September 1913


September 1913

The poet expresses disgust and cynicism about the state of the modern Ireland that he feels is betraying its great heroes, like John O'leary, and their dream of independence.

  • In this brilliantly indignant and angry poem, Yeats condemns contemporary Ireland for its betrayal of its better self.
  • He draws a searing contrast between the romantic, nationalist, heroes of the past, and their vision and shallow comtemporary culture.
  • John O'leary who is mentioned in the poem was an inspiration to young Yeats, he served time in prison for his nationalists beliefs and was forced to live in exile before returning to Ireland.
  • The argument in the poem is suprisingly vitriolic one for a supposed nationalist. 
  • The poem suggests, culture and people are somehow diminished, only interested in looking out for a narrow sense of their own salvation.
  • His poem angrily denounces the ways in which the imaginative and actual possibilities of nationalist dreams have foundered in a materialistic, self-interested culture that has no real vision or nobility and betrays the traditions and great men of the past. 
  • September 1913 comes from a collection called 'Responsibilities', the very name which suggests a more direct concern with contemporary problems and issues than was the case with some of Yeats' earlier, more imaginative, dreamy works. 
  • Another poem called 'A coat' is from the same collection, Yeats talks about forgetting old mythologies and instead there being 'more enterprise in walking naked.' -In other words, Yeats felt an increasing pressure to- and perhaps more condidence with- dealing with real issues, much as a Romantic Writer, dreaming sometimes irresponsbily and fantastically of a better but not always clearly defined reality,comes down to earth. 
  • His tone is often disillussioned, bitter, sometimes even despairing as his idealism confronts and disappoints and often shabby compromises or failures of ordinary, mundane reality. 
  • In 'September 1913' there is both anger and despair- we are reminded of Auden's epitaph for Yeats where the younger poet assutely talks of Yeats' poems and their theme of singing of 'human unsuccess'.
  • Auden denounces the cheapening of comtemporary Ireland, he evokes a sense of a past defined by noble splendour, visionary aspiration and greatness. He celebrates as well as criticises, as he comtemplates the great men of the past and the grandeur of their dreams in contrast to the squalid failings of the present. 
  • Typically, too there is that sense, as in so many Yeats' poems, early or late, of the clash of ideal and reality- of noble spendour and bitter human failing.
  • Here, reality is not measured against a dream world or fantasy, but someone who actually existed and was, for Yeats, to borrow from a later poem, one of his Olympians.
  • Yeats chose a tight form that consists of eight-syllable lines and alternate rhyming lines, this gives the writing the terseness and intensity. 
  • He matches intricate form with contrasting colloquial vigour of language that perfectly expresses the gap between dream and contemporary reality with a splendour and vitality that somehow make up for


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