Examine three poems by Auden and Yeats Essay
Two poets who are influenced by different individuals yet both come together to produce poems which expose the same image, the struggle of man, are William Butler Yeats and Wystan Hugh Auden. W. B. Yeats, born in Dublin and the son of an Irish painter, hastily revealed, after returning from his childhood life in County Sligo, that he preferred poetry, hence resulting in the rejection of his studies on painting. Yeats became involved in a protest, which was against the cultural power of English rule on Ireland. Apart from Irish mythology and folklore, Maud Gonne was a big influence on Yeats’ poetry.
Gonne was just as famous as Yeats, but for her beauty and her passion for politics. It is evident that Gonne influences Yeats, as Ireland was “no country for old men”, which suggests that Ireland is not a place for old people not fit to fight, which then implicitly depicts the political torment that Ireland was experiencing. On the other hand, W. H. Auden born in York and educated at Christ’s Church, Oxford. Thomas Hardy, William Blake, Emily Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins influenced Auden. He had remarkable intelligence in which he would employ the writing styles of other poets such as Emily Dickinson.
Yeats’ work can be compared with the work of Auden as both often metaphorically represented a journey or quest. Both poets attempt to convey the struggle of man and in order to do these they implicitly insert this image in their poems. Yeats portrays his version of the struggle a man has to experience through life by portraying Irish society like an “enchanted… stone” as Ireland is immovable and “the living stream” represents life moving on around them. Alternatively, Auden presents his poem The Novelist in a sonnet form and reveals a novelist and his struggle to write a superior piece of work.
As he writes the poem, he compares the struggles of a novelist to a soldier to emphasize the effort that is required to write good pieces of work. Equally, Yeats and Auden both use similes and metaphors to accentuate the struggle that their personas have to undergo. Auden believes a poet is “Encased in talent like a uniform” and “The rank of every poet is well known;” The reference to “uniform” gives the poet soldier intrinsic qualities. The mention of “rank” promotes the poets status. Yeats’ poem Sailing to Byzantium is an allegorical title as the poem is about a journey to perpetually immortality.
W. H. Auden uses the sonnet form to convey his view of a novelist. Auden was born after Yeats, however, he does not stick to the traditional rigid, Shakespearian sonnet; instead, he uses traditional poetic structures yet applies modern theory. In contrast with this, Yeats divides both of his poems into four stanzas. In Sailing to Byzantium, Yeats conveys a journey to death, thus Yeats uses four stanzas to evoke a fluid progression throughout the poem. Stanza one expresses the magnificence of Ireland, the way “The salmon-falls” the vibrant image that is evoked of the “salmon” leaping has a sense of liveliness to it.
Stanzas two and three examine the subject of life and death. This is shown by an image of “A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul claps its hand and sings”. “A tattered coat upon a stick” evokes a delicate figure, which shows a weak exterior that will not overcome the soul and imagination, which is only growing stronger. Stanza four looks back at the past with feelings of lament and melancholy because once he is “out of nature”; he will be lifeless hence having autonomy, however, his soul will be free. However, in Easter 1916 Yeats uses four stanzas to express four aspects of Ireland.
Stanza one starts with a warm tone “at close of day” that is then taken away. Stanza two exposes Irish society and how “women’s days were spent” until their voices “grew shrill” discussing the action was needed. Here in stanza three Yeats shifts his focus from the person “Through summer and winter,” to nature, Ireland prior to the rebellion in the countryside. The last stanza is similar to the last one in Sailing to Byzantium as both look at the history of Ireland or past things that have happened like “Too long a sacrifice”, implicitly suggesting terror due to bloodshed.
Each poem varies in tone. The Novelist by W. H. Auden has a colloquial tone throughout his poem, as this epitomizes the narrative result of his poem. The use of punctuation and enjambment compliments the narrative feel so the poem feels like a narrative piece but simultaneously has a poetic form. On the other hand, Yeats mirrors vitality with life or even youth “In one another’s arms. ” However, this tone is terminated in stanza two when Yeats looks at the “tattered coat upon a stick”, which resembles a frail exterior.
At the start of Easter 1916, Yeats starts with a colloquial tone similar to that of Auden’s when he has “passed with a nod of the head”. However, Yeats’ opening stanza seems more idiomatic, like he is talking to us about the uprising. His conversational tone does not stay permanent; it starts to differ as he starts to talk about humanity, and glorifies what the Irish achieved, which is clearly a “terrible beauty” in the sense that what the Irish achieved was beauteous but the ordeal that they had to go through was “terrible”.
As the poem proceeds to stanza, three a more nostalgic feeling is evoked as Auden starts to look at Ireland before the uprising. The final stanza has a poignant tone as Auden starts to talk about death when “his own weak person”, “Must suffer dully all the wrongs of man. ” Monosyllabic words are employed in Sailing to Byzantium, as they are sharp and direct, and when read, speed and rhythm is built up that then highlights the polysyllabic words. Yeats talks about the “dying generations”, which stands out from the “birds in their trees”.
