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In Memory of W.B. Yeats

In Memory of W.B. Yeats


by W.H. Auden

Analysis: Speaker

Quite frankly, our speaker has a whole lot in common with the poet himself. (Auden, we mean, not Yeats.) Like Auden, our speaker is very invested in Yeats's poetry. Like Auden, he's a little bit skeptical of Yeats's life choices. But like Auden, he's pretty willing to be pragmatic about the foibles and outright faults of a man who was, in fact, very human.

Of course, it's never fair to assume that the speaker and the poet are identical. They usually aren't. But in this case, they're pretty darn close. Here's what we know about our speaker:

He's a lover of language and poetry. In fact, he seems to revel in his ability to carry out shifts of tone and voice, which he continually showcases in the poem.

Also, he feels a deep personal connection to Yeats – enough so that he can call one of the greatest poets of the age "silly" and still feel OK with himself. Believe us, it's a ballsy move.

Our speaker is a fan of straight-talkin'. He's not about to praise Yeats to the skies just because the man passed away. He looks Yeats's history straight in the eye – and even if it's not always pretty, he calls things like he sees them. Sure, he may not be the friendliest guy to have sitting next to you in a bar, but a little bit of truth-telling isn't such a bad thing.

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