W.B. Yeats - Challenging Poet To Read

“Yeats can be a challenging poet to read, both in terms of style and subject matter.”   To what extent do you agree with this statement? Support your answer with suitable reference to the poetry on your course. (2011)

Yeats’s poetry is generally considered as deep and intellectual. The subject matter he favours is often centred on a strong theme. He is a stylistic poet and is not seen as traditional or conventional in his writing. With the subject matter and writing style combined, Yeats often provokes an emotional response from his reader. On the surface, his poems may seem to consider just one main theme but they are in fact multi-faceted. Diving in through the different layers of his poems can often be a challenge. He writes of topics that are not hopeful and often has a morose tone.

‘Swift’s Epitaph’ is an almost shockingly short poem. The style is short and the language is curt and pithy. This six-line poem is packed with descriptive language and one strong, emboldened image. The style here consists of the stark imagery of all people being travellers, and their journey is life. The atmosphere of this poem is eerie and definitely harbours a tone of warning, ‘imitate him if you dare’. The challenging element of this poem is dissecting all of the ideas that Yeats is trying to convey. Although the language is concise and the imagery is strong, I feel it is important to know the history of it before getting a full understanding. Yeats translated this poem as it was originally depicted in Latin on the burial stone of Jonathon Swift. Branching off only slightly from the main theme, with the history in mind, there is a clear connotation of digging up history. It could even be argued that he trying to resume the dead, Swift is depicted as a hero and Yeats is taking it upon himself to resurrect him. This connotation, although not at the forefront, is extremely disturbing. I believe this is the element which is most challenging to read and digest.

‘Sailing to Byzantium’ al...

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