Reading each of these poems by W.B Yeats, we see marked differences in the tone of each, however, we also see similarities in the imagery and language used to create this tone. Even in this limited group of poems definitive patterns begin to emerge. We recognise his tendency to use strong natural imagery, and the names of actual places where appropriate and to use imagery not only in supplementing the body of the text, but also as the body of the text:
“wandering water gushes,
from the hills above glen car,Order now
in pools among the rushes,
that scarce could bathe a star”
this is a fine example of how imagery alone describes place and mood, without need for other description.
The above excerpt is from The Stolen Child. This poem is W.B Yeats delving deep into the magical world of Irish mythology, and bringing forth the myth of the fairy people, which he finds intriguing, and recording it. This was a large part of what Yeats desired to do: record the oral tradition before all the tales of old Ireland were lost.
In this poem Yeats establishes his themes early on. Sleep features heavily as do the supernatural solicitings of the fairy folk.
“The drowsy water rats”
“And is anxious in its sleep”
“We seek for slumbering trout”
Yeats ensures, through his use of soft soothing consonants and onomatopoeic words, – slumbering, whispering and drowsy,- and the first person narrative style of the poem, that we feel as the child feels as the fairies seduce him away, steal him, away to the wild, rich world Yeats has expertly created through weaving of natural imagery. In this poem Yeats almost personifies the nature of which he speaks:
“over the young streams”
“Till the moon has taken flight”
thus reinforcing our conviction that Yeats has a deep and yearning love for these places and images of rural Ireland.
Finally, the last stanza of the poem reveals the perverse intentions of the fairies, as they express their victory over this human child:
“for HE comes the human child”
this is a variation on what had usually been the repeated part of the stanza which, until now, had been intended to lull us under the fairy control. Its change denotes a variation in the tone of the poem, from lulling and light-hearted, to victorious and celebratory, almost in a mocking fashion.
This romantic image of Ireland which Yeats loves so much is not left in The Stolen Child. In The Lake Isle of Innisfree, we see again strong use of natural imagery to conjure a very romantic, very pleasing and idyllic image of rural Ireland in even the mind of a foreigner. In writing The Lake Isle of Innisfree, Yeats was obviously aiming to preserve and publicise his dream, his dream of an ideal place and an ideal lifestyle, where he wants to be at this instant. Therefore the immediate tone of the poem is deliberate and profound, shown by the below quote and the use of first person narrative style:
“I will arise and go now”
unlike some of his earlier writings such as The Stolen Child, where the same type of imagery is used, Yeats’s writing here is much tighter and leaves us more to imagine. For example, where in The Stolen Child Yeats clearly describes colours and shapes, in The Lake Isle of Innisfree he leaves us to create these images for ourselves. This shows us he understands that although this may be his idea of paradise he cannot force it upon other people, only tell them of it, and allow their imagination to perfect the imagining.
The Stolen Child: “and of reddest stolen cherries” is very descriptive
The Lake Isle of Innisfree: “a hive for the honey bee” is simpler, tighter.
This writing style makes the overall tone of the poem more musing and contemplative, than accounting and direct.
On another vein we can view this poem as his frantic attempt to state intentions and desires, before he ‘thinks himself out of it’. There are few full stops in each stanza. Each stanza, in fact, it a long sentence and highlights Yeats”s longing to state his love for this place.
The image he presents is very romantic and in tune with nature, he shall have a primitive dwelling and live off the land, free from the troubles and cares of the world, a relaxing idea which is transferred through the appropriate use of regular onomatopoeic words-such as beewith the regular hum-to the reader, which in turn softens the tone and soothes their mind. The poem end slightly differently from how it begins, finishing on a profoundly mournful note, where he feels this place always in his deepest of being,
“the deep hearts core”
finally, the poem Cuhulains Fight with the Sea illustrates a bridging of tone and imagery between The Stolen Child and The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Here not only do we see natural imagery, again almost nature personified :
“to the dim sleepy ground”
but more so the themes of lightness and darkness:
“yet somewhere under starlight or the sun”
which also appear in The Stolen Child:
“wave of moonlight glossesâ€¦” and “foot it all the night”
these themes of light and dark create uncertainty and tension of tone. The themes are also bridging, where The Lake Isle of Innisfree is very in touch with reality saying “this is what I dream of, but I know it is fantasy, therefore I shall always dream of it and feel it in the deep hearts core” and The Stolen Child is very fantastical, dealing with the old Irish myth of the fairies stealing young babies and leaving changeling children, Cuhulains Fight with the Sea is a mythically themed poem, but it has some serious themes in it also, like betrayal and jealousy. For this reason, it can be described as a bridge.
There are also similarities in tone between both poems and Cuhulains Fight with the Sea. The Lake Isle of Innisfree shares tones of deliberation: shown by Emer during her fury whilst she is determined to punish Cuhulain for his unfaithfulness, and shown by Yeats during his opening to The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Similarly there are tones of supernatural occurrences, where Conchubar,
“ranks his druids round him ten by ten”
druids are a type of ‘witch doctor’ or olden priest, whom had a knowledge of nature also the numbers in this poem hold special meaning: ten by ten.
The tone of this poem, for the central stanzas is very descriptive of the mythology, noticing the harp being played, is a reference to oral tradition, and the reference to oaths and long journeys to and from war. This is a romantic image of the olden stories, which is becoming typical of what we would expect to see from Yeats. Finally, the tone settles into melancholy as Cuhulain kills his son. The sombre tone is heightened by the silence of the protagonist and the tragedy of the outcome, bringing it once again closer to reality.