William Butler Yeats
Literary Work / Author: “Adam’s Curse;” “The Second Coming;” “Sailing to Byzantium;” “Leda and the Swan” / William Butler Yeats
First Response: I like Yeats. I enjoyed reading his poetry, because of how he combined ancient mythology and Christianity. Though I do not agree with Yeat’s special religion, I do enjoy his creativity.
Theme / Topic: Look for evidence of the theme of isolation. What seems to be causing isolation in this poem?
Claim / Thesis: In Yeats poetry, there is a sense of isolation that stems from change in the speaker’s life. Depending upon the poem, the change is either personal or social.
Textual Support for the Thesis:
1. Text: “That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown / As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.” (“Adam’s Curse;” p. 2028; lines 37-38)
Analysis: the effects of time and labor on the speaker made his heart hollow and empty. This made him feel as if he were all alone in the world. Although the speaker had loved the woman, he is unsure of how they currently feel for one another.
2. Text: “The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;” (“The Second Coming;” p. 2036; lines 2-3)
Analysis: the speaker sees the world is falling apart. Things are not going as society expected. He says everyone is alone in this world, even the falconer. because the falcon cannot hear, the falconer cannot call to the one creature that keeps him from being alone. This gives the reader the deep sense of isolation the speaker feels.
3. Text: “Leda and the Swan” (the entire poem; p. 2039)
Analysis: Throughout the entire poem, Yeats describes Leda as a powerless woman. She is the only one that Zeus has come to in such a way. This isolates Leda from the rest of society. Unlike the other poems, Leda’s union with the swan and her isolation brings about the changes in the known world.
4. Text: “Sailing to Byzantium” (the entire poem; p. 2040)
Analysis: Yeats portrays this old man as nothing. He is of no use to the younger generations, thus leaving him isolated from the rest of the world. His isolation comes from natural turning of time. He has aged, therefore, he has outlived his usefulness.
Comparison: Yeats is far different than the Romantic poets. Wordsworth believed that anything artificial could only exist in the real. his birds were natural and a connection to God. They were a way to immortality. For Yeats, he does not want to be a natural bird. Real birds die. They are not a connection to immortality. Yeats wants to be a golden mechanical bird. This will make Yeats immortal.