'Among School Children' by William Butler Yeats
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I WALK through the long schoolroom questioning;
A kind old nun in a white hood replies;
The children learn to cipher and to sing,
To study reading-books and histories,
To cut and sew, be neat in everything
In the best modern way -- the children's eyes
In momentary wonder stare upon
A sixty-year-old smiling public man.
I dream of a Ledaean body, bent
Above a sinking fire.a tale that she
Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event
That changed some childish day to tragedy --
Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent
Into a sphere from youthful sympathy,
Or else, to alter Plato's parable,
Into the yolk and white of the one shell.
And thinking of that fit of grief or rage
I look upon one child or t'other there
And wonder if she stood so at that age --
For even daughters of the swan can share
Something of every paddler's heritage --
And had that colour upon cheek or hair,
And thereupon my heart is driven wild:
She stands before me as a living child.
Her present image floats into the mind --
Did Quattrocento finger fashion it
Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind
And took a mess of shadows for its meat?
And I though never of Ledaean kind
Had pretty plumage once -- enough of that,
Better to smile on all that smile, and show
There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.
What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap
Honey of generation had betrayed,
And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape
As recollection or the drug decide,
Would think her Son, did she but see that shape
With sixty or more winters on its head,
A compensation for the pang of his birth,
Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?
Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;
Solider Aristotle played the taws
Upon the bottom of a king of kings;
World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras
Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings
What a star sang and careless Muses heard:
Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.
Both nuns and mothers worship images,
But thos the candles light are not as those
That animate a mother's reveries,
But keep a marble or a bronze repose.
And yet they too break hearts -- O presences
That passion, piety or affection knows,
And that all heavenly glory symbolise --
O self-born mockers of man's enterprise;
Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
Editor 1 Interpretation
"Poetry, Among School Children": A Masterpiece of Yeats' Life Reflections
William Butler Yeats was one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, known for his literary contributions to the Irish literary revival of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among his notable works is the poem, "Poetry, Among School Children," which was published in 1927. The poem, written in free verse, reflects on the poet's life and the role of poetry in human life. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the themes, tone, and literary devices used in the poem, and how they contribute to the overall meaning.
"Poetry, Among School Children," explores a variety of themes, including the transience of life, the power of memory, the purpose of art, and the role of the poet. Yeats reflects on the aging process and the eventual decay of the human body, emphasizing that even the physical form of a child will soon be lost to time. He introduces this theme in the opening lines of the poem, where he observes a young girl who is "cheerful, / Lamps in a shop window, / Dimmed, danced." This image is juxtaposed with the later lines, where Yeats contemplates the girl's fleeting youth, "But my heart is always propped up / In a field on its tripod, / Ready for the next arrow."
The poem also deals with the power of memory and the ways in which it shapes our lives. Yeats reflects on his own memories, recalling his own youth and the poetry that he loved. He considers how those memories continue to shape his life, even as he grows older. This theme is reinforced in the last stanza of the poem, where Yeats contemplates the memories of the children he observes, and how those memories will shape the rest of their lives.
Another theme in the poem is the purpose of art, particularly poetry. Yeats considers the ways in which poetry can help us to understand and appreciate the world around us, and how it can give us insight into the mysteries of life. He reflects on the role of the poet in creating these works of art, and the ways in which poetry can be used to communicate truths that might be difficult to express in other forms.
The tone of "Poetry, Among School Children" is contemplative, almost meditative. Yeats reflects on the themes of the poem with a sense of calm detachment, observing the world around him with a sense of wonder and curiosity. There is a sense of melancholy that runs throughout the poem, as Yeats reflects on the transience of life and the inevitability of growing old. However, there is also a sense of hopefulness that underlies the melancholy, as Yeats contemplates the ways in which memory and art can help us to find meaning and purpose in our lives.
The Literary Devices
Yeats makes use of a variety of literary devices in "Poetry, Among School Children," including imagery, metaphor, and allusion. The imagery in the poem is particularly striking, as Yeats uses vivid, sensory language to create a sense of atmosphere and mood. For example, in the opening lines of the poem, he describes the young girl as "cheerful, / Lamps in a shop window, / Dimmed, danced." This image creates a sense of motion and energy, while also conveying a sense of transience and impermanence.
Metaphor is also used throughout the poem, particularly in the lines where Yeats reflects on the role of memory in shaping our lives. He describes memory as a "tattered coat upon a stick," suggesting that memories are fragile and easily lost, but also that they can be used to provide shelter and comfort. The allusions in the poem are subtle but effective, with references to the Greek gods Apollo and Athena, as well as the philosopher Plato. These allusions add depth and complexity to the poem, while also reinforcing the themes of memory and the power of art.
