Discuss Ways in Which Yeats Approaches Age in Among School Children & Other Poems You Have Studied
“Old clothes upon an old stick to scare the birds” discuss ways in which Yeats approaches age in ‘Among School Children’ & other poems you have studied. Yeats’ mind & thinking is very much focused on age as is clear in ‘Among School Children’ & some of his other poems. Age is so important to Yeats & he does run through all the ways it affects him & there are many diverse theories he has as to its effects. Age is a key aspect of ‘Among School Children’ purely because it is based around a visit he made to a Montessori school as “A sixty-year-old smiling public man. & this smiling man is his own realisation of the effects of youth, & the accepting mask he uses to cover this. Yeats finds himself drawing comparisons between his educational experiences & those of a younger generation, “in the best modern way”, yet he believes that lives true lessons don’t come from the classroom, which is relevant for all generations not just the one he is witnessing before him. These lessons referred to include that of love, something that has controversially dominated Yeats life & his works, his love for Maud Gonne.
His love for her has lasted nineteen years as we can gather from another of his poems ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’, “The nineteenth autumn has come upon me / since I first made my count”, this is reference to the first time he visited Coole, a lake in Ireland, which was with Maud. For Yeats she disappeared too early, “before I had well finished” yet his love has remained unrequited despite the aging process, “Unwearied still, lover by lover”.
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For his love to remain shows the depth of it as in ‘Among School Children’ being around youth clearly reminds him of Maud as a young woman, “I dream of a Ledaean body” & he lusts for her as she was then, similar to ‘Broken Dreams’. “Where those that have obeyed the holy law / Paddle and are perfect. Leave unchanged / the hands that I have kissed, / for old sakes sake. ” He is clearly nostalgic for youth & it appeals to him but his love is so strong that it prevails beyond her exterior.
Yeats’ love for Maud is so strong that it is ok for her to be old as is made clear in ‘Among School Children’, “there is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow. ” He also realises that the ageing process will have scarred him too, “And though I never of Ledaean kind / had pretty plumage once”, he too once had looks, but no longer. There is a sense of resentment towards the younger generation from Yeats, it’s not very prominent in ‘Among School
Children’ but can potentially be interpreted with his need to mask his realisations as mentioned previously. However there is a strong sense of this resentment to be learnt from other poems such as ‘September 1913’, the fact people fought & died for the freedom of Ireland, “was it for this the wild geese spread / the grey wing upon every tide”, yet the youth of the modern era have lost all romanticism & the traditional values that they fought for. Fumble in a greasy till” the youth have been blinded by dirty money & he uses a very accusatory tone showing he is passionate about what his generation & the ones prior to his believed in. The use of punctuation mid line & enjambment between them underscores his tone & displays his frustration & passion for romanticism which has been lost. In ‘Cold Heaven’ however we begin to see that he does realise if not remembers what it was like to be young, “the hot head of youth”.
He realises that young people tend not to think through their action, due to their naivety or lack of life experience perhaps, but either way the lack of a comma within this line, where you would expect to see one, is a grammatical representation of youth & their attitude to life. So Yeats’ approach to age varies between his works. In many ways he resents youth for various reasons but at the same time can emphasise with them & is perhaps envious of the “Ledaean” qualities they possess. However age is not an issue for his deep rooted love for Maud Gonne, despite her age his love is unrequited.