William ButlerYeats was one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. Hereceived the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923 for one of his poems. So as youcould imagine Yeats is a poet you can’t miss when writing about poetry of the20th century.
He was born in Ireland in 1865,he completed his first poems during the 1880s during his student time at theDublin’s Metropolitan School of Art. Not only was Yeatsinterested in poetry he also found interest in the writing of plays. Hecollaborated with Lady Gregory to develop plays for the Irish stage. Their first production named ”Cathleen Ni Houlihan” was first shown in1902.
Besides writing plays, he co-founded the Irish National Theatre Societywhere he became president and co-director. When he gotmarried in 1917, Yeats strongly believed that together with his wife, they wereguided by spirits from out of this world. Everything ”he and his wife” wrotewere intricate theories about human nature and history.
In 1922, Yeatsbecame senator for six years of the new Irish Free State. The year after that,in 1923, he got awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, “for his alwaysinspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spiritof a whole nation” according to the Nobel Prize website. Yeats was a verydedicated poet, because he kept on writing till he died. He eventually died onthe 28th of January, 1939. Yeats will be remembered as arenowned poet of the 20th century. The poem”Wisdom” was written by William Butler Yeats, after he got inspired by faithto write this poem.
As you can clearly see in the last two couplets wereYeats refers to ”He” and ”Him” in which Yeats means Jesus. In thetime he wrote this poem, religion was very important to citizens because theFirst World War had just ended and people still wanted to hold on to somethingstable, which was religion. Yeats was someone who wanted innovation at someparts in society, just like he started the Irish National Theatre Society.Yeats wanted to establish something new, where religion was combined withsomething else, like in this poem, faith. He wrote this poem in the time wherehe believed that he was guided by spirits from out of this world. So you couldsay that this form of writing was a revelation to poetry.
If you would have tocategorize this poem, it would belong to the dramatic poems, because some ofthese lines were used in a play he composed. And while reading this poem youcan kind of play the poem in your head like it is done in a theatre. Yeats tells us viathis poem how faith was invented, how faith can adjust something wrong intosomething that will be fine. Like in the first couplet where he says: ”Amendedwhat was told awry.” In my opinion he tries to say that true faith is when youcan look through the faults of something and still have faith in it. At the endof the second couplet Yeats says: ”Miracle had its playtime where” in whichhe suggests that miracles can happen, if you just have faith in them. In thefourth couplet Yeats uses symbolism, for instance in the last line of thecouplet he refers to Jesus as ”Him” and ”He”.
In the fifth couplet of thepoem it becomes a bit vague, because the last couplet of his poem does notreally conclude the poem, in my opinion. You can dividethis poem into five couplets, the first couplet is rhymed according to theA-B-A-B scheme. The second couplet was rhymed according to the A-B-A-C rhymescheme, the third couplet according to the A-B-C-A rhyme scheme. The fourthcouplet was rhymed according to the A-B-A-B rhyme scheme and the last couplet,the fifth, has just as the first and fourth couplet been rhymed according tothe A-B-A-B rhyme scheme. So the first, fourth and fifth couplet have the samerhyme scheme and the second and third are both different to the rest of thepoem. Yeats used somealliteration in his poem, like for example in line 4 (what was), in line 6(Swept the Sawdust) in line 10 (Chryselephantinecedar) and also in line 19 (what wild). He uses alliteration regularlybut in all of his lines he never uses more than two of the same soundingstarting letters. Besides the use of alliteration, Yeats also makes use ofconsonance in his poem.
As you can see in the lines: 2 (painted panel), 4 (whatwas) and 19 (what wild). In the fourth andfinal couplet Mr. Yeats made use of the parallelism structure, in which Yeatsrefers to: Him, He and His. All three times he refers to the same person,Jesus. This manner of writing could also be called allusion, which is anindirect reference to a famous person. Yeatsdoes not make use of enjambments, where he continues his sentence in the nextline. But he still accomplishes to let every line flow smoothly into the nextone.
The title of thispoem does not really fit the poem in my opinion. Because wisdom does not havesomething to do with the contents of this poem, if the title would have beenrelated to nature or religion it would have suited the poem much better. Wisdomis a very broad title, because you can think of multiple ways why this poemconcludes wisdom, for instance what people can learn from this poem. Mr. Yeatswanted to clarify what wisdom could do to people and in what ways there livescan improve.You can see agreat correlation with our theme, nature, because while reading this poem youget a clear image of church or a castle in the middle of the woods.
And thisbuilding is nicely decorated with ”Glass-mosaic,window-glass” as said in the poem. So you immediately get the picture ofeither a church or a castle with mosaic embedded glass, which gives you anauthentic 20th century feeling. Yeats really gets his message through bydescribing the setting to detail. Currently, peoplewill not think of this poem the same as they did about 100 years ago. Peoplewill not really think of this poem as accessible because of the out-datedEnglish that is used. And because people were familiar with the English thatwas used then, people were more likely to read such a poem. And beside theEnglish, the subject of this poem won’t interest people as much as it didbefore.
Nowadays people are not as interested in religion as they used to be.Because only a small part of our are raised in a religious way in contradictionto a hundred years ago where religion was a part of your lifestyle.