By mourning tonguesThe death of the poet was kept from his poems. (10-11)
Poetry, unlike individual human beings, persists as long as there are readers and thinkers around. It doesn't change. And, unlike humans, it can take whatever shape its readers want it to.
You were silly like us; your gift survived it all: (33)
Auden balances Yeats's humanity (read: mistakes) against his "gift," his writing. Notice how the word "gift" invokes a very traditional sense of poetic genius. Wordsworth and Byron had it; Yeats has it too. In one stroke, Auden discusses Yeats's downfalls and aligns him with the greats of the poetry world. Not bad, eh?
Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,For poetry makes nothing happen: (35-37)
If you remember one thing from this poem, it'll be line 37. Believe us, you'll hear it again. What does poetry make? Nothing. But is that "poetry doesn't make anything"? Or is it that poetry carves out a space (a "no-thing") that no other form of communication can express? Hmm. Deep thoughts, folks.