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In Memory of W.B. Yeats

In Memory of W.B. Yeats


by W.H. Auden

Section III, Stanza 4 Summary

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

Lines 54-57

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

  • OK, so the world is not a happy place. But our speaker seems to value Yeats's ability to accept that. He admires how Yeats combines realism (a recognition of "night") with rejoicing...even when celebration might not be the first thing on everybody's mind. There's something brave about that. After all, it would be easy to escape into fantasy, or just to mope about how bad things are. (Think of your whiny poems from the seventh grade. We know all about them.)
  • One quick technical point: the speaker switches to the present tense in this stanza. He's no longer addressing us or an outside audience; he's talking to the "poet," someone who continues to exist in the present, even after Yeats himself has died.
  • Don't worry, Auden doesn't believe in ghosts. Or maybe he does; we don't really know. Either way, the point is that this "poet" is a figure that lives on through Yeats's poetry and isn't necessarily attached to Yeats, the human man.

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