business” and after talking to Mr Rushworth would say to himself, “If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow.” However the rest of the family seems delighted, and Sir Thomas believes it to be an “alliance so unquestionably advantageous”. This shows how women were expected by their family to marry well, because their choice reflected on the whole family, and in those days reputation was everything.

Later on a conversation between Mary Crawford and Edmund occurs in which they question whether Fanny is in or out. Mary seems to have the boundaries of in and out very clear, “Till now, I could not have supposed it possible to be mistake as to a girl’s being out or not” and yet she is confused as Fanny does not fit into these boundaries, “I am puzzled. – She dined at the parsonage, with the rest of you, which seemed like being out; and yet she says so little, that I can hardly suppose she is“. Edmund seems to assume that being out is to do with age, “My cousin is grown up. She has the age and sense of a woman.”

Mary then talks about being out or not, and what this should be. For example a girl who isn’t out would wear a “close bonnet” and “never says a word” – which seems like they are just objects standing there and waiting to be out. Mary says that “Girls should be quiet and modest.” which is the attitude of the upper classes to young women at the time. Mary also seems to despise girls who turn to “confidence”, which in our day and age seems ridiculous. She suggests that “One does not like to see a girl of eighteen or nineteen so immediately up to everything” and almost seems to despise girls of this sort. As Mary is a woman we see that this is a general view, it isn’t just old men who are sexist towards young women.

Henry shows the difference between women who are in and out. When a girl, Mr Anderson’s sister, was in, Henry could “hardly get a word or a look from the young lady”. However many months later, she was “then out” and “talked and laughed” a lot. The language Henry uses makes it sound as if this was disgraceful “I felt that I must be the jest of the room.” Edmund remarks that these women who are out “are always acting upon motives of vanity – and there is no more real modesty” almost suggesting that they are immoral. Miss Crawford’s language however suggests this even more, “It is much worse to have girls not out, give themselves the same airs and take the same liberties as if they were,” and goes on to describe it as “quite disgusting” which makes her sound like she is repulsed by the fact, as if these women are somehow whores because they are confident and feel comfortable talking to men. 

Henry decribes another situation with another girl, who appeared to be out as she was “perfectly easy in her manners, and as ready to talk as to listen”. This suggests that only girls who are willing to be married should be allowed to talk. As the girl was given all the attention by Henry and was “not out” the other sister was deeply offended, as was the rest of the family. Mary blames it on the fact that the “governess” not being there, as if all girls who are not out have to be accompanied by a governess to ensure they don’t get attacked by some marriage hungry male. Mary then asks whether Miss Prices goes to “balls” or dines “out everywhere”, and as the answer is a categorical no, then it “is clear, Miss Price is not out.”

Thanks for reading,

Jack

A couplet of questions.

These are two separate essays, so points may be repeated!

Many of Yeats’ poems explore the breaking of dreams. How does ‘The Stolen Child’ suggest the illusion of dreams and the dream of illusion?

‘The Stolen Child’ is a very childish, playful and dreamlike poem. There are illusions in the setting and the faeries, which/who lures the child into being abducted. It has four stanzas of varying length, showing change. It is a narrative viewpoint with ballad like qualities,  similar to a monologue. The rhyme and rhythm flows like the water in the poem, evoking a magical atmosphere.

In the poem a human child is taken to the ethereal and playful supernatural world by the faeries, yet the faeries are not good. They seem to be upset that the human world is full of “weeping” and thus they appear to be saving a human child and offering him a release. However they are stealing him away to their world. The use of the word ‘we’ to describe the faeries show how separate they are from the humans.

Despite the enchanting nature of the poem’s lyricism there are hints at the sinister plans of the faeries. The title itself, ‘The Stolen Child’, very plainly shows that the Child will be stolen. The phrase “reddest stolen cherries” anticipates the human theft at the end of the poem. It also suggests the hoarding of the most precious things, and the colour may suggest blood and some act of violation against innocence and nature, i.e. rape.

This dreamlike setting is an illusion for the child, to attract him towards the faeries. However the child may have dreamt of such illusion. Many children have a strong imagination that means they would love to see a different world, an elaborate and enchanting faery kingdom. And yet the dream that the child encounters is just that, a dream, an illusion. It’s a trap set by the faeries to entice him.

The language in the poem has lots of adjectives, making the poem sensuous, with a honeyed and childlike quality, “leafy island”, “flapping herons”, “frothy bubbles”. This makes the poem seem aimed towards children, and in particular the Child. This shows how the setting is an illusion that has been made to lure the child. 

