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Discuss The Ways In Which Yeats Presents His Ideas About Ageing In ‘Among School Children’

1279 words - 6 pages

Discuss the ways in which Yeats presents his ideas about ageing in ‘Among School Children’

The theme of ageing is central in the poem ‘Among School Children’ as surrounded by youthful children during his visit to a convent school in Waterford, Yeats reviews his own deteriorating state and contemplates whether old age is a state where people can express their true selves. In 1926, Senator Yeats visited St Otterans, which inspired him to write ‘Among School Children’. The poem shows an external persona, Yeats as the ‘smiling public man’ but blurs this with Yeats tormented inner persona where he writes about his true emotions towards ageing and his disgust of his and his desired lover, Maud ...view middle of the document...

In ‘Among School Children’, Yeats describes the effects of the ageing process by describing Maud Gonne through the simile ‘Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind’. The assonance in the lexical choice ‘Hollow’ emphasises Maud Gonne’s decaying looks and the brevity of the ‘wind’ highlights Yeats’s views of the brevity of life. Therefore, in both the ‘Cold Heaven’ and ‘Among School Children’, Yeats emphasises his bitterness towards the ageing process due to the negative effects it has on what once used to be young and beautiful Maud Gonne. Both poems express a tormented and bitter Yeats as he reminisces and lives in his youthful memories, realising in his old age he cannot rise to his expectations of love.

Yeats also presents his negativity about old age by describing how he wants to escape from the ageing process and meaningless life. Yeats looks at the ageing man from a different perspective, that of the mother and questions whether the sufferings of women in childbirth are compensated for through the rhetorical question ‘What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap… did she see but that shape with sixty or more winters on its head?’. The repetition of ‘shape’ emphasises how Yeats dehumanises the ageing man. By repeating the adjective ‘shape’ at the beginning when the man is but a ‘shape upon her lap’ and end of the stanza where he views the man ‘sixty or more’ years later, the reader is taken on the journey throughout the ageing mans life. As Yeats describes the man as the same dehumanised object at the end of his life, it is almost as if the man has gained no meaning or lasting impact in life. Therefore, we see that Yeats views the ageing process negatively as he believes that by ageing, you gain nothing from life. The lexical choice ‘winter’ highlights how similar to the bleak season where decay is prominent in nature, Yeats views ageing as bleak and decaying the human body. Yeats also uses seasonal imagery in ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ to emphasise his disgust towards the ageing process. He describes the ‘birds in the trees…all summer long’ and the monosyllables in this phrase show Yeats’s views towards the shortness of life and the rapidity of the ageing process. The lexical choice of ‘summer’ has connotations of new life. However, the seasons after ‘summer’ are autumn and winter emphasising how eventually all things given birth in nature, including human life, eventually die. Therefore, Yeats is warning the reader not to be seduced like the ‘young in one another’s arms’ into the life and beauty of summer. In the repeated refrain ‘Caught in that sensual music all neglect, monuments of unageing intellect’ Yeats describes the ‘sensual music’ luring him into human life. The adjective ‘sensual’ emphasises how the life of summer described earlier in the stanza almost seduces...

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