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A Short Analysis of W. B. Yeats’s ‘Among School Children’

A summary of a classic Yeats poem

‘Among School Children’ is one of W. B. Yeats’s great late poems. Like another of his famous poems from this stage of his life, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, the poem is about Yeats looking back on his own life and feeling increasingly out of touch with the modern world. Here we offer a short summary and analysis of ‘Among School Children’, highlighting some of its major themes.

Among School Children

I

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 history,
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. Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of W. B. Yeats’s ‘Long-Legged Fly’

A summary of a classic Yeats poem

‘Long-Legged Fly’ is one of the great poems about silence. Silence is found elsewhere in Yeats’s work – in ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, for instance, he longs to escape to the tranquillity of the isle mentioned in that poem’s title – but ‘Long-Legged Fly’ is about, in Yeats’s own words, how the mind moves upon silence. Here is the poem, along with a brief analysis of its meaning.

Long-Legged Fly

That civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand under his head.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of W. B. Yeats’s ‘Leda and the Swan’

A summary of a classic Yeats poem

‘Leda and the Swan’ (published in 1924) is one of W. B. Yeats’s most widely anthologised poems. The poem, which somewhat unusually for Yeats is a sonnet, is about the rape of the Greek girl Leda by the god Zeus, who has assumed the form of a swan. Here is ‘Leda and the Swan’ and some notes towards an analysis of this intriguing and enigmatic Yeats poem.

Leda and the Swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies? Read the rest of this entry