The end of the poem shows the sinister ending to the poem. The word “you” to represent the child is changed to “he”, the Child has gone with the faeries. The word “he” sounds disconnected, distant, as if he’s gone. It also shows how evil the faeries are, they don’t even know his name.

Compare the style and theme of ‘The Stolen Child’ with the realism and disillusion of ‘September 1913’ and explore the differences.

‘The Stolen Child’ and ‘September 1913’ are almost polar opposite poems. ‘The Stolen Child’ explores the dangers of the supernatural and almost perfect beauty whereas ‘September 1913′ condemns the apathy of the Irish at the time. Yeats’ early writing see him turn from the realistic political times by seeking the morals in older tales and legends.

Both poems contain 4 stanzas, yet ‘The Stolen Child’ has stanzas of varying length to show change, whereas ‘September 1913’ has stanzas of the same length to show the stability that Yeats wants in Ireland. ‘The Stolen Child’ shows faeries stealing a human child, and ‘September 1913’ is a direct challenge to the Irish in 1913. The rhythm and rhyme in ‘The Stolen Child’ gives the poem a mystical flow and a magical atmosphere, whereas in ‘September 1913’ it gives a mocking tone, showing how Yeats is mocking the Catholics who have “dried the marrow from the bone” of Ireland.

Both poems use a refrain to link the stanzas, and in the last stanza this changes. In ‘September 1913’ the refrain changes from “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, It’s with O’Leary in the grave” to “But let them be, they’re dead and gone, They’re with O’Leary in the grave”. Originally Yeats was showing how Ireland had changed, the Nationalists were acting in an angry and bitter way,  whereas he changed his mind, he doesn’t want the heroes of the past to see the awful nature of 1913 as they’d be ashamed. In ‘The Stolen Child’ the refrain changes “Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the worlds more full of weeping than you can understand.” by changing “you” and “human child” to “he” making a more disconnected character, as the child has left. The changes mean different things, in ‘The Stolen Child’ it shows the change and the sinister end to the story, whereas in ‘September 1913’ it shows the changed attitude of the poet.

‘September 1913’ is a very blunt poem, saying things as they are, it doesn’t sugar coat the facts, or make illusions to make the world seem better (like in ‘The Stolen Child’) – “fumble in a greasy till”. The language in the poem is serious, as it deals with conflict, whereas the language in ‘The Stolen Child’ is very sensuous, attracting the child: “wandering water”, “young streams”, “flapping herons”,”leafy island”.

Thanks for reading,

Jack   

Naughty faeries.

‘The Stolen Child’ is a poem showing Yeats’ longing to escape from the world, as well as his realisation that despite the world’s flaws, it is still home. Yeats writes a poem in which a human child is taken to the supernatural world, an enchanting, playful and ethereal place. There’s a sense of languid flow which disguises the strong metre. It’s a narrative viewpoint with ballad-like qualities, almost similar to a monologue. The structure of the verses rings change, each stanza has a different number of lines. The rhyme scheme is regular to show the stability of home, and this contrasts with the cold changes of the new world.

Yeats’ early work is often concerned with romantic world and Irish folklore. Ireland as a nation was struggling for independence and trying to assert it’s own identity against the British and the Empire. A returns to local traditions is a way of asserting and creating a sense of Ireland as both different but also ancient with it’s own roots.These early writings see Yeats turning away from the realistic political imperialism in seeking the truths of older tales and legends (tales of morality etc).

The title is key to the poem, ‘The Stolen Child’ as a phrase explores the idea of a changeling, or a child stolen by faeries, a common myth to many cultures which owes it’s tale to Sligo. Yeats was fascinated with the occult and the supernatural. He drew much inspiration from tales associated with Sligo in the Romantic West of Ireland. The faeries in the poem seem to lament the tears and tragedies of the human world. The poem ironically presents the supernatural as something sinister, luring the child away from the wholesome into the unconscious depths of the “wild waters”. The faeries in the poem aren’t good ones. The voices may be those of the pagan Sid Hi – spirits of gaelic mythology that lure the Child from his world. They are evoked in a mystical way and yet their purposes are obviously sinister.

Much of the poem’s delight comes from it’s lyricism, each verse except the last begins with the enchanting word “Where”. The words are strong, song-like and romantic with alliteration and assonance. Rhythm and flowing full rhymes evoke a mystical atmosphere and the use of the word “we” expresses a sense of a separate exotic magical identity of shared doing and being.

The phrase “hid our faery vats” anticipates the human theft at the end of the poem. The idea of theft is also shown in the phrase “reddest stolen cherries”. This also suggests the hoarding of the most precious things and the colour may suggest the shedding of blood or some act of violation against innocence.

