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Quotes

Quote #1

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours; (12-13)

You've probably heard it said that everyone dies alone. In Auden's poem, that includes Yeats.  These lines make it clear that death is never something anyone can share with you. It's a private, isolated and isolating experience, and Yeats goes through it on his own.

Quote #2

And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom (27)

Wow, talk about a damning critique of society. Not only is everyone locked in their own "cell" of isolation, but even worse, everyone is convinced that his or her isolation is actually a form of freedom. It's not exactly what you want to hear about yourself, is it?

Quote #3

From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; […] (39-40)

The landscape of human life seems especially bleak in these lines, which suggest that our busy days and constant occupations are actually small and insignificant.  Wondering what this has to do with Yeats? Well, we're guessing it has something to do with the task the Yeats set for himself: depicting the possibilities latent within this horrible, soulless life.

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