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   

The Poetry of Yeats under a multitude of Headings

Feminism

Yeats does not appear in his poetry to be a particular feminist, yet we as readers have to realise that in those days it was frowned upon to do so. Yeats was living in a sexist and oppressive time, and seemed to realise that he couldn’t help women through his poetry, writing is not always about truth. However many of his poems suggest that he deeply admired women, and may have simply been a strong advocate for women who struggled to show his opinions in the time that he lived in. The woman he refers to most is Maud Gonne, the love of his life who didn’t love him back. His opinion of Gonne is obviously that of desire, yet also slight bitterness, as she does not love him. Gonne was very feminist, and stood up for women’s rights, and so Yeats most likely supported her views to try and win her affection. Yeats also mentions Constance Markiewicz and Eva Gore-Booth in several of his poems, revolutionary leaders who he seemed to admire deeply (at least enough to write poems specifically about them). Yeats was obsessed with the Occult, which rejected the sexist norms and was very pro equality, thus we can assume that he also took this stance.

A good source of information about Yeats and women:
http://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/phantasmagoria/poehler.htm

Post-Colonialism

To understand how Yeats wrote in a post-colonial style we must first understand definitions of post-colonialism itself. Post-Colonialism can be split into several subjects, though the subject I found that reflected in Yeats’ poetry the most is this:

Social and cultural change or erosion: It seems that after independence is achieved, one main question arises; what is the new cultural identity?

Yeats examines the idea of change very often in his poetry, especially considering change in Ireland and change in people. For example, in ‘September 1913’ Yeats compares the Ireland of 1913 to “Romantic Ireland”, and in ‘Easter 1916’ Yeats compares the “vainglorious lout” of MacBride who abused Gonne to the revolutionary hero – “transformed utterly” from what he was due to his brave and heroic actions. ‘Easter 1916’ is heavily about change, “all changed, changed utterly” and how the revolution has changed the society of Ireland.

Good sources of information about Yeats and Post Colonialism:
http://www.ijstr.org/final-print/sep2012/A-post-colonial-look-Yeats-and-War-Poems.pdf
http://postcolonialstudies.emory.edu/w-b-yeats-and-postcolonialism/

Thanks for reading,
Jack

100 years ago…

‘September 1913’ is a poem written and set 100 years ago by W.B. Yeats.

This poem was written as part of the ‘Responsibilities’ collection and is in essence comparing the Ireland of 1913 to ‘Romantic Ireland’ – the Ireland that he loves. The poem itself is a reaction to the apathy of the Irish at the time, many were involved in the bigoted Nationalist movement that Yeats hated. It contains four regular stanzas and has a regular rhythm, this could be interpreted to represent that he wants stability and regularity in Ireland. The language of the poem is very simple and mainly monosyllabic, this is so that the whole country could read and understand it, and Yeats’ message could be heard by all.

The first stanza starts with a direct address to the reader, “What need you,” – the use of the first person means Yeats is talking directly to the greedy Nationalists at the time, it is very personal. In this stanza Yeats mocks the Catholics for being overly pious and actually stealing. They may add “prayer to shivering prayer” but they are actually fumbling in a “greasy till”, taking all of the money. Yeats accuses them of taking the money, and thus the life out of Ireland:

“You have dried the marrow from the bone?”

This is a very vivid image that gives the reader a real sense of how these people are killing Ireland. 

Yeats ends every stanza with:

“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,

It’s with O’Leary in the grave”

This phrase is a contrast to the rest of the stanza as it describes the good times. Its repetition emphasises how upset Yeats is and it’s a constant reminder of the past. O’Leary was a politician who was a hero of Ireland that inspired Yeats, and was also a father figure to him. The line suggests that because O’Leary’s dead Ireland is too, as O’Leary isn’t there to guide it.

In the second stanza Yeats immediately differentiates between the people in 1913 and the people in “Romantic Ireland” – “a different kind”. He then references those who fought before as “names that stilled your childish play” which could suggest that the fighters were taught about in school or even sung about in nursery rhymes.  Unfortunately these people and what they had fought for have been forgotten, “They have gone around the world like wind”. Yeats then condemns the pious Catholics by saying that the fighters had “little time” to pray, as they were fighting for Ireland, basically saying that they actually did something, not just act holy. Yeats also implies that the Catholics should be ashamed for hiding behind their faith and being greedy, as the Saints and heroes they look up to were martyrs who died for what they believed in:

“For whom the hangman’s rope was spun,”

Yeats then suggests that what they did couldn’t save Ireland, “what, God help us, could they save?” – this makes me think that the Nationalists were ruining the great reputation of Ireland.

In the third stanza Yeats references the men who fought abroad, “the wild geese spread” and questions why they fought, as nothing was achieved, and so many died “all that blood was shed”. Yeats also mentions three heroes “Edward Fitzgerald”, “Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone” who died for Ireland, and in Yeats’ opinion died in vain. He then suggests that all that effort was for nothing, “All that delirium of the brave?” as the people of 1913 haven’t learned from what the brave men of the past had suffered.

In the fourth stanza Yeats changes his stance. Yeats says that he doesn’t want the past to come back, he doesn’t want the fallen dead, Fitzgerald, Emmet or Tone to return because they’d be disgusted to see what had happened to Ireland after all the “loneliness and pain” they went through. Yeats suggests that they would think “some woman’s yellow hair” had distracted all the men – as everything had gone so badly downhill. He ends the poem on the lines:

“But let them be, they’re dead and gone,

They’re with O’Leary in the grave”

This makes the reader realise that even though he loved the past, he doesn’t want to think about it too much as it saddens him when he returns to 1913. 

Thanks for reading,

Jack