I certainly agree with the statement that Yeats uses evocative language to create poetry that includes both personal reflection and public commentary. The work of W.B. Yeats is saturated with evocative language that enforces this idea. He is often intensely personal and writes with a deliberate honesty, discussing themes such as death and aging, his unreserved opinions of Irish society and war. I would like to further explore this statement by referring to the following poems that I have studied for my Leaving Certificate: Lake Isle of Innisfree, September 1913, The Wild Swans at Coole, The Stare’s Nest by My Window, An Acre of Grass and Under Ben Bulben.
As seems to be typical of most poets, Yeats draws on the beauty of nature around him for much of his poetic inspiration, chiefly among these is the simple three-stanza poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, which is a perfect example of how Yeats used evocative language to create poetry that is personally reflective and that celebrates nature as it is, not questioning its briefness, instead simply praising its beauty. This poem has been admired by many critics for the simplistic, peaceful images it summons and the evident yearning of the writer to escape and retreat to nature and for him to return to a rural Irish setting where they can live an unassuming, solitary life. The powerful imagery; “there midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,” aids in this. The writer’s yearning to “arise and go now” to this wonderful, place of peace and serenity is realised in the final lines; “I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore.” That which he so desperately longs for; to escape to this quiet retreat where “peace comes dropping slow,” is a very personal reflection on his life and what he wishes for in opposition to that which he rejects and dislikes and his wishes to go to the place he describes “While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavement grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core.” Without a doubt “The Wild Swans at Coole”, is a very reflective personal pome that Yeats has created in which he contemplates the passage and impact of time using strong, vivid, pastoral imagery and moving language. Yeats sets up dynamic contrasts between youth and old age, and permanence and change.
Yeats’s passion for the fate of the country is also very obvious in “September 1913” a very public pome where the tension between a romanticized past in which Irish heroes who “weighed so lightly what they gave” and that of the Catholic bourgeoisie that he sees as a class of miserly greedy ignorant people, blinded by greed and driven by money, fumbling in “a greasy till” being totally indifferent to Ireland’s liberty and freedom. Yeats offers a nobler vision of Ireland through the phrase “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone” which he repeats many times throughout this poem against the presentation of tactless materialism allied to degraded religious practice of the middle classes. He calls on the people of Ireland to remember the ideals of freedom, martyrdom and liberty that motivated Irish heroes of the past to fight for Ireland. Yeats uses a lot of rhetorical questions, for example “Was it for this that the Wild Geese Spread their grey wings upon every tide, For this that all the blood was shed, For this Edward Fitzgerald died”, His frustration and resentment of the Irish Middle-classes society infected with greed, creates this great tension as he longs for the bravery of past revolutionaries such as Emmet, Wolfe Tone and John O’Leary to be instilled in the current generation of Irish people. This poem is an obvious call for the public to take up the ideals of their forefathers and to defend Ireland from those that threaten it.
In the poem, “Under Ben Bulben”, the Theme of Creativity is evident. In this poem, Yeats calls on new poets to celebrate Ireland and respect poetic traditions as he contemplates death. W.B Yeats encourages Irish poets to look to the past for inspiration, which will inspire Irish people to remain proud. He wishes for his fellow Irish poets in the contemporary era to write about Ireland’s rich history and to inspire the Irish people through the form of poetry.
“Sing the lords and ladies gay, that were beaten into the clay, through seven heroic centuries, cast your mind on other days, that we in coming days may be still the indomitable Irishry.”
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