#3 “Among School Children” (William Butler Yeats)

“Among School Children” by William Butler Yeats is among the most famous English-language poems of the 20th century; critical consensus would certainly rank it in a top ten, and #3 seems about right to me. It is about many things in its 64 lines: age, youth, desire, ambition, art, education. It is also ambiguous (deliberately so). If the speaker doesn’t seem to know quite what he thinks of the many issues and ideas and emotions he brings up, it’s perhaps because it’s very hard for any of us to reach firm conclusions about them.

And frankly, it’s gorgeous. The lines melt with lyricism even as they offer a compressed look at complicated ideas.

World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras
Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings
What a star sang and careless Muses heard

You could say something like that in prose: “Pythagoras, who was semi-legendary, used music to convey the mathematical rhythms of the Universe which are the unconscious underpinnings of Art” … but said that way, it’s a textbook, or maybe a blog post. Said the way Yeats says it, it enters into the unforgettable.

I’ll blog this one glossary-style, as I have done for a few others in the Countdown.

  • schoolroom questioning: Yeats served as a member of the Senate of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1928, when he was in his late 50s and early 60s. Part of the job involved inspection visits to schools, more ceremonial than investigative.
  • a kind old nun: What is a Senator doing inspecting a Catholic school? Ireland, like many European countries, has a tradition of religious freedom without a guarantee of separation of church and state. Religious schools are therefore also state schools, as in many countries. Public subsidies for Catholic schools in America would freak out Protestants, atheists, and Catholics, but there is little objection in Ireland, not least because the Free State and its successor, the current Republic, have a largely Catholic population.
  • a Ledaean body: the story of Leda and the swan was one of Yeats’s favorite items from Greek mythology. The god Zeus, in the form of a swan, raped the mortal woman Leda, and from their union came four notable characters: Castor, Pollux, Clytemnestra, and Helen. Yeats was fascinated by the story, and wrote the poem “Leda and the Swan” about it. My link above is to the famous image created by Leonardo da Vinci (it’s a copy of a lost Leonardo). In Leonardo’s conception, the swan seems to be Leda’s boyfriend; Yeats had a more brutal sense of the story.
  • Plato’s parable: in the Symposium, Plato tells the story of how people long ago were going around perfectly happy till Zeus (again!) split them in half. Now our divided halves go through life looking for each other, explaining sexual love and sexual unhappiness if you don’t find the correct “other half.” It is altering Plato’s parable quite a lot to see this as man and woman being the yolk and white of an egg, but hey.
  • Quattrocento: the 15th century, especially in Italian art, which includes many of the great old masters, including Leonardo himself. Quattrocento artists weren’t particularly given to drawing haggard middle-aged women, so “Quattrocento” here probably just means highly-skilled at draftsmanship.
  • played the taws: Aristotle was the tutor of Alexander the Great. “Taws” are something you don’t want played on your bottom, I would think.
  • golden-thighed Pythagoras: You remember Pythagoras from high-school geometry. He was said to have a golden thigh. Literally, I mean, one of his thighs was made of gold. Kind of like a hip replacement, only a thigh replacement, and in gold. And you thought that President Obama’s health plan was going to be expensive!

29 responses to “#3 “Among School Children” (William Butler Yeats)

  1. I read this poem over and over again, trying to understand how this poem could be number three on the poetry countdown. I didn’t like it at all. It just felt so random. I mean I understand the first five stanzas about how the speaker is in a schoolroom full of youth and that kind of depresses him because it makes him feel old. However, I do not understand how that has anything to do with Greek mythology and the last two stanzas are just as confusing. I have no idea how they tie into the first part of the poem. This is what I did understand from the poem. The speaker feels a closeness to Ledaean as she shares a childhood memory that is similar to one he had. As he reminisces on his childhood he becomes terrified and desperately wishes to somehow preserve those special moments of youth. Then, as her present image floats into his mind he stops himself from drowning in this sorrow and realizes he must me a good role model to kids and show them how to age with dignity. Then, he wonders how a mother would feel if she could see her son as a 60 year old man. Would she think all the pain she went through to give birth to her son was worth it? This poem was very complex but overall I think the main idea is that as you age your desires don’t necessarily change or disappear. However, as you age it’s not as easy or sometimes impossible to do the same things you did in your youth and this can be very frustrating. There were moments where the speaker seemed like he is ok with the fact that his youth is gone but by the end of the poem I’m not sure if the speaker really is ok it.

