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Among School Children by William Butler Yeats is among the most famous

English poems of the 20th century. It is an eight stanza poem which reflects many
themes. There are several themes that are common throughout the poems of
William Butler Yeats. Many of poems by W.B. Yeats reflect an unrelenting
obsession with the past, and his fear of growing old or aging and a persistent fear
of death, unrequited life-long love for Maud Gonne, and numerous references to
youth, education and journey of life.

The theme of youth and old age is very prominent in Among School Children.
Yeats frequently compares and contrasts between these two. In the very first stanza
being clearly conscious of his old age he addresses himself as a sixty-year-old
smiling public man. Then in third stanza he visualizes Moude Gonne in a child
before him whose Gonnes youthful purity hypnotizes him. But immediately, he
compares her childhood with her present age. In her growing age, she is now
hollow of cheek. He also reminisces a moment of his own previous pretty
plumage when he had jet-black hair as a young man. But then snaps back to the
present. Through these quick shifts he reveals how much he is conscious of his
growing age. In stanza four; he portrayed the disappointed of mothers seeing their
child becoming aged. Lastly, he says though every human know aging is part of
life, still we all are self mocker of our old age.

Besides this, there are also several major and minor themes in this poem. Among
them most common one is his unrequited love for Moude Gonne. Most of his
poems somehow have the presentation of Moude Gonne. Sometimes he recalls her
or sometimes glorifies her. Similarly, in this poem he firstly he imagines her in
children. Then reminisce a moment of their youth. He compares her beauty with
that of Helen. He also describes Gonnes swan-like beauty, saying, Even the
daughters of the swan can share something of every paddlers heritage. Slipping
deeper into his imagination, Yeats passionately portrays Gonne, until she stands
before me as a living child. Tragically, Yeats knows that this perfection will
eventually be corrupted, causing Yeats to have a fit of grief or rage

At the beginning of the poem we also get the theme of contrast between
knowledge and experience. He Talks about the way of modern learning, though
he didnt explain elaborately. He only wants to know whether the lessons they are
being taught is really relevant to life. They learn to cipher and to sing, to study
reading-books and history," but Yeats realizes that lifes true lessons do not come
from the classroom rather from experience or age.

He also brings theme of transformation from innocence to maturity with


references of legend of Leda whose innocence was violated by Zeus. Yeats relates
the rape of Leda by Zeus with these innocent childrens turning of a childish day
to tragedy. Ledas body bent/ above a sinking fire is symbolic of her
diminishing youthful spirit; Leda loses the purity of her youth through one trivial
event." Yeats knows that later in life, these children, with the same Leda-like
innocence, will have to be stripped of their purity. This change parallels Ledas,
and the childrens, transition from innocence to knowledge.

Then, he brings Platos Symposium, which propounded the idea or theme that
the gods created men and women by splitting a near-spherical shape into two
halves. The passion is a mere series of attempts to regain this lost unity. He
imagines, he and Maud Gonne, like Platos parable, being together as the yolk
and white of the one shell."

Then he brings the theme of body and soul as inseparable part of life. He said
body and soul cant be existed solely. Yeats recognizes that although people are
the sum of their separate deeds, life is an amalgamation of actions. Instead of
viewing life in parts, like the leaf, the blossom, or the bole, Yeats argues for one,
united view of life. Like ones inability to separate the dancer from the dance,
one cannot separate life from death. These two parts are not independent. Instead,
they are one in the same. No one has life, without death. So, one should not view
them independently, choosing to takes all areas of life in one wide swath.

Conclusion and Criticism:

Among School Children finds its solution to the dichotomy between the children
and the ageing man. Yeats realizes the fleeting nature of life, accepting human
frailty and the inevitability of aging. After wearing the false mask of acceptance
for so long, he finally realizes that no matter who the man, and irrespective of his
deeds, death is an inevitable part of life.