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In Memory of W.B. Yeats

In Memory of W.B. Yeats

by W.H. Auden

Death Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living. (22-23)

Auden calculates the changes that Yeats's work will undergo during this transformation. Ironically, it's a very physical description. And taken in context of Yeats's disembodied (or, well, dead) state, the image becomes all the stranger.

Quote #5

A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual. (28-29)

Immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be, huh? Auden takes a wry look at the way the dead are truly remembered. Even someone as famous and inspirational as Yeats only gets a passing glance from most of the world.

Quote #6

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest. (42-43)

Ah, tradition.  In the last section of this poem, Auden reverts to a phrasing that just about everyone has heard at some time or another. Tradition is around for a reason. It's soothing, and it helps us remember that these terrible, seemingly unprecedented losses have happened before.  Other people have died, and we've found ways to mourn them – just like we'll find ways to mourn Yeats.

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