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To what extent was Yeats oeuvre a reflection of the man and his circumstances?

The pain of times passage has provoked Yeats to write extensively about his personal
experience, relationships and life to reflect a revolutionary historical, social and political
period for Ireland in the 20th century. Yeats oeuvre reifies the purpose of life and
emphasises his firm nationalism through his poems, When you are old, Easter 1916 and
The Wild Swans at Coole and An Irish Airman Foresees His Death. He effectively utilises
elaborate iconography taken from Irish mythology and nineteenth century occultism to
represent a discovery about life, nature and beliefs of the world abstractly.
Aging can bring back memories and regrets from the past, hence Yeats poetry critically
reflects his personal experience and tries to inflict a sense of guilt on those who once
rejected his love. The iambic pentameter in When you are old sustains a lyrical rhythm
which evokes his passionate yet unrequited love for Maud Gonne will never cease. However,
when Maud is full of sleep, slowly read, soft look, and shadows deep, the sibilance
implies that not only is her physical beauty decaying but her fading spiritual beauty is turning
her into a shallow person. The repetition of the conjunction and conveys a sense of
nostalgia and the continuation of the ongoing journey within her memories. Yeats creates
guilt through the juxtaposition of those who loved your moments of glad grace with one
man loved the pilgrim soul in you. Mauds glad grace is the only feature which attracted
artificial love from others whilst Yeats remained faithful even in adverse situations. Pilgrim
soul metaphorically embodies them as soul mates who both share a firm stance in Irish
nationalism. During the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Yeats truly appreciates Mauds
true beauty as a result of their deep spiritual connection. On the contrary, he experiences
desolation when Maud entraps his love into glowing bars and becomes imprisoned in her
own shallowness. His persistent affection through the nature imagery, paced upon the
mountains overhead accentuates that Yeats is giving her the subliminal mandate inside the
clear message to love him now and not to let time walk against their happiness. Hence this
poem encapsulates the life of his personal journey through the progress of time and the
accumulation of memories.
Conversely, time can be a tedious and melancholic process, prolonging Yeats sadness
during an evolutionary period of turmoil in Ireland. At the age of fifty one, he saw his autumn
years rapidly descending upon him, transcending his individual despair through the creation
of the poetic object itself. The trees are in their autumn beauty woodland paths are dry,
immediately presents an impersonal and idyllic description of a landscape lacking the care of
human life. The landscape is richly described through the lexical fields of colour and light
(the October twilight, mirror), onomatopoeia (clamorous, bell-beat of their wings) and
movement (brimming, mount, scatter) which provides Yeats a metaphorical escape from the
potential violence of the First World War. As the nineteenth autumn has come upon me, the
rapid lapse of time depicts time as an independent variable which cannot be conquered by
humanity. Thus it saddens Yeats to observe the world surrounding him deteriorate without
making any positive contributions to his own life. Moreover, the repetition of plosive letter
such as clamorous, paddle, beat and scatter are reiterated to convey his own frustration
towards the swans and his envious state of mind. His heart is sore due to his regret at not
being able to consummate his relationship with Maud, but this is the first time he explicitly
declares the emotional connection he has with her; something which is starting to cause him
physical pain. The recurring motif of swans are metaphorical representations of Maud who is
his muse. By ending the poem with a rhetorical question, To find they have flown away?
denotes his worry about what the future holds for him once she is gone, compounding his
confusion. It is evident that swans are a symbol of permanence, an emblem of something
that are unwearied still. They highlight the themes of time, youth and the ambiguity of
nature to convey Yeats lugubrious psychology of time.

Political conformity in 1916 was a time of upheaval as it led to the political turmoil between
England and Ireland, causing Yeats to romanticise the human patriotic sense of
revolutionaries. Written shortly after the Irish Republican uprising against the British
government in April in 1916, Yeats initially criticises the four known rebels; Patrick Pearse,
Thomas McDonagh, John Mcbride and Constance Gore-Booth. Their hearts with one
purpose alone enchanted to a stone, to trouble the living stream. The synecdoche
implies that their principles have been lost in the conquest to free Ireland leaving their
human spirits being utterly distorted by fiery passion. However, the repetition of the
oxymoron a terrible beauty is born portrays that the beauty of the conquest, lies with the
aspiration and willpower in the hopes of finding freedom to their believed country, but it is
terrible because mass warfares lead to inevitable loss of bloodshed and tragedy. In contrast
with the previous stone metaphor, the stones in the midst of all demonstrates the shifting of
images and the unmoving stone emphasises dedication and loyalty of revolutionaries to their
cause. The struggle to find the ultimate sense of national identity has proven to be a
treacherous journey but Yeatss poem tries to emphasise the beauty over the tragedy of
events in the modern world.
Simultaneously, the effect of World War One is inflicting unfathomable pain on Robert
Gregory, whose purpose in life has been utterly destroyed. Yeats wrote An Irish Airman
Foresees His Death as a tribute to Major Robert Gregory, alluding to an individuals choice
to engage in a conflict where his death is inevitable. Irelands lack of involvement led to
Yeats reflection towards antipathy towards England at the time; Those that I fight I do not
hate,/ those that I guard I do not love. The parallelism creates a sense of symmetry as he
expounds upon the political circumstances surrounding the airmans decision to fight in the
RAF. His nihilistic attitude is exhibited in the repetition of waste of breath, and is further
endorsed through the juxtaposition of In balance with this life, this death. The last line
reveals the ultimate meaning behind the poem; that the airman has lost directions in life, he
feels that life and death exist in balance and that his death will provide symmetry for his
meaningless life. Therefore, Yeats chaotic circumstance at the time has immensely affected
his poetry and the meaning behind them.
In creating these poems, Yeats has employed numerous techniques to reflect his personal
experience as well as the conflicting context at the time. It is his ability to redefine the
purpose of life and stand up for martyrs beliefs at the time which has transformed him into
the foremost figure in English literature.