  2. I really liked how Greek mythology was used in this poem. I really enjoyed the visual aids as well. It is a little difficult to interpret what Yeats was trying to get across but I can understand most of it. I don’t really see a creepy old guy checking out a classroom of children but I see wise old man looking at the potential in each child. I think the potential that he sees in them reminds him of the potential that he had at that tender age. It reminds him of the possibilities the woman he loved had then as well. It reminds me of looking at flowers. They start out so young and fragile, then they begin to bloom, soon they are vibrant with life and beauty but all too quickly they wither away. I think we are all like these flowers and some of us sit back and think about the times we were young and what exactly we would “bloom” like. I think the old man in the poem sees what kind of young woman each little girl could grow up to be but no matter what each grows up to look like they are all guaranteed to grow old and lose their beauty.

  3. This was a semi-difficult poem to work with. It was a little odd. I can see and understand how walking through a school can bring back memories of youth. Good and not so good memories, but as far as seeing and remembering how one was once young, vibrant, energetic and having Ledaean bodies could bring back wishful memories of re-capturing that. I think we all think of that, well, at least those of us who are older than others! We think of relationships and those who were smart and those not so smart. Everything is thought of and then, we get hit by reality and remember that those days are long gone, but we hold on to memories and make the best of who we are today. As for the mother think it was all worth it to see her son, older? In my opinion…absolutely! I know I would. I would not have a regret but instead nothing but pride and joy. One danced and blossomed when young but one continues to bloom and actually the more beautiful a person is when they are mature and know what real beauty is.

  4. “Among School Children” contains beautiful language, but the poem has an eerie tone. Henry David Thoreau once said that most people “live lives of quiet desperation” because of unresolved issues. I feel that the speaker is one of those people walking amongst children. As an elementary teacher, mother, and grandmother, I have a built in alarm system that is easily activated when it comes to the welfare and safety of children. Yeats says, “In the best modern way – the children’s eyes, In momentary wonder stare upon, A sixty-year-old smiling public man.” This particular line reminds me of the trusting nature of young children. They are gullible and vulnerable. I tried to enjoy this poem, but I had a difficult time getting beyond the children’s trusting and curious eyes. However, I can identify with the speaker looking at the children and flashing back to his own childhood. Some of my students’ characteristics and personalities remind me of myself or friends I had when I was a child. Obviously, the speaker is frustrated because he can’t separate an old man’s body from a young man’s desires, and an elementary school is definitely “no country” for an old man with pent up desires.

  5. “Among School Children” is one poem I had to read several times before I could at least get half an understanding. One way for me to interpret certain poems I have to place an image in my mind as I read them. I can picture young children staring in amazement at someone in there class that looks ancient wondering about his life. Being among the children may have taken him back to certain memories about his life that reminds him of Ledaean and Plato. Maybe he desires to have a changed life from being a “sixty-year-old smiling public man” to having a Ledaean body that gets to experience the parable of Plato. Then I get lost in the poem not fully understanding the Ledaean body, Plato (even though I am familiar with Plato and Pythagoras) nor what part the other characters play or mean. I did hear the information given in class concerning them, read the blog but still no break through to my understanding. To add more confusion he begins to talks about a youthful mother and her shape. Could this be his mother seeing her son growing old? This is one poem that is speaking in parables. The last three poems would have me at a lost for words and understanding.

  6. I didn’t like this poem at all. Why it is so high up on the countdown or why it is considered to be one of the most famous poems of the 20th century is beyond me. Honestly, if it weren’t for this class, I wouldn’t have given this poem a second glance. The first three or four stanzas were alright, though. Had the poem ended there, in my opinion, it would have been a lot better. I kind of got lost when the mythology references started to appear. I’ve never really been a fan of mythology, and I don’t see its relevance to this poem. In my opinion, the mythology references do not contribute to the poem in a positive way. All they do is make it harder to understand.