There’s irony in the refrain:

Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand.

For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

The faeries are drawing the child from the world, and they appear to be saving the child from the “weeping”, yet they actually cheat and deceive. The phrase “Come away, O human child!” offers the troubled child a rescue from the sorry world to a kingdom of riches and delight. This musical refrain also shows an alluring cadence, the falls and closes in rhythm and rhyme show a sense of shared delight.

The delicacy of sound weaves a spell, evoking a landscape and a world in a dream in which the faeries can even enchant the fish, “slumbering trout”. There are lots of adjectives which gives a sensuous honeyed quality to the poem, “leafy island”, “frothy bubbles”, this makes the poem seems childlike and attractive to children.

In the third stanza the sibilance of the letter ‘s’ conjures up a sense of stillness and mischief as the faeries set their trap, “That scarce could bathe a star”. The action anticipates the more sinister ending of the poem where the “solemn eyed” boy is captured by the faeries spell.

In the fourth stanza Yeats writes about what the boy will lose when he falls the the faeries.

“He’ll hear no more the lowing

Of the calves on the warm hillside

Or the kettle on the hob

Sing peace into his breast,”

These are warm pastoral images that are a reassuring representation of home for the child. The “oatmeal chest” shows the peace and fulfillment of the natural world. It presents a contrast between the human and the ethereal faery world. It shows abundance and plenty. The “waters and the wild” shows how the boy is lured from the warmth of his home for the cold alien reality of the faeries. The human world may be full of “weeping” but it is still his world.

In the last stanza “you” is changed to “he” which sounds more sinister and removed, as if the child is now distant and caught in the faery world. It’s almost mocking the parents. The use of “he” also shows how the faeries are evil as they don’t even know his name, yet it could also show how “he” represents many children. 

The poem can be interpreted as a parable for the loss of innocence, a dream that lures then betrays us. It shows the dangers of the supernatural; of powers that serve their own purposes; and of the illusory nature of beauty. The poem isn’t simple escapism where the poet turns his back on reality for a romantic world, the poem shows us how the Child can sometimes be lost in such dreaming. 

Thanks for reading,

Jack

 

Marriage is Class.

In Chapter 4 of ‘Mansfield Park’ we see the introduction of the Crawfords. These characters highlight the relationship between social class and marriage, as everything about the characters seems to be about these two things. In the time of ‘Mansfield Park’ marriage was very important as the only way to change social classes was through marriage.

The Crawfords are introduced through the fact that their mother had a “second marriage”. Austen talks about their fortune, “The son had a good estate in Norfolk, the daughter twenty thousand pounds” and their beauty, “Mary Crawford was remarkably pretty”. Austen is showing that the upper classes are obsessed with marriage and their suitability for marriage. They are delighted with the idea of living so close to the Bertrams as they could be suitable companions, “she had fixed on Tom Bertram; the eldest son of a Baronet was not too good for a girl of twenty thousand pounds,” they’re only concerned with marriage, especially Mary,  “matrimony was her object”.

Austen seems to dislike the upper classes and their material extravagances: “filled her favourite sitting room with pretty furniture”. The phrase “choice collection of plants and poultry” shows her negative attitudes towards these classes, plants and poultry are unnecessary things to have a “choice collection” of, and this is why Austen uses them.

Mrs Grant suggests that Henry marries the “youngest Miss Bertram, a nice, handsome, good-humoured, accomplished girl.” This suggestion itself shows how conversations were based around marriage and suitability, this makes it seem like the upper classes think of nothing else. Henry is established by Mary as the “most horrible flirt”, introducing his attitude to love. She also shows how the whole families (“very clever women” apparently) of some girls have tried to “reason, coax or trick him” into marrying the girl. This shows how desperate women are to ascend the social classes.

The phrase that a wife is “Heaven’s last best gift” shows how God bestowed wives almost as free servants to men. God’s last ‘best gift’ was Eve, who was given as a companion to Adam. This alludes to religious ideas about gender roles and females being inferior to males. Mrs Grant says that she pays “very little regard” “to what any young person says on the subject of marriage. If they profess a disinclination for it,” she assumes “that they have not yet seen the right person.” She suggests that all young people want to get married and they are lying if they say that they don’t. It shows the attitudes towards marriage of the upper classes. The chapter ends with Miss Crawford saying that marriage is necessary if the woman can do it “to advantage”. This almost suggests that marriage isn’t due to love, it’s only to progress in social class.

Thanks for reading,

Jack