Yeats' poetry is very dramatic because he usually creates dramatic contrasts within his poems and because his tone changes regularly.
When he wasn't in conflict with the world around him he was in conflict with himself.
Likewise, his use of the subject within the poetic corpus is complicated by the fact that it is rarely an explicitly central theme One of the things that I am infamous for among Upper Iowa University’s undergraduates is a week-long writing-about-literature exercise utilizing the text of William Butler Yeats’s “Among School Children.” At a mere 64 lines, the poem is short enough to be fairly non-intimidating, yet dense enough to provide at least five-dozen “Yeats and—” topical questions for exploration.
For example, the first two lines—“I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;/A kind old nun in a white hood replies”—easily yield “Yeats and” education, Irish education, private education, Catholic education, one-room-schoolhouse education, the Socratic method (“questioning” in a classroom setting), educational philosophy, philosophy generally, classical Greek philosophy, Platonic recollection (the object of the Socratic method), nuns (and the connotative clash of a “kind” nun), women, Catholics and Catholicism, and youth As a group, the students having already done a bit of biographical research on Yeats himself and the history of the period 1865–1939, we spend four days dissecting the text, exploring the repetition of ideas at various places, and generating various thesis statements that might evolve from initial observations.
In this way, one finds much beyond the “broad side of the barn” reading of “Among School Children” as Yeats’s thoughts on the unity of youth and age, certainly more than the author’s own statements of “meaning” that “even the greatest men are owls, scarecrows, by the time their fame has come” (Wade 1955, p.
719), or that “life will waste [school children] perhaps that no possible life fulfill their own dreams or even their [sic] teacher s hope […and] that life prepares for what never happens” (Yeats 2007, p. While the initial stanza certainly opens up topics for discussion, the second widens the field tremendously.
By comparison, scattered among hundreds of poems, twenty-six plays, and dozens of essays, Yeats’s vision encompasses time before time and worlds before creation, a thousand myriads of worlds ultimately extending outward into unutterable realms of Negative Existence and no-thing-ness.
He attempted to chart the psychology of incarnation, the interplay of the individual soul and the World Soul, the Unfortunately, Yeats’s thoughts on any subject are usually widely scattered, recurring with variations and contextual shadings across the body of his plays, prose, poetry, and correspondence—as well as in his copious body of draft manuscripts and the marginal notes within his surviving books.
have no problem assigning the unnamed “she” to Yeats’s great unrequited love, Maud Gonne.
They are often titillated in the discussion that follows to find that the question of whether Maud ever broke down and had pity-sex with the poet is hotly debated at scholarly conferences, and rather appalled to be told the story of the 51 year-old Yeats’s final proposed to Maud in 1917, followed by his proposal to her 23 year-old daughter Iseult, herself conceived in a magical experiment on the tombstone of her dead brother, followed closely by his proposal to fellow Golden Dawn initiate Georgie Hyde-Lees whom he ultimately married on October 20.