  7. I’m kinf of like jett on this one. Ihate to always think the worst of people, but when it comes to children it’s pretty much my job. Certain words and phrases, when applied to children by adults, make alarms go off in my head. It’s really hard for me to get past that in this poem and see it for anything else, because the alarms are pretty darn loud. I work for CPS, so forgive me if I go off on a creepy tangent for a moment. A classroom is no place for a “sixty-year-old smiling public man” to be unless he has some good business being there. As the blog post says, his visits to the school are largely cerimonial at best, and his reaction to the children in what is essentially a photo op kinda freaks me out. I start wanting to ask the traditional CPS questions, and I sort of lose the rest ofthe poem. (Who knew a job could ruin poetry for you?) Even trying to get past that, I still end up lost because of the mythology in the poem. I’ve always liked Greek mythology, but in this context I just don’t understand the connection. I’ll try reading it again, but I don’t think it’ll do much good.

  8. I really enjoyed that this poem encompassed so many ideas. I thought it rather amusing he was an old man in a classroom full of young girls whom he found attractive, and the comments that were made in class about if he was a pervert or not. The young girls seem to remind him of a woman that he possibly was involved with previously, so maybe he wasn’t a pervert after all, just lonely.

    The part of the poem about how the children would grow up and in 50 years be just as old as the speaker made me kind of sad. It made me think about growing old, which I never want to do. 🙂
    I found the question “how can we know the dancer from the dance,” very interesting. I agree with the comment that the dancer is the dance, and they are one. When someone is really passionate about something it becomes a part of them.

    Also the question of if the tree is the leaf, blossom, or bole made me wonder what the tree would say. The blossom seems to be symbolic of life and beauty, the leaf of revival and re growth, and the trunk of the center, or mainframe. I think the tree might say that it is all of those things combined, and it wouldn’t be a tree without each of those things.

  9. I too did not really understand what this poem had to do with mythology. I have to say this poem is not one of my favorites on the countdown. I do not see how it is considered one of the best poems of the 20th century either. I had to read this poem a couple of times before I could get a meaning out of it. I my opinion the author is reflecting on his old school days when he was younger. The classroom and all the children bring back good and bad memories from when he was a child. There are times when I see my nieces and nephews playing and I sit and think about the days when I was their age. Thinking back on my childhood memories give me a good feeling and a sense of security. I think the author does not have that feeling within himself.

  10. As already stated by many others in the blog, this poem was a difficult read. However, the background information that was given before we received it for reading made it much more easy to digest. I was especially impressed with the history of the Greek gods and in particular the birth of the children by the swan and the lady.
    In reading the poem, I was impressed with the way that Yeats incorporated the mythical with his ideas and emotions. I picture him standing in the doorway of a classroom as the children are carrying on their daily activities. His mind wonders as he looks upon them and he starts to think about an encounter that happened to someone when they were the age of the children. Suddenly he is one with the children as if they are the yolk and white of an egg. This to me seemed creepy at the time, but I then tried to see myself in his shoes and I could understand to an extent what he was living.
    This begs the question… were any of the other children going through privately some tragedy of their own? Quite possibly they were.
    But back to the lady that he was thinking about. He now sees her PRESENT image and begins to go through her life from her youthful image as a mother to the day that she sees her son of 60 plus years.
    The poem then takes a turn and starts to talk about music. He mentions playing a spume and Taws upon the bottom of a king and then onto a stringed instrument and finally singing. I’m not sure what this was meant to represent but it was rather awkward in its placement in the poem.
    The final two stanzas are his struggle with his desires and his age. He still has desires to do the things that he did in his youth, but his body doesn’t allow him to do so. The passion is still there but he knows that hes just not the same person. I too am beginning to feel this way and soon I will stand in the doorway and wonder.

  11. This poem was hard to keep up with because it seemed to be full of so much. However, it was very beautiful and I like the idea. I believe that when everyone reaches a certain age they will see younger children and realize they once too had that youth and it is normal to long for it. Someone in class stated that separating the dance from the dancer is like separating the desires from the flesh. I love the way she stated that and I am in total agreement. Even though our body ages it does not mean we lose interest in things we once loved so dearly. On another note I know some people have spoken about the way the “public man” views the children in the poem as being inappropriate, but it is hard for me to think of it that way. I feel that he merely viewed them in adoration, smiling at them and being happy for them because they have so much of their lives and youth ahead of them. When he compares his love to the children I think it correlates to the idea that he longs for youth so he realizes that his love must do the same. That together they both have reached a point where they cannot do all the things they used to. I like this poem, like I said it was somewhat hard to keep up with but I enjoyed it and also the Greek mythology in the poem.

