In memory of W.B. Yeats

In memory of W.B. Yeats
On January 28 1939 the world had to say goodbye to one of the greatest poets who ever lived. William Butler Yeats died on this day. His death was the inspiration to write about him. These are the words of W.H. Auden.

On January 28 1939 the world had to say goodbye to one of the greatest poets who ever lived. William Butler Yeats died on this day. His death was the inspiration to write about him. These are the words of W.H. Auden.

Even though critics considered him a lesser poet than Yeats, Auden was greatly inspired by him. When Auden died in 1973, he was considered to be one of the greatest British poets, placing him on the same level as Yeats. This is the poem In memory of W.B. Yeats, a poem written by Auden in January 1939.

In memory of W.B. Yeats
The second section of the poem “In memory of W.B. Yeats.”

 

In memory of W.B. Yeats

I

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.

II

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.

III

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.

— W.H. Auden

Backgrounds

This poem is divided into three sections. The shortest, the second section, is made up of one stanza. It shows the technical virtuosity of Auden. The ability to write about another poet. Displaying his affection for his colleague in a way that can leave someone still speechless, even nowadays.

Title
In memory of W.B. Yeats
Article Name
In memory of W.B. Yeats
Summary
A poem written in 1939 after the death of W.B. Yeats by W.H. Auden.
Author
Publisher Name
The Ministry of Poetic Affairs
Publisher Logo

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