© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Circus Animals' Desertion

The Circus Animals' Desertion


by William Butler Yeats

The Circus Animals' Desertion Summary

Yeats's speaker (who, let's face it, is remarkably similar to the poet himself), sits down to write a poem… and nothing happens. So he waits for about six weeks… and nothing happens. This is pretty unusual for our speaker, who happens to be pretty talented at the scribbling. And hey, after decades of writing, you'd think he'd have a few tricks up his sleeve for those days when inspiration didn't come, right?

Well, not exactly. As our speaker decides, the inspiration for all of his previous poems (including all of the tricks he had up his sleeve) just don't cut it any more.

As the poet (we mean the speaker here) starts to think back on his former inspirations, he pulls the reader along with him on a journey that takes them through Irish legends and Irish political activists, from Oisin to the Countess Cathleen to Cuchulain. They're all great stories, don't get us wrong (and we'll tell you all about them in our "Detailed Summary"), but at the end of the day, they just don't seem to inspire our speaker anymore.

Now that he comes to think of it, pretty much everything he's ever written actually takes root in the dirty, messy, sloppy contents of the human heart. Even though he's dressed those contents up in fancy myths and pretty rhymes, at the end of the day they're still just the base emotions of human life.

So where does the speaker decide to go from here? Well, he's starting over. He's facing all the dirt and mess head-on. No more myths. No more illusions. In other words, he's moving past the Modern and into the Postmodern. It's a whole new world – and he's about to write the poetry to prove it.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...