Positive, "universal" Yeats poems?
January 25, 2008 5:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm seeking a W.B. Yeats poem that's as "positive" and as "universal" as possible -- specifically, that doesn't talk about death, or aging, or romantic love -- and that isn't spoken by, or addressed to, one individual who's clearly female or male.

For example, a positive or hopeful, third-person poem that's about nature or beauty or something abstract?

The fixed requirements for this are that it has to be by Yeats but it shouldn't be "romantic/sexual or morbid/negative" -- which seems to knock out most of Yeats, right!?

I started checking out his poems that are explicitly about youth or about nature but, not surprisingly, those seem to often be really about aging.

I've been randomly clicking on a lot of the poems in those books in my first link, and I haven't found even one yet that's ideal. Closest I've found are The Cat and the Moon (which is interesting and non-negative and third-person but still not quite the positive "daytime" sort of poem I'm hoping to find).
posted by lorimer to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lake Isle of Innisfree?
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:06 PM on January 25, 2008

Excellent!! (The Innisfree one is a perfect length for me too -- a few short stanzas.)

More please!
posted by lorimer at 5:12 PM on January 25, 2008

Lake Isle of Innisfree?

That one's about death.

Who Goes with Fergus mentions "love's bitter mystery", but only in the context of that which is not to be dwelt upon. It's got woods, and the sea, and stars; I think it's pretty uplifting.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:12 PM on January 25, 2008

Hmm, a tall order: Yeats was all about the melancholy and the lost love and the grand tragedy of Ireland.

Having said that, maybe In the Seven Woods, At Galway Races, or To a Child Dancing in the Wind?
posted by scody at 5:21 PM on January 25, 2008

Yeats doesn't seem to mean Innisfree as a death metaphor -- on googling it looks like that poem is really based on his fantasy of Walden-like living as described later in his autobiography.
posted by lorimer at 5:27 PM on January 25, 2008

I don't take the Lake Isle to be about death.

Even so, Yeats is always going to be wistful and including the dark with the light. Even when he's talking about a peaceful place there is that tone of "what if?" or "what will come next?", transience. He's not going to be only sunny.

Some of his poems can fake out an inattentive audience. Depends what you're doing with this.

Wild Swans at Coole maybe. Again it's about transience or even mortality, but could probably be spun to sound positive/awestuck by nature.

What do you need the poem for?
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:30 PM on January 25, 2008

An Appointment can be light and funny.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:02 PM on January 25, 2008

this is for a young teenager or teenagers to perform out loud for a school thing, so a poem that's 'musical' and lyrical and conducive to being spoken aloud is best.
posted by lorimer at 7:18 PM on January 25, 2008

I assume there's a reason it has to be Yeats... but in case you have any latitude on that score, I keep thinking of a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem (The Windhover) that might fit your requirements better than anything by Yeats.
posted by scody at 12:57 AM on January 26, 2008

Fiddler of Dooney!
posted by TigerCrane at 5:41 PM on February 7, 2008

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