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In Memory of W.B. Yeats

In Memory of W.B. Yeats


by W.H. Auden

Section III, Stanza 3 Summary

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

Lines 50-53

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

  • Remember those currents of feeling and poetry? Well, they don't seem to be faring so well here. All that locking and freezing don't seem to lead to much sharing or caring. These, folks, are not warm and fuzzy times.
  • But wait – isn't this poem supposed to be about Yeats? This is the second stanza in a row now that doesn't seem to have anything to do with the man himself. What gives?
  • That's a good question. And like most good questions, it doesn't have an easy answer. Here's our guess, though: sometimes the best way to pay homage to someone is to spend some time thinking about their worldview, and the world in which they lived. Yeats, remember, was deeply connected to his nation and to political and social movements. If you read Yeats's poetry, you'll see how deeply he worries about human connections. You could think of these stanzas as a way for Auden to spend a little bit of time in another poet's head. He is almost writing here as Yeats.

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