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W.B. Yeats - Poetry Driven By Tension

“Yeats's poetry is driven by a tension between the real world in which he lives and an ideal world that he imagines.”  Write a response to the poetry of W.B. Yeats in the light of this statement, supporting your points with suitable reference to the poems on your course. (2010)

Yeats’s poetry has a strong theme of reality versus fantasy running through it. The fantasy tones are not fantastical but concern themselves with what could be seen as ideal. The realistic elements of his poetry are often harrowing and it is clear he has much empathy for those who are affected greatly by tragedy.

In the poem ‘The Lake of Innisfree’ (TLOI) Yeats writes of escapism. There are no dark or sinister images here. The picture he paints his readers is rural and simple using words such as ‘glade’ and ‘glimmer’ to describe the setting. He has a whimsical tone as though he is talking with a faraway look in his eye. It can be read as a final goodbye, a man who has made peace with the world and now wishes to depart to his ideal place. The first line, ‘I will arise and go now’ has no tone of urgency or force to it. It is casually and willing which adds to the light language and imagery Yeats is using. Even if we were to consider this poem in the light of death Yeats uses such a wondrous tone and flowing sentences that it is hard to find any sadness in it. As a stand-alone poem, ‘The Lake of Innisfree’ resonates with the reader as being calm, ideal and also surreal. It is a very tame view of life, death and the idea of escapism is one that cannot be avoided. When compared to another of Yeats’s poems there is a clear juxtaposition which can cause tension.

In ‘An Irish Airman Forsees his Death’ (AIAFHD) there is an entirely different tone. The intensity of this poem is gripping. This poem has many realistic points and this can seem harrowing. The character in the poem is claiming his service is wasted and consequently his actions are futile. This is a broader, more universal theme than initially ...

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