  12. I enjoyed the poem much made you dig a little deeper in your brain and think. The poem is not easy to decipher but its about a person that has had his whole life to think about these issues. The poems considers questions brought up by people every day. I don’t think at first Yeats was trying to make himself clear.

    I love his use of Greek philosophers and art. Painting, sculptor, to him leads all into one. The story of Plato’s myth was very interesting to me.

    I liked the questions whether a mother would regret having her child if she could envision the child as a sixty-year-old scarecrow? and what if she could look forward and see her son as a withered old man? Would the pain and worry of child bearing be worth the result? I think those are great questions actually that even I don’t know the answer too. I actually asked my mom she laughed and didn’t comment.

    I think the question yeats is what is life worth once your old.

    Awesome choice loved it.

  13. At first, I couldn’t get what this poem was about because the terms and the pictures that were explained and showed to us in class didn’t seem to relate to the poem. However, when I read it again and it was explained in class what it was about, I understood how everything connected. The poem is about an old or elderly man who has a “fascination” for young girls because he links them to his own love whom I guess, he compares with the Ladean woman. The Ladean woman to him is an epitome of perfection. He refers to every young girl as his lover–meaning he can see his lover in them. Even though I know that the speaker doesn’t mean any harm, I still feel like it’s a weird and perverted behavior because I feel like he should be referring to older women or ladies and not little kids. I know in today’s society the speaker would be misunderstood because people would view it as an abonormal behavior. However, I did love the story of the Ladean woman and the swan; it was interesting.

  14. kursteilnehmur

    This poem deserves its well-earned place on the countdown. It is a difficult poem to understand for most people. One who possesses the lexis and knowledge of the allusions used should have no trouble seeing through the eyes of Yeats. Although the poem tosses and turns from one subject to another in a symphony of expression through language, It may seem that this poem is entirely hodge-podge and random in manner, but with some knowledge of poetry one is sure to hear one of the many instruments played. The possibilities of interpretation are endless for one to fathom. Many sections of this poem can be used in a different context, or by themselves to create an alternate image in one’s mind. If one just takes this poem at face value though, it is easier to grasp the intended meaning. Yeats presents us with the idea that desires do not fade with age. He does not desire a child as some would suggest, but he desires youth again for himself and his lover that may have aged with him, or passed away. He is not the pedophile some people make him out to be. He is probably quite the contrary in fact. He would be offended at the very notion of him harming a child. Besides, we all know that clergymen hold that malevolent office. He is a well educated man that holds a special place in his heart for someone, and he still desires to express that in some way, or grasp onto the prospect of life with resounding fervor. Because of the bad light that ignorant people put on old men this poem is commonly misconstrued to mean something it doesn’t. The media have melted their minds with “reality shows” that skew the image of older males. There are some bad apples in every barrel as we can see from the poem “After Apple-Picking” by Robert Frost. This does not apply here. Chances are that he is an old man simply wishing for youth again. A pervert would not be thinking of art, math, or mythology. He would be devising some villainous scheme to take the child to a creepy underground lair high up in a building somewhere. A lot of people seem to have left out comments on the last part of the poem because of the whole pedophile issue. This is what ties the poem together! Yeats uses the other half of the poem to address issues that are sort of open-ended. He presents ideas that people can be vulnerable, pious, ridiculed for accomplishment, status or lack thereof. The ideas presented that labor is good (blossoming or dancing) “when the body is not bruised to pleasure soul, Nor beauty born out of its own despair, Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil” can be fairly complicated. One can draw their own conclusions from this part of the poem. The last half of this stanza “O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer, Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?” applies to many questions. We discussed in class that given this question undoubtedly the answer is that I am all three parts that makeup the tree; one cannot separate the dancer from the dance because you must have both in order for it to work at all. One may conclude that in life, relationships, making pie, driving a car, skating on the ice, baking cookies, talking to a friend… it all works the same way. A pie is not just made up of one thing, but of a conglomerate of items that make it both sweet and delightful. Cookies are the same way. One needs both salt and sugar for the recipe to be just right. Which are you in this world? Salt or sugar?

