The Fisherman

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The Fisherman

Discuss ways in which hopes and dreams are made significant in the Fisherman

The poet finds inspiration in the idea or image of a solitary fisherman, deftly practising his art, that seems to remind him of true values, what really matters to him as a poet and for his country. At the end, resolves to be true to this image and not the sirens voices that have distracted him.

Yeats imagines himself writing for a Connemara fisherman. The character is the symbol of an imagined audience and inspiration, whose simply lifestyle and values are worthy of address and who represents, perhaps, another image of an idealised Ireland away from betrayals and disillusionment Yeats expresses elsewhere in the poem. Many romantic writers sought a return to nature, a natural landscape, and to the characters who inhabited that landscape as these worlds were seen as being more innocent,  pure, truthful or straightforward than supposedly more sophisicated, cosmopolitan or metropolitan ones. Yeats' figure is an idealised, romanticised one, and this he acknowledges in the poem, but he also embodies simple truths and values that are compellingly evoked in the poem. Yeats character is also a kind of mirror held up to Yeats - someone who can correct and reprove him for his mistakes and inspire him with a sense of truer, better, simpler Ireland. In some ways, he is a sort of alter ego for a sophisticated poet and artist- someone who lives a simpler life, in touch with nature possessed integrity than the writer is troubled he may have lost or which his cannot find.

The opening of the poem is slightly puzzling. The objects of Yeats' attention is clear, an idealised fisherman figure from Connemara, a relatively remote, beautiful region of Ireland, far from the more sophisticated world of cities like Dublin. The attraction to such a figure is that they have a proud independence and closeness the nature already noted that makes them 'wise and simple'; we can also appreciate the figure's deft skill in his artistry of fishing. What is less certain is the meaning of 'I can see him still' linked with later declaration that it is 'long since I began/ To call up to they eyes', the picture of him. Perhaps Yeats suggesting that the image he has called up was beginning to disappear- or elude- although he had long had such a picture in mind. This may tie in with what he says later in the poem aboutr the man being 'but a dream'. Certainly the potency of the image is strong; perhaps the doubts that are being suggested in that qualifying 'still' are about how Yeats the poet can maintain the clarity of that image and stay true to the values it holds.

The image of the fisherman is one of clarity, purity and innocence- even humility perhaps. The repetition of 'grey' suggests a dress that is unostentatious, plain. His fishing at 'dawn' suggests something both elemental and pure at the start of a fresh…


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