William Butler Yeats Poems

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William Butler Yeats, born in 1865 and died in 1939. Yeats is one of the greatest poets that is well known in the twentieth century. Also a philosophical person, Yeats had developed his own philosophy which states, “Yeats developed a philosophy that united his interest in history, art, personality, and society. His basic insight was that, in all these fields, conflicting forces are at work. In history, for example, as one kind of civilization grows and eventually dies, an opposite kind of civilization is born to take its place. Similarly, human personalities can be defined as opposites: the creative or subjective person versus the active or objective person.” (Prentice Hall Literature [page 1144 Yeats’s Philosophy]). With this said, Yeats believed that if you believed there was such a thing called a “soul” you would not only live a life of concentric circles, but indeed there would be this thing we call an “afterlife”. Thus, explaining Yeats’s Philosophy, meaning that we will be reborn depending on whether or not of you wanted to live life, or as he states it in Sailing to Byzantium, live the new life like a monument. Critic Richard Ellmann states, that Yeats’s poetry is based on the opposition between “the world of change” and a world of “changelessness”. Evidence of this is supported in Yeats poetry, When You Are Old, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, The Wild Swans at Coole, The Second Coming, and finally Sailing to Byzantium. All five of these poems represent change and stability in each poem; however, the change can vary among nature and civilization. In the first text, one of Yeats’s poem, When You Are Old, demonstrates a change in the physical appearance of civilization. An example is as follows, “When you are old and gray and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book, and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;” (Prentice Hall Literature [page 1140 lines 1-4]). When You Are Old, by Yeats, describes how a man once young grew old and lost his beauty. As described in the text, one thing that changes is the physical appearance of a human beings face. Related to today’s society we begin to come up with “cures” to prevent aging, even though we basically drag around a decaying body waiting for our soul to set free, we find ways to prevent everything from sagging and bagging.

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