  15. I found “Among School Children” by William Butler Yeats to be a little much for my liking. I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning but that changed over the course of the poem. With so much happening in the poem, I found it tough to fully grasp one of the subjects being discussed before three more were being introduced. In the beginning of the poem it was very understandable to what the subject matter was. It seems as though it begins in stanza five when Yeats begins with a rant. By stanza six through the end of the poem, complete confusion swept over me. The language of the poem is wonderfully used and it was never an issue of language that confused me, as it has been with other poems this semester. Its confusion was directly attributed to the amount of subjects that were covered. If the poem had been a bit longer and he delved into the subject matter more, it would have been more appealing to me. It was somewhat of a tease, to be thrown a subject then to consider it and think about it, and then be thrown another and another.

  16. I have a feeling that as we get closer and closer to the number one poem on the countdown, they get harder and harder to read and understand. It definitely took a while before I could grasp the ideas contained within these sixty-four lines. From the ideas mentioned above, the two that stand out the most to me are youth and desire. These two ideas are immediately introduced within the first two stanzas of the poem. The speaker mentions an older (sixty-year-old) man in a classroom observing the children and making a connection between the girls and his lover. The part about the “…yolk and white of the one shell…” express this connection he felt so deeply. It is quite interesting that he dreams of this Ledaean body as he looks at these girls; this expresses his desire. The speaker is practically seeing himself and his lover in those children and probably wonders why it is that they cannot stay young. There is almost a feeling of desperation in the poem coming from the speaker as he is almost desperate about wanting to turn back the time. As far as the mythology comes into play, I honestly have no idea about why it was included in the poem, and it just seems to be extra. The last line however, is the most fascinating to me because it connects the whole poem together and expresses so flawlessly and openly the anxiety, despair, and joy that the speaker feels.

  17. andreamcginley

    If I read this poem ten more times I think I will still not enjoy it, or understand how this poem is so great. This poem is hardly coherent at some times. Inserting Greek Mythology in the poem does not really have a place in this poem. At first I thought the poem was just a sad old man who wishes that he was younger and misses everything about being young, but after reading it a second time the man just came off a bit creepy. He did not really think of being younger, but wishing his mate was younger and while looking at children. The only few things that I liked about the poem was the fifth stanza when it talked about would mothers think that their children were worth all of the labor if they were able to see their children at an old age. Would the task of having children be beneficial to the world or just worthless? I also liked how the speaker refers to himself as a scary scarecrow. I think the reason I like this is some old people can come of as crotchety. Like in the Thomas Hardy poem that talks about how old people can be left behind and forgotten. Old people that are crotchety tend to scare off people that might want to spend time with them.

  18. This poem was very hard for me to understand. I still don’t think I have quite grasped what it all means. It is hard for me to comprehend poems to begin with, but this one about takes the cake. I’m not really sure why exactly it is on the top of the countdown, but I’m sure that people who actually understand it know. The first three or four stanzas were alright, but after that it got a little harder to get. The greek mythology just came in from no where and I started to get lost.

  19. I have a very strong love-hate relationship with this poem.

    On the one hand, I can understand everything he mentions about being young, growing old, remembering your past, looking towards your future, setting a good example, and wanting to freeze time. He makes good points about an old man thinking back on his life and the life of his lover. I do not think he is perverted but, rather, he is remembering when it was acceptable for him to think of a young girl as being beautiful. He looks at the love of his life and notices, honestly, how old her features have become with confusion over whether or not to wish she looked young again. Not only are the subjects within the poem relatable, but the many random switchings of the subject makes the reader almost connected with the speaker because it feels as though you are hearing his exact thought process.

    On the other hand, though I love the references to Greek mythology, I feel as though they, and a few other stanzas in the poem, seem to jump slightly away from the poem. I do not know if anyone else relates their life to Greek mythology on a daily basis but I do not and that is what makes it slightly difficult to read. Also, that is a quite large amount of thought to go into just one poem. All of the issues he discusses could easily be broken up into their own poems. I know many people in the class have expressed their interest in dealing with one subject at a time and that is probably what throws most readers off when looking at “Among School Children.”

    As for me, I think it is the bittersweet aspect of this poem that really makes me so intrigued with it more than many others in the countdown. On all of the ones before it was easy for me to say I simply liked it or did not, with “Among School Children” I just cannot decide.

