I have never really considered myself an avid poetry enthusiast. To be perfectly honest, until recently the world of poetry was a foreign concept; the notion of spending my time reading it was almost outlandish. And then my British literature class happened. It was then that I truly began to see poetry in a different light.
It is easy to be intimidated by poetry out of associating it with cryptic language and a lack of an evident literary plot line. I thought this too. But as I began reading more and more in class, analyzing the symbolism and other poetic devices, the poetry soon became fascinating and emotionally compelling. It sums up the human condition in but a few carefully chosen words. It is, in its own way, a story being told, a building of characters or an idea, and their hardships and joys. So that is why I decided to dig into reading more poetry. And that is how I discovered William Butler Yeats.
Whether it is classical or modern, a reader forms a connection with the humanity and emotion radiating from a poem. This was most evident when I began exploring Yeats’ works. Yeats was the first Irish poet to win the Nobel Prize. This magnitude of acknowledged skill shows in every word he writes. Most importantly, however, the Irish folklore and ethereal nature the poems take on make me feel at home.
“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”
Yeats has a way of conveying not only human sorrow but also love in his work; I am certain I cannot do the poems justice by trying to explain their significance through my own words. However, through various motifs and poetic devices reoccurring in the collection of poems, Yeats shows a contemplation of an interconnectedness between all things, the unavoidable reality of death yet its eternal cycle with life. Yeats uses his heritage to explore the ephemeral nature of his own being and the futility of love. Yet, even with the sorrow in the poems, they are laced with dreams and passion. He emphasizes that this fleeting time within every part of sorrow and love and life is part of the beauty of it all.
WHEN YOU ARE OLD”
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.”
As I have felt, Yeats reaches into the depths of the human soul, conveying a kind of mystical longing that creates a feeling even those in the modern era can relate to, alluding to human conflicts that have stood the test of time.
Analyzing a poem or literature is crucial for understanding a piece, for forming connections within the work and fully appreciating the art of it. However, in my experience, the emotions that a poem makes the reader feel is perhaps even more influential in leaving a mark. Such is why I have found W.B.Yeats’ work to be so intoxicating, emanating a feeling that I certainly cannot put into words. And so, not only do I recommend Yeats’ masterpieces, ones that have oh so successfully made it onto my favorites list, but also this: if you are intimidated by poetry because of possible obscurity in finding its meaning and identifying specific poetic devices, take a minute and determine what emotions it conjures up in you. How does it make you feel? What does it make you think of? You may be surprised.
—Maya Fraga, Grade 12.