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109 Chapter 10 Among School Children page 151/127, ‘Towards your own interpretation Explore your wn first impressions by making noes in answer tothe questions listed for your guidance. 4 Whatis the general contest of the poem, that is, what seems t0 be happening? 4+ What sets the poet off on his line of thought? What swan images docs Yeats use inthis poem and what do these images symbolise? 4+ What are some of the philosophical ideas he explores in the poem? ‘+ What conclusions does he come to? A student's first impression — The poem isa philosophical musing about the reality of really. interhwings eae eoerjestioning of the sirength of maternal love, and the real fulure of children. indy philosophy {which Yeats studied) emphasizes thot humans fing sine Rito percetve reality, Hinduism sees God dancing creation. Gods Me Ceace gad creation is the dance. It is impossible to separate the donce donc tro dancer, The dance has no meaning of existence without the trom ne ood yet humans see creation (the dance) and miss seeing God (the dances). This thought of foiling fo see reality s the climax of the poem CO body swoyed to music. O brightening glance. flow con we know Ine doncer Irom the donce? The poem opens with Yeats visting a school. He ass many auentons which o ae eoawers, ond he observes thal the children ore learning malls, music. sensing. domestic science. all in the bes! and latest way known fo een oer theory, Evervining oppeats bright and right on the surloce, But what is really happening? vyeate’s houghis wander fo the young Leda of mythology, who was raped PY reer on aveni Mt changed some chikan day to tagedy(Stanze 2). He sees me no Leda of a old woman with hidden traumas ready to be recalled by a diug or €@ triggering incident (sugge fo escope/ As recoflection or the drug decide, Stanza 5). Yeals imagines he is her son, ou two natures bent Into.o sphere from youth! jympainy, bolh inseparable os Ihe york and while of an egg. (Slonza 2)- He aeekaders i she would now recognize and love him now in his present shope the! has sixty or more winter on its head (Stanza 5} Yeals's reverie pauses and he looks at one of the children in the school he is visiting (Stanza 3). The gillis young and vivacious. with beautiful hair ond eyes. Suddenly his heart is driven witd knowing that Leda was once like thal. In Stanza 4 Yeals's reverie conlinues. The Leda/mother image returns to his mind but as a gloomy portrait of on older woman with hollow cheeks and Gatk shadows. The portrail would be the epitome of the Quattrocento style. $0 changed is this older image from the ftesh young gitl of Stanza 3 tha! Yeals wonders if she ever was beautiful: ‘And though never of Ledoean kind Hod prelty plumage once..." The thought shocks him, and probably brings cbout a change in his fociol expression. Immediately he decides to smile and smile. ond show that though he may be @ kind of old scorecrow, he is very human. In Stanza 6 thoughts turn 10 what the great Greek philosophers thought ot lite. Plato considered loveless nature merely played with the models of all cieated things: Aristotle so disregarded the pomp of power that he played 0 {ome on the bottom ofc king of kings: and Pythagoras played the music of the heavens. But none of them can give Yeals consolation at this time. He feels he is bul Old clothes upon old slicks fo scare @ Bid. ude: ‘Yeals continues in Stanza 7 to berale the gods for their cold. loveless att Oseltbon mockers of man's enterprise. The gods seteborn (sell-created} never grow old o* know suffering. but humans do gow old, The nuns who tun the school, and parents, actually worship images the images of youthful children. The reality of tbe some children. in the evening of lle those ine conde fgh. is unpolanable, ME nuns and parents prefer to stullity their thoughts in o morble ora bronze repose. The final stanza sums up where and when reality can be savoured. Labour gives true ceward when it is nol bruised by pleasure. the pleasu‘e of blindness Yo really. Beauly has fo be bor from love and not despair. ond wisdom hos to come intuitively rather than os the result of burning midnight oi Pethaps of this stage Yeats looked out into the school yord at a big chesnut ire, ond osked himself what ihe reality of the tree was. And he concluded The wudet may have orginally mitted hough as chonght. De eet m his reverie wilh the concep! of Hindu philosophy thal humans see creation but not Ihe create. Do you agree with this interpretation? How does your interpretation differ? Background information Yeats as a scnator ofthe Irish Parliament visited St Otteran’s School, Waterford in February 1926. According to a child who was present and later became a nun at the school," Reverend Mother Philomena, the Mistress of Schools, showed him around, though the Principal Reverend Mother de Sales was present too. The school used Montessori methods, encouraging learning through the reality of the immediate environment and including the emphasis on neatness, and was praised by Yeats in the Senate. ‘The method of teaching developed by Madame Maria Montessori in Italy recommended using the student's surroundings for Iearning rather than resources that ‘were meaningless to the student. ‘The most often quoted example is teaching maths by having the children measure the classroom. The idea is that the students should draw knowledge from the school, the community and the nation before going to other countries and the past for their information. The Montessori Method is a forerunner of modern education methods such as journal-writing and other strategies for learning. The poem in detail Stanza Picture Yeats, a senator of the Irish parliament, visiting a classroom, An old nun, in a white veit curved in front (like a hood), introduces the senator who is also a famous poct and playwright. The children look at him in wonder and he smiles at them. He sces their activities In your reading you may come across an interpretation by Frank Kermode”. He suggests that Yeats uses an ironic tone in this stanza and does not approve of what the schoo! is doing. Historical records do not support this view. On the ® Donald T Torchiana, “Among School Children’ ad th Eduction of he rh Spit" in A Norman Jes, cd In Excited ReverieA Centenory Tribute, page 24 Frank Kermode, “Dancer and Tice” in Patick J Keane, Wiliam Butler Yeat, page 6,