  20. I also did not enjoy this poem much. And I have to agree with a previous statement about the man coming off as creepy. After reading the poem I pictured an old man just watching young girls in a classroom or anywhere really. To top it off, yesterday I went to the DMV and saw just that, a creepy old man staring at every young lady that walked past the doors. I immediately thought about the speaker in the poem. At the same time however, I get the feeling that the speaker is remembering how his life was when he was young and is just fantasizing about it, wishing he could go back to that time and have that for himself and his lover again. I also felt the same way about this “scarecrow” at the DMV. Although it seemed kind of creepy, he might have just been remembering being that young. Overall the poem was just a bit confusing to me, and I didn’t really like reading about an old man gazing upon a classroom filled with young girls even though his exact thoughts or intentions weren’t made.

  21. This poem was very difficult to understand because it had so much background. In order to understand the poem you had to be familiar with greek mythology. The poem itself was not very pleasant for me. I felt that the men in the poem did not have very good intentions and I just got a weird vibe from the poem. A theme that appeared in the poem and that we have seen it before is the theme of fear of aging. The men looks at the kids in the classroom and thinks of himself when he was a kid. He wants to just stop the aging process and freeze as he is. This is something that everybody feels like at some point in ones life, just wanting to stop everything. With that theme many of the readers can relate too, but the way that he described what he was feeling just make him sound a little out there.

  22. This was one of the longest and difficult to understand poems that I have read so far. I am not sure why the aurthor would branch out and intertwine Greek Philosophy with the poem. It was very odd for me to understand. I don’t know much about Greek Philosophy, in fact I quite despise it. The school must of been that of a religious one. I have cousins that attend private church run schools. They must learn the bible and school material . I personaly don’t think that they shoud be taught under the same roof. As of the poem, well hate to say it but when something doesn’t intrest me, i find it difficult to relate it or elaborate Positively on it.

  23. I also had a difficult time with this poem it is kind of like watching a movie with multiple story lines. I found myself just trying to take it one line at a time to follow Yeats. The poem is a culmination of several diffent themes however children are the common denominator so to speak. In the beginning he is at a school and finds himself wishing for a Ledaean body. He has this image in the midst of all of these children which is kind of a perverse thinking. He wants to find a women whom has experienced some sort of tragedy that he could directly sympathize with. In doing so they would become one and defy “Plato’s parable”. He then goes on to talk about the idea of a mother looking at her offspring and in heindsight wondering if it was worth all of the labour for his birth. I find this idea to be one of extreme disgust. I find the second to last stanza to be the most interesting. Yeats compares nuns and mothers because they both worship either God or their children respectively. He calls them images and says that even though nuns worship God, whom is symbolized by fashioning of precious material, He too will disappoint. I think I like this stanza because it puts things in a perspective I have not ever thought of. It makes so much sense to think of things like that because it is true. Both are given unquestioned love and faith and both can upset.

  24. spontaneous12

    Among School Children

    The first stanza represents the speaker’s first impression. Walking through the school, he has all eyes on him, because he’s new, yet he still has a man’s mind going into a public place. He’s smiling but who really knows this old guy. William Butler Yeats describes old men typically as scarecrows. Children are either afraid of you or they love you at first sight. In this case, his mind seems to wonder off after the first stanza and he dreams a clean but somewhat dirty dream. Men usually do their best to set a good example as you had mentioned in class (Morris). Sometimes men can be overly sympathetic when it comes to children we don’t know. It’s those thoughts whenever you see a beautiful young girl and you’re in awe. She’s so cute and sweet to you but you don’t want to think the wrong thoughts around them or anyone who might over hear (your thoughts). You know you’re a good guy and everything but still there’s the fear of that thought being unpleasant to yourself or a nearby woman. But real men share the experience of weaknesses bringing out their sensitive side. “And thereupon my heart is driven wild; she stands before me as a living child.” The speaker in this instance is reminiscent of a past lover, who he may never see again. He is reflecting as would any person, on how cherished those memories can be thinking back to when he was a child. Yet he has this image of a lover apparently through one of the little girls. Sort of like she once was one of them, and he remembers when he was that age too. He remembers parts of his own life through the school children. We don’t know if his heart is driven wild by perversion or if he is driven by fond memories. Often we criticize the first impression when others aren’t quite like us. If a critic was to be in his thought process through his uneasy walk through that school amongst children, he would probably get a lashing from the public eye nowadays. That is just the way people are when it comes to those types of sensitive topics. I don’t necessary think he is wrong for his thoughts. Occasionally, he could have been off topic with his natural state. But actions speak louder than words. Even with the good images of important school leaders and political figures, we still don’t know sometimes what we’re getting. The things that we hear that go on in the news, and in everyday life, we become more aware of it through happenings and we don’t want it to happen to the people we love. Interesting enough, if you were to pull a name out of a hat without looking, what would you get if you pulled yourself out, a president, or even me? There are only certain things we want people to know.

