In Memory of W.B. Yeats
by W.H. Auden
Death. Destruction. Doom. What else would you expect from an elegy? After all, the very fact that it's an elegy means somebody has died. But that's not the only dark and nasty thing lurking around the corner. As it turns out, the whole world is about to implode. Or explode. This poem is as acutely aware of the future as it is of the past – and frankly, neither is looking all that great at the moment.
- Lines 42-45: Death gets all gussied up in these lines. These lines are so familiar they're almost soothing. We're guessing that Auden crafts these lines to serve as a subtle allusion to all elegies everywhere. At least, that's how they sound to us.
- Lines 46-49: Things aren't so hot in 1939. In fact, they're downright scary. This imagery helps draw us into the impending doom. Nightmares and barking dogs make us think of bad, bad things. Also the Thriller video. But hey, monsters and the walking dead aren't really that far off base here, either.
- Line 55: This is it, folks. We've hit the bottom. But wait, it's only 1939… Don't you know that it gets worse later on? Well, yes, but as it turns out, "bottom" of the night can be a very capacious term. Yeats was pretty sure he was living in bad times. Auden was, too. Heck, who's to say we're not all still bottom-dwellers. How's that for a cheery thought?