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,