‘Lapis Lazuli’ belongs to W. B. Yeats’s late phase, in the 1930s. Like a number of Yeats’s other late poems, it is concerned with the place and treatment of art in the modern world, a situation which Yeats considers by taking in all of history. The poem’s ‘argument’ takes a bit of unpicking; before we get to our analysis, here’s a reminder of this mysterious poem.
(for Harry Clifton)
I have heard that hysterical women say
They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow,
Of poets that are always gay,
For everybody knows or else should know
That if nothing drastic is done
Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out,
Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in
Until the town lie beaten flat.
All perform their tragic play,
There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,
That’s Ophelia, that Cordelia;
Yet they, should the last scene be there,
The great stage curtain about to drop, Read the rest of this entry
‘The Circus Animals’ Desertion’ stands, in many ways, as W. B. Yeats’s swansong. It was the final major poem published in his last volume of poems, which appeared the year before he died in 1939. But what is ‘The Circus Animals’ Desertion’ about? The poem doesn’t offer its meaning or meanings up to us easily, so it requires some close analysis to unpick.
I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last being but a broken man
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.
What can I but enumerate old themes,
First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams, Read the rest of this entry
‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’ is one of W. B. Yeats’s best-known poems: it is simultaneously both a war poem and a poem about Irishness, and yet, at the same time, neither of these. To unpick these paradoxes, a bit of analysis of the poem is required.
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, Read the rest of this entry