The “dying generations” is part of a dying process, which is taking place. The polysyllabic words are made the subject of the line, hence the words that are accentuated the most. In Easter 1916 a line of monosyllabic words convey Yeats’ reflection of the “day”. Language is used judiciously as the use of the monosyllabic words at the beginning of the poem provides a smooth take off for the poem and feelings are easily conveyed at the start of poem as Ireland “is no country for old men. ” Auden uses language in a similar way to Yeats in some aspects, he also emphasises single words.
Auden tries to stress the “rank of every poet is well known” but the use of language focuses the reader’s attention on “every poet” who is well known, not just Auden’s. Auden uses repetition to stress that “the Filthy filthy” modern Irish society was rejecting morals and religion spiritually. Auden believed that Irish society was degenerating because of this. Assonance is firstly used to create a musical sound, the line “Or die so young, or live for years alone. ” This provides part of the poem with some musical qualities.
The narrator “Must struggle out of his boyish gift,” the use of assonance mirrors the “struggle” that a novelist has to go through to produce a good piece of work. The assonance here is not used for fluidity but to break up the line. Auden’s study of a novelist employs a metaphorical portrayal to promote the poet’s position. References to “uniform” and “rank” implies the soldier like qualities of a novelist. The poem ends on a biblical tone with the reference to the “wrongs of man”. Auden makes an implicit comparison with Jesus to convey the greatness of a novelist.
Yeats uses a similar range of literary techniques as W. H. Auden. Oxymorons are applied in stanzas one, two and four. The fight for freedom is a “terrible beauty” which is “born” in the eyes of Yeats and other Irishmen as Ireland unites and works towards the goal of Irish independence from England, however the birth is “terrible” because the fight for independence will inevitably cause bloodshed and death. It is also beautiful because the Irish are finally united and stand up for their beloved country. This oxymoron is repeated throughout the poem and creates the poem’s main theme.
Once again, the mixtures of monosyllabic and polysyllabic words have been employed to highlight certain words similar technique to that of Auden’s. Yeats continues to describe Patrick Pearse, “a man who had kept a school” and Thomas MacDunagh, “his helper and friend”. Pearse and MacDunagh were both members of the Gallic League and were actively involved in Ireland’s fight for independence. Yeats portrays these two figures favourably, but he emphasizes the simplicity of their lives by alluding to their skill as writers and educators.
By focusing on their daily life, rather than their political involvement, Yeats suggests the humanity of Ireland’s heroes and indicates that common citizens have the ability to effect a change in society if they rebel against obedient conformity and “ignorant good-will”. Metaphors are employed too in Yeats’ poem too. The “stone” is a symbol of consistency, as it does not move from its position on the bottom of the stream. Yeats expresses the heart in a transformation, becoming consistent like the stone. “Too long a sacrifice” in regards to war, has caused the heart to become a stone, bringing detrimental effects upon the hearts of all men.
When this occurs, the responsibility the world must take is to love each corrupted soul, calling each by name “as a mother names her child when sleep has come”. However, sleep is a metaphor for death and these men die in result of their inability to change among the changing events around them. The use of an alternate rhyme scheme links words together. Sailing to Byzantium is occupied with a wide variety of literary techniques. Two of the dominant themes of this poem are the desire for escape from the hardships of this world and the quest for immortality.
These themes reflect the circumstances of Yeats’ life that influenced the composition of the poem. Those personal experiences and Yeats’ skilful use of words come together to emphasize the need, or at least desire, that many people have for escape and immortality. The process of dying in this poem is juxtaposed with delightful images evoked in the poem. Rhyme is used to assist the flow and lovability of the poem. The juxtaposition of the “old men” and “The young in one another’s arms” highlights the transition from youth to old age, and man’s struggle to come to terms with it.
The rule of three and alliteration are cleverly blended in with the “Fish, flesh or fowl” as this represents all types of life. In conclusion, Sailing to Byzantium and Easter 1916 by W. B. Yeats and The Novelist by W. H. Auden, obvious and not so obvious similarities such as all three convey the struggle of man, and differences can be extracted. Religious references are utilized in both, Sailing to Byzantium by Yeats and The Novelist by Auden. Yeats prays that the “sages standing in God’s holy fire” will “be the singing-masters of (his) soul”.
In other words, he wants to be taught how to write the poetry that will sustain his spirit. This is the poet’s attempt at achieving immortality. As long as his poetry still exists and is read, a part of his soul continues to live. Auden on the other hand thought that the society must suffer the “wrongs of man”. Auden makes an implicit comparison with Jesus to familiarise the greatness of the novelist. Metaphors are used in all three poems too along with juxtapositions implicitly and explicitly. Overall, the poems all convey the struggle of man, hence the character is experiencing struggle.
Although the poems have their similarities, they also have their differences. However, each poem portrays the struggle of man but implicitly blend this in with other happenings at the time or a metaphorical journey. Sailing to Byzantium portrays its struggle of man through a metaphorical journey, a journey to immortality. In Easter 1916, Yeats contrasts the struggle of man with the Irish uprising and the struggle they were going through. Auden however, examines the struggle of man through the portrayal of a novelist who “struggles” to right a decent piece of work.