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In Memory of W.B. Yeats

In Memory of W.B. Yeats


by W.H. Auden

Section III, Stanza 2 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 46-49

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

  • Auden may be drawing on age-old traditions in the first stanza of this section, but he's not about to let his readers forget some of the specifics of Yeats death, particularly the time of his death.
  • Yeats died in 1939, just as the world was gearing up for World War II. Yeats and Auden shared the sentiments of many of their fellow artists and intellectuals, who were dismayed at the thought of another world war. They'd lived through the horror of World War I, and they weren't excited to plunge right back in to all that bloodshed and death.
  • Notice how the speaker paints the impending war as a sort of nightmarish unreality. That's a common tone in works written during this time. There was a general sense of incredulity and horrible fascination with a world that seemed to be heading straight to hell in a hand basket…again.
  • We're pretty convinced that the rhyme scheme of this last section helps reinforce that sense of impending doom. Read a few lines aloud and you'll see what we mean. The regularity of the rhyme scheme and the meter could be soothing. But once it's in motion, it's hard to make it stop. Kind of like a global war, huh?
  • We're actually pretty struck by the similarity between nations and individual people in this poem. Check out how similar the descriptions of "sequestered" nations are to the isolated cells of human beings in section I.
  • There is a tiny, tiny bit of hope, though: the nations are "living," even if they can't seem to get out of the nightmare of their current situation. Small consolation? Yup. We think so, too.

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