In Memory of W.B. Yeats
by W.H. Auden
In Memory of W.B. Yeats Admiration Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself […] (33-35)
Yeats had one heck of an interesting life. Auden doesn't want us to forget that amidst all the brilliance was a great deal of human screwing up too. How often do you hear great men described as "silly"? It's just not a word that tends to make it into the history books. But Auden wants to validate Yeats as the man that he was, not some larger-than-life hero.
Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections (18-19)
There's a mix of emotions in these lines. It's pretty customary to speak of poets gaining "immortality" through their poetry. But Auden wants us to think more deeply about what this afterlife entails. It's almost like Yeats's ashes are being thrown out to an anonymous crowd. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Perhaps it's a little of both.
Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest. (42-43)
As we've mentioned before, section III takes on the form of a traditional elegy. Reverting to tradition allows Auden to place Yeats within the great elegiac tradition while still claiming a unique viewpoint on his life and legacy.