  25. Part of the reason this poem is so notable is not only the subject matter, but (as mentioned above) its “Lyricism” which indeed is beautiful. The rhyme scheme is simple and the manner which the speaker expresses himself is quick and nimble. At first I could not imagine this poem dealt with Pedophilia like emotions in bad taste and still I doubt it is a topic worth mentioning, yet the end of the second stanza and all of the third stanza causes me to wonder of the entirety of the intentions of the speaker.”And thinking of that fit of grief or rage
    I look upon one child or t’other there
    And wonder if she stood so at that age –
    For even daughters of the swan can share
    Something of every paddler’s heritage”
    I think that the discussion about what exactly yeats is feeling in regards to some of the female students is an extensive venture in its self. Although this is a topic within the poem this possible mischievous desire does not permeate the poem because the speaker does evolve his ideas. The speaker quickly envisions his previous lover with in these children. This poem does deal with a mess of topics but i think it is purposely constructed that way. It takes on a sort of “train of thought” sequence. Watching children tends to give birth to great thoughts including the magic of life and I think that is something yeats notices through these children.

  26. Yeats in this poem is an old weathered man who is writing about young school children. In the poem he is admiring the innocence of the young girls. He portrays them to be like a pile of clay which could be molded into any beautiful artifact. He talks about their innocence and the potential they hold in them. Through this poem Yeats tries to see human life—the innocence and vibrant young children where they are unaware of their fragile life to the old and experienced old admirer (poet) who has blossomed through the youth and is aged and wise now. Though this poem Yeats lives through the forward journey of life, which he says is the only way to live it. Yeats suggests that since there is no choice but to move forward. Life is like a dance that does exist independent of a dancer but has no shape or form without the dancers, this wholeness of life and seeing it as one dynamic harmony is also portrayed. Overall this poem was a little difficult to understand, however, it does give a nice and cruel fact of life and its inevitable onward movement which needs to be experienced by all.

  27. The thorough discussion of this poem in class helped me to truly understand the beauty of this poem. It became apparent that this poem was meant to be about an innocent type of love. This elderly man reminisces as he looks at the school children of when he was their age and just how in love he was at that age with a beautiful woman. however, now their love is still there but he is questioning the beauty of this now older woman. This poem was difficult to read however after understanding is when you realize how beautiful it is.

  28. “Among School Children” by William Butler Yeats is a very long, but interesting work. The Tie in with Greek mythology is pretty cool and enjoyable to read. Even though I am not a big fan of poems that you have to think about a lot to decipher the true meaning of, this one seems to have a good balance. Though at times it’s still tough to completely understand what Yeats is trying to say, it really seems to intertwine all art forms to twist its own message of reality. The use of old scientists and philosophers in the poem is the tool to connect the mindset he was in. After reading this poem over and over, I realized that it is very deep and still somewhat obscure. This poem definitely touches many emotions and can make you thoughtful or sad. Not the greatest poem in my book but I can understand how it is so critically acclaimed.

  29. decarlocoleman

    This poem was interesting but I can’t say it became one of my favorites. I had to read “Among school children” a few times to gain more understanding of what the speaker was trying to get across. The children are associated both with an obvious form of innocence and with the woman whom the speaker loves. By comparing her child self and her current incarnation, it becomes obvious to the speaker how she has aged. When I think about how different life was for me as a child compared to how things are for my nephews it brings back pleasant memories. The imagined conversation between the two, in which she appears to be a schoolteacher rather than a revolutionary, is wishful thinking on his part. The final stanza is a philosophical riddle concerning whether man acts or is acted upon, and serves as a connection to Yeats’ uncertainty as to whether he loves or was destined to love.

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