PoetryW.B. Yeats

Question on “Among School Children”

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Question: Elucidate that Yeats’ Among School Children deals with the anxieties of old age and decay.

Yeats’ poetry communicates universal and potent ideas, which makes his poetry still  relevant and suits well for modernism. His unique philosophies and view points provide an opportunity to broaden our understandings and perspectives of life which are still relevant today in our society. Among School Children deeply examines the transcendental connection between purpose of life and eventual decline of physical and spiritual ages.

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The imagery of an old aged man as “scarecrow” is prominent throughout most of his poems. Being a reader, it is hard to escape the fact that the speaker is a man of advance age and we are reminded about this in the first stanza when the poet imagines the children’s perception of him as “a sixty-year old smiling public man”. This description takes away from the bitterness and sadness of such image. The hollow vacant smile depicted is the result of, as in Yeats’ opinion to not having lived a life that is resulted in anything of significance. Due to his ongoing frustration with his inability to attain the women he most desired, Maude Gonne, for this, the old age is the most frightening of life’s dilemmas when accompanied with unfulfilled life.

In one of the most poignant stanzas of Among School Children, stanza V, the speaker wonders if a mother was to see the eventual state of a child who has lived and been young but is now a mere “Scarecrow” would be the joys and trepidation of birth, motherhood or even life itself. Though this image, he attempts to recapture youth through the idea of being born, of questioning not only the aesthetics but also how the change would occur in the age of child. In the final stanza of Among School Children, Yeats ends his quest to unite his fragmented existence by concluding with the idea that there is no way to separate the “dancer from the dance”.

Through the deep examination of the universal questioning of the value of life, Yeats comes to terms with his own life and comes to a sense of contentment with his old age.

Read full poem at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43293/among-school-children

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