W B Yeats William Butler Yeats Term Paper

  • Length: 12 pages
  • Subject: Literature
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #86573883
  • Related Topic: Ireland, Ts Eliot, Lyric

Excerpt from Term Paper :



The final lyrics in this poem divert back to the young girl that has stolen Yeats attention away from politics. The line reads "But O. that I were young again/and held her in my arms!(Yeats)" This line is significant in that Yeats seemingly asserts that although there is a certain fascination with politics, to a young man winning the affections of a girl is too much of a distraction and seemingly more important than politics. This line can also be a refection of Yeats life. It is as if he is looking back in hindsight and acknowledging that when he was younger he had an interest in politics and studying political systems but did not pursue this interest because of the aforementioned distraction.

Indeed, Yeats often expressed his political beliefs through poems that were also about love. Such was the case with a poem entitled No Second Troy. It is believed that he wrote this particularly poem after the love of his life Maud Gonne married another man. The poem is as follows

WHY should I blame her that she filled my days/With misery, or that she would of late Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,/or hurled the little streets upon the great, / Had they but courage equal to desire?/What could have made her peaceful with a mind/That nobleness made simple as a fire, With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind/That is not natural in an age like this, Being high and solitary and most stern?/Why, what could she have done being what she is?/Was there another Troy for her to burn?(Yeats)"

No Second Troy is part of the collection known as the middle poems. The middle poems are those poems written and published during the middle of a poet's career. For Yeats the middle poems were the fourteen years between 1900 and the Great War of 1914 (Bloom). This means that Yeats was between the ages of thirty six and fifty. According to Bloom the poem No Second Troy had Yeats equating Maud Gonne with Deirdre, Helen of Troy, and Cathleen ni Houlihan (Bloom).

This particular poem is said to equate Maud Gonne with politics itself. In the first two lines the poet writes "WHY should I blame her that she filled my days/With misery, or that she would of late Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,/or hurled the little streets upon the great,(Yeats)" Yeats assertion that "she" filled his days with misery is reflecting his disdain for the love he lost and the political situation or the "politics" that were present at the time. In this portion of the poem Yeats asserts that Gonne (Politics) had been teaching "ignorant men most violent ways." The ignorant men being referred to is believed to be the Irish Nationalists who chose insurrection over other non-violent forms of politicking which was unacceptable to Yeats. The next line which speaks of hurling little streets upon the great is referring to the Irish nationalist as the "little streets" and the British Empire as the "Great."

Indeed this insurrection pitted the weak against the strong and proved to be problematic as was witnessed at the time and continues to be evident in the 21st century.

The next section of the poem discusses the beauty of Maud's stature and her mind. Yeats asked what could have made her peaceful. As if to suggest that her condoning the violent actions of political factions of the time could have been fixed or somehow managed. Yeats also suggests that Maud Gonnes Politics and beliefs could be likened to Helen of Troy and the burning of Troy.

However, Yeats asserts that there is no second Troy.

An essay entitled "Yeats and Maud Gonne: (Auto)biographical and Artistic Intersection" asserts that the relationship between the two was "a politically charged and mystically coded relationship (Khan)." Several historians have noted that it is this relationship that became the source of many of Yeats' poems even into old age. Yeats and Gonne shared different political views and in many cases these differences led to frustration for Yeats.

Some of his poems such as Easter, 1916 which commemorates the Irish uprising, show his disdain for violent politics (Khan).

The first stanza of the poem is as follows have met them at close of day/Coming with vivid faces/From counter or desk among grey/Eighteenth-century houses./I have passed with a nod of the head/or polite meaningless words,/or have lingered awhile and said/Polite meaningless words,/and thought before I had done/of a mocking tale or a gibe/to please a companion/Around the fire at the club,/Being certain that they and I/but lived where motley is worn:/All changed, changed utterly/a terrible beauty is born (Yeats).

This poem is extremely significant because although this uprising brought about a terrible beauty created through the sacrifice of Irish nationalist, Yeats did not wholly support the uprising (Khan). Yeats believed that it could have been handled in a less violent manner and that they uprising somehow may have done more harm than good.

The third stanza of the poem reads

Too long a sacrifice/Can make a stone of the heart./O when may it suffice?/That is Heaven's part, our part/to murmur name upon name,/as a mother names her child/When sleep at last has come/on limbs that had run wild./What is it but nightfall?/No, no, not night but death;/Was it needless death after all?/for England may keep faith/for all that is done and said./We know their dream; enough/to know they dreamed and are dead;/and what if excess of love/Bewildered them till they died?/I write it out in a verse -/MacDonagh and MacBride/and Connolly and pearse/Now and in time to be,/Wherever green is worn,/Are changed, changed utterly:/a terrible beauty is born (Yeats).

In this stanza the poet is obviously tormented by the uprising and contemplates the necessity of the deaths that occurred as a result of the uprising. This torment is evident in the lines which read "Too long a sacrifice/Can make a stone of the heart./O when may it suffice?/That is Heaven's part, our part/to murmur name upon name,/as a mother names her child/When sleep at last has come/on limbs that had run wild./What is it but nightfall?/No, no, not night but death;/Was it needless death after all?/" in these lines Yeats seems to be weary of the sacrifice that many made as a result of the insurrection. He asserts that such sacrifice can make the heart hard like a stone. The poet also asserts that murmuring the names of the dead will never be an adequate enough acknowledgement for the sacrifice that they made. Yeats also questions if such a sacrifice was even necessary with the line " Was it needless death after all."

In this stanza Yeats also mentions Macbride who was the husband of Maud Gonne. Khan (2002) explains that this particular poem demonstrates the differences in political opinions that were evident between Yeats and Gonne. Kahn asserts that "She was so deeply committed to the Irish cause that she did not let her personal grievances against MacBride override her public support of his heroic act in favor of that cause; Yeats, on the other hand, was so deeply in love with her that he could not bring himself to support without reservation a man, "that drunken, vainglorious lout," who gave his beloved a hard time, let alone his dislike of political violence in general (Khan)."

Indeed, this poem and many others reflect the poet's passion for Maude and Politics. Although Gonne and Yeats were lovers they never reconciled there political beliefs there political differences were always at odds and this conflict led to many poems that reflect Yeats understanding of politics and the differences that can be found in political beliefs.

As Yeats began to age his political beliefs began to change. In 1922 Yeats was appointed a senator of the Irish Free State (W.B. Yeats). During last portion of his life "he supported the authoritarian measures to suppress the revolutionary elements." In addition, as a senator Yeats voted for emergency legislation under which Maude Gonnes son, Sean MacBride, was imprisoned during the Irish civil war without having a trial (Khan). Yeats also assisted the Irish government in "the matter of blankets" for which Maude Gonne was put into prison in 1923. Indeed Maude "was very bitter about all this, which led her to be even more assertive about her republicanism, accusing him in a 1927 letter of voting for the Public Safety Act and putting the police above the magistrates and making law "a mockery and derision." In response Yeats defended his change of mind saying that what caused him to renounce his earlier republicanism was his reading in 1903-4 of Balzac (Khan)."

Indeed, Maude Gonne and William Butler Yeats were vehemently opposed in their views of politics. However, they always retained a respect and like for one another. This was…

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