"In Memory of W.B. Yeats" is all about death. After all, it's an elegy, a poem written in memory of a person who has passed away. Death has a way of making people consider what it means to be alive – especially if the dead person happens to share your career path and maybe even your worldview. In this poem, Yeats's passing becomes an occasion for Auden to think through the complicated legacy Yeats left behind – as well as the ways in which Yeats's work forever shaped the poetic landscape. Yup, it's a pretty big topic to take on in one little poem. But if anyone's up to the task, it's Auden.
"In Memory of W.B. Yeats" isn't one elegy – it's three.
"In Memory of W.B. Yeats" mourns the loss of Yeats the poet, not Yeats the man.