Thursday, February 26, 2009


In Memory of W. B. Yeats
by W. H. Auden

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.


Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

In the elegy, there are three parts. The first part is grief, when W.H. Auden grives about the death of W.B. Yeats. The second part is the part when he is praising W.B. Yeats for his successes. In the final part, he is consoled and ready to move on. It is a lyrical poem and is usually mournful.

In the first part, cacophony is used to stress the anger that Auden feels about the death of W.B. Yeats. For example, Auden says "The day of his death was a dark cold day." which uses cacophony to emphasize the grief and anger that Auden must be feeling.

In the second part, Auden is more open about his true feelings and accepting that Yeats is gone. He uses apostrophe to explain the true importance of Yeat's to Ireland. He uses Ireland as a person to describe the loss that one must feel now that he is gone. It is praising his success and affection. This may also be considered a trope.

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

Auden is now consoled and is letting go of Auden's death. The praising continues however. Also, the celebration of Yeats's life is seen in this section. The use of rhymes and a meter for rhythm almost describe the joy of the moment. The rhyme scheme is very noticable in this part of the poem. Caesura is also used in the third part of the poem. It gives an effect of the audience engulfing the celebration of Yeats. It gives them time to consume all that has happened and rejoice in his life.

Though this is not similar to the traditional elegy from Greece, it does use send a clear message of exalting someone. It does not have the couplets, but it does have the resolution at the end. It may not be a traditional elegy, but it is, in my opinion, the best elegy of it's kind.

No comments: