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Poetry of William Butler Yeats [...] theme of Ireland in Yeats poetry and show in several poems how this one theme is developed and changed over time. Poems discussed are "To Ireland in the Coming Times," "Down at the Salley Gardens," "No Second Troy," "When you are Old," "At Galway Races," "Red Hanrahan's Song about Ireland," "The Falling of the Leaves," and "The Two Trees." William Butler Yeats was a famous Irish poet whose love for his homeland is evident in his works. This love changed and matured as Yeats himself matured, but he never lost the affection he felt for his homeland, or the ability to communicate that love to his readers.
Themes in William Butler Yeats Poetry
William Butler Yeats was a prolific writer, penning both plays and numerous poems. His poems encompass many themes, but none more enduring than his love for his homeland of Ireland, and to understand Yeats love of his home country, one must understand Ireland as well. Ireland is a beautiful, wild, untamed country, and it was even more so when Yeats was writing. The population is fiercely independent, and they did not enjoy their subjugation to Great Britain, which is one of the topics Yeats hints at in his poetry. In Yeats' time, the Irish population was still largely engaged in agriculture, and so they lived simple lives in the country, far removed from the worries of the cities. Yeats wanted people to understand his Ireland, and to give the Irish people a voice they could understand and love. He succeeded on all counts.
William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1865, and spent much of his summer vacations in the west of Ireland in County Sligo with relatives. Much of Yeats poetry is set in western Ireland, such as "At Galway Races" and "Red Hanrahan's Song about Ireland." Much of Yeats early poetry concerns the mythology and folk tales of Ireland, which fascinated the young man. Early in his writing career, "Yeats and his friends established the Irish Literary Society, whose members had as their object the appreciation and critical study of Gaelic literature" (Gallagher et al. 11). Yeats wrote about love, politics, and the natural world during his lifetime, but he always returned to the enduring theme of Ireland in his works, which illustrated the great love he felt for his home - its' people and its beauty.
Many of Yeats early poems were based on things he saw and heard during his summers in Sligo. The theme of Ireland is strong in these works, such as "Down at the Salley Gardens," which Yeats said he wrote after hearing a folk song sung by an old woman in the area of Ballisodare (Gallagher et al. 23). "Salley Gardens" is a short poem that tells the story of two young lovers, but it also evokes the romantic folk music of Ireland in its gentle words. "Down the salley gardens my love and I did meet; / She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet. / She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree; / But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree" (Yeats). It seems "sally gardens" were quite common along the riverbanks of Ireland in Yeats time, and so, the poem is not only the story of two young lovers, it is the story of gardens with "sally rods" used for making baskets by the Irish. Thus, the poem is an enduring look at an Ireland that no longer exists, and many of Yeats poems are still revered today because of their timeless quality and the homage they pay to Irish customs and history.
Yeats love of the natural world is also quite evident in his poetry, as another very early poem "The Falling of the Leaves" clearly illustrates. "Autumn is over the long leaves that love us, / And over the mice in the barley sheaves; / Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us, / And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves" (Yeats). Here, he paints a vivid portrait of the Irish landscape in autumn that evokes the smell of damp leaves on the forest floor, and the musky smell of wood fires burning piles of leaves. Or "Red Hanrahan's Song about Ireland," which celebrates western Ireland's beauty. "The yellow pool has overflowed high up on…[continue]
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