The Circus Animals' Desertion
by William Butler Yeats
One of the best ways to reinforce a point is to say it more than once – a fact that your parents have probably used against you many, many times. Yeats has a knack for repeating words, structures, and phrases, as well. Interestingly enough, such types of repetition were actually integral to the mythic poetry that Yeats is seeking to move beyond. See, in an oral culture, when bards would move from place to place singing the songs of heroes, even rhyme and frequent repetition helped them remember their stories. Maybe Yeats isn't moving so far away from his past, after all.
- Section I, Lines 1-2: The very first two lines of this poem start with the same two words, "I sought." The fancy technical term for this sort of repetition is anaphora – the repetition of words or phrases in a poetic composition, and it helps to reinforce the idea that our speaker is looking for something, and he's having some serious trouble finding it.
- Section II, Line 4: Anaphora strikes again. This time, the word "vain" is repeated three times in one line – making it clear that all the speaker's imagining have been… in vain, as in fruitless. Or does it mean that writing poetry like this is vain and self-promoting?
- Section II: The entire form of section two is repetitive: each stanza introduces a new character in the first few lines and then spends the rest of the stanza telling us why that character's story just isn't cutting it anymore.
- Section III, Line 5: We've got some serious anaphora in these lines: the word "old" precedes just about every noun in the lines, telling us that it's time to be out with the old (mythological poems) and in with the new (poems of the heart).