Language Devices and Themes in Yeats

I’ve been instructed by my teacher to break the poems down into lines (using Excel Spreadsheet) and labelling them with the technique used so that I can then identify the main themes in each poem. I thought I would record them here as they are useful!

Among School Children

  • Comparative Language (Comparing ‘present day Gonne’ to ‘child Gonne’ and Mothers with Nuns)
  • Questioning Language (Questioning the point of life – specifically through childbirth etc)
  • Mythical Imagery (‘Ledaean body’ etc, referring to Maud Gonne but still creating images)
  • Language of Unity (How can we know the dancer from the dance?’)

An Irish Airman Foresees his Death

  • Patriotic Language (Not interested in the war, “Those that I fight I do not hate” – he is only interested in his own country, “My country is Kiltartan Cross,”)
  • Language of Choice (Chose to fight, he “balanced all”)

Broken Dreams

  • Romantic Language (again referring to Maud Gonne)
  • Repetition (to emphasise his “Vague memories” being “nothing but” that)
  • Language of Aging (“old gaffer”)
  • References to Gyres (Yeats hoping for a new start “all, shall be renewed”)

Easter 1916

  • Criticism of Society (“polite meaningless words” given to the complacent Irish)
  • Repetition (“A terrible beauty is born”)
  • Specific references to people’s lives and events (“MacDonagh and MacBride And Connolly and Pearse”)
  • Metaphors (The “horse-hoof” sliding on the brim representing trouble starting etc, the “stone” troubling the “living stream” of Ireland)

In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Constance Markiewicz

  • Imagery (Grotesque “skeleton gaunt”, Grandiose “Great Windows” “silk kimonos”)
  • Metaphors (“raving autumn shears” representing the physical changes of aging; “strike a match” representing a new start, change and idea of Gyres)
  • Repetition¬† (“Two girls in silk kimonos”, emphasising topic)
  • Language of Change, (“strike a match” representing ideas of revolution)

Leda and the Swan

  • Language of Power (Representing Swan “great wings” “dark webs”)
  • Language of Weakness (Representing Leda “helpless” “terrified”)
  • Strong Imagery (“strange heart beating” – imagery showing the oddness of the situation)

Man and The Echo

  • Critical Language towards Society (Yeats disapproving of “Wine or love” drugging people)
  • Repetition (Echo repeating Man to show how words can be misinterpreted)
  • Rhetorical Questions (“Shall we in that great night rejoice?” Whole poem questioning his life and life in general)
  • Distracted language (“And its cry distracts my thoughts” ends poem on odd note)

Sailing to Byzantium

  • Pastoral Imagery (First section, land of mortal men, “dying generations” “salmon falls”)
  • Grandiose Imagery (Land of immortal art “gold” “Monuments”)
  • Juxtapositions (Mix of different views, Religious “holy fire” in same sentence as the occult beliefs of “gyre”s – almost a mix of both to show doubt)

September 1913

  • Imagery (“fumble in a greasy till” – vivid images)
  • References to Historical Events (“For this Edward FitzGerald died”)
  • Criticism of Society (Disgust at the new Ireland)
  • Repetition (“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone”)

The Cat and the Moon

  • Language of Change (Idea of gyres and the idea that Yeats wants to change his and Gonne’s relationship – “changing eyes”)
  • Rhetorical Questions (“do you dance?”)
  • Metaphor (“dance” representing a courtship between Gonne and Yeats, the Cat and Moon being metaphors for them)

The Cold Heaven

  • Oxymorons (“ice burned” – idea of two opposites coming together like him and Gonne)
  • Reminiscent language (“Vanished, and left but memories” – his relationship with Gonne never started, just ideas)
  • Sexual language (Representing the sexual relationship he wishes to have with Gonne, “Ah!” “To and fro”)
  • Rhetorical question (Questioning religion “as the books say”)

The Fisherman

  • Pastoral Imagery (“freckled man” – idealistic readers)
  • View of society (Critical imagery, the contrast, “living men that I hate”)

The Second Coming

  • Language of Chaos (represents the apocalyptic ideas, “Mere anarchy”)
  • Religious References (“Surely some revelation is at hand;”)
  • Rhetorical Questions (Questions religion, almost blasphemy, “Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”)

The Stolen Child

  • Repetition (Tries to emphasise the faeries point of view that they’re helping the child escape the “weeping”
  • Mythical imagery and fantasy style language (Shows the ethereal nature – “faery vats” “reddest stolen cherries”)
  • Pastoral imagery (“oatmeal chest” represents the warm home he’s leaving)

Wild Swans At Coole

  • Language of Change (“Twilight” “Autumn” shows the changes since he was last there)
  • Cold Pastoral imagery (Nature, “Mirrors a still sky;”)
  • Lonely language (“nine-and-fifty swans” emphasises that one is alone, “my heart is sore” – Yeats is old and lonely)
  • Onomatopeia (Shows power of swans, “bell-beat”)

Thanks for reading,

Jack