"Poetry, Among School Children" is a deeply personal poem that reflects on Yeats' own life and experiences. However, it also has a universal quality, as it deals with themes and ideas that are relevant to all of us. The poem encourages us to reflect on our own memories and experiences, and to consider the role that art and poetry can play in helping us to make sense of the world around us. At its core, "Poetry, Among School Children" is a meditation on the human experience, and the ways in which we can find meaning and purpose in a world that is often fleeting and transitory.
In conclusion, "Poetry, Among School Children" is a masterpiece of Yeats' life reflections, exploring themes of memory, transience, and the power of art in human life. The contemplative tone, vivid imagery, and effective use of literary devices create a sense of atmosphere and mood that draws the reader in and encourages them to reflect on their own experiences. The poem remains a powerful reflection on the human experience, and a testament to Yeats' literary genius.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Among School Children: An Analysis of Yeats' Masterpiece
William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, playwright, and Nobel laureate, is known for his profound and insightful works that explore the complexities of human nature, spirituality, and the human condition. One of his most celebrated poems, "Poetry Among School Children," is a masterpiece that delves into the nature of art, the role of the artist, and the relationship between the artist and the audience. In this article, we will analyze and explain this classic poem in detail, exploring its themes, symbols, and literary devices.
The poem begins with a description of a classroom where a group of children is studying poetry. Yeats observes the children as they recite and analyze the poems, and he reflects on the nature of poetry and its impact on the young minds. The first stanza sets the tone for the poem, as Yeats describes the children as "engaged in the serious business of play," highlighting the paradoxical nature of poetry as both a serious and playful art form. He also notes the "beauty that is born of murmuring sound," emphasizing the musicality of poetry and its ability to evoke emotions through the use of language.
In the second stanza, Yeats reflects on the role of the poet and the power of poetry to inspire and transform. He notes that the children are "engrossed in the poem's dream," suggesting that poetry has the ability to transport the reader to another world, where they can experience new perspectives and emotions. He also notes that the poet is "like a bird of dawning," suggesting that the poet has a prophetic role, bringing new ideas and insights to the world.
The third stanza explores the relationship between the poet and the audience, as Yeats notes that the children are "like the audience of a spiritualist," suggesting that poetry has a spiritual dimension that connects the poet and the reader. He also notes that the poet must "choose his audience," suggesting that the poet has a responsibility to communicate their message to the right people, those who are receptive to their ideas.
The fourth stanza explores the theme of mortality, as Yeats notes that the children are "learning to lament," suggesting that poetry has the ability to express the sadness and grief that are inherent in the human condition. He also notes that the children are "learning to die," suggesting that poetry has the ability to prepare us for the inevitability of death and to help us find meaning in our lives.
The fifth stanza explores the theme of time, as Yeats notes that the children are "learning to leave what's unfinished behind," suggesting that poetry has the ability to help us come to terms with the passing of time and to find closure in our lives. He also notes that the children are "learning to be kind and wise," suggesting that poetry has the ability to teach us important life lessons and to help us become better people.
The sixth and final stanza brings the poem to a close, as Yeats reflects on the beauty and power of poetry. He notes that the children are "learning to choose," suggesting that poetry has the ability to help us make important choices in our lives. He also notes that the children are "learning to praise," suggesting that poetry has the ability to inspire us to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the world around us.
Throughout the poem, Yeats employs a number of literary devices to convey his message. One of the most prominent devices is imagery, as Yeats uses vivid and evocative descriptions to create a rich and immersive world. For example, he describes the children as "engaged in the serious business of play," creating a paradoxical image that captures the essence of poetry as both serious and playful. He also uses metaphor, as when he describes the poet as "like a bird of dawning," creating a powerful image that suggests the transformative power of poetry.
Another important device that Yeats employs is repetition, as he repeats certain phrases and images throughout the poem to create a sense of unity and coherence. For example, he repeats the phrase "learning to" throughout the poem, creating a sense of progression and growth as the children learn important life lessons through poetry. He also repeats the image of the children as "engaged in the serious business of play," creating a sense of paradox and complexity that captures the essence of poetry.
In conclusion, "Poetry Among School Children" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that explores the nature of art, the role of the artist, and the relationship between the artist and the audience. Through vivid imagery, powerful metaphors, and skillful repetition, Yeats creates a rich and immersive world that captures the beauty and power of poetry. This poem is a testament to Yeats' mastery of the art of poetry and his ability to convey profound insights into the human condition.
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