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Themes

William Butler Yeats was a giant among poets.  His works dominated the literary and political landscape for quite a few decades, as a matter of fact. And his death left a big, gaping hole in the world of poetry – not to mention the world in general.  But before you paint his monument in gold, read "In Memory of W.B. Yeats." This poem asks us to think about Yeats's failings as well as his triumphs. After all, the only real way to express admiration is to do so honestly, right?

Questions About Admiration

  1. Do you think Auden admired Yeats the man? Why or why not?
  2. Why does Auden seem to like Yeats so much?
  3. What words would you use to characterize Auden's vision of Yeats? How about Yeats's work?
  4. Does this poem suggest that society values poetry? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Auden's elegy values Yeats more for his political commitment than for his poetic virtuosity.

Auden's elegy values Yeats's work because it can express sentiments that politics and business can't.

Although Auden admires Yeats the poet, he seems to have less regard for Yeats the man in this poem.

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