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Some time back, I attended a wedding ceremony where the groom read W.B.Yeat's well-known poem "When You Are Old" to the bride, and these lines stayed with me: How many loved your moments of glad grace, /And loved your beauty with love false or true;/ But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, /And loved the sorrows of your changing face…
Yeats can get away with absolutely cliched poetical language like "loveliness" and still create lines of matchless significance about a woman's beauty: "How many centuries spent/The sedentary soul/In toils of measurement/Beyond eagle or mole,/Beyond hearing or seeing, Or Archimedes' guess,/To raise into being/That loveliness" (Opening song from the play Fighting the Waves). Of language he was a past master.
The themes and subjects of Yeats' poetry could be varied, because he was a man of varied interests and pursuits. Yeats could combine simplicity, a concise style, and innate wisdom for commentary on war from a soldier's point of view: "I know that I shall meet my fate/Somewhere among the clouds above;/ Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love;"An Irish Airman Forsees His Death, The Wild Swans at Coole. 1919).
He could make a commentary on the Easter Rising in Ireland like he did with his poem Easter(1916): "Too long a sacrifice/ Can make a stone of the heart./O when may it suffice/ That is Heaven's part, our part /To murmur name upon name,/As a mother names her child /When sleep at last has come /On limbs that had run wild". ...
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