Politics: by W. B. Yeats - Summary & Analysis

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      Is it possible for me, a poet, to concentrate on Roman or Russian or Spanish politics when I see a young girl standing in front of me? The much-traveled man may know a great deal about international politics. There may be much sense in his talk. Again there is the politician who has read and thought about current events. Both of them may be right when they declare that war is in the offing and thereby they may create a sense of uncertainty and alarm among the people. (I do not care about the terror of imminent war). I wish I were young again so as to embrace this young girl and love her.

Critical Analysis


      According to Unterecker, the poem was written by Yeats in a moment of meditation in reply to the suggestion contained in an article in the Yale Review that the poet should use his poetic talent on political subjects. Yeats’s poetry generally deals with the past—Ireland’s history, folk lore and myths. He has also written romantic lyrics. The poet feels that the source of artistic inspiration is the heart—something felt in the blood—a real thrill, as for example the feeling of love for a young and beautiful girl. Other things like politics, war and peace, may be mightier and significant but he is not really interested in them as a poet. The quotation at the top of the poem indicates the theme—the destiny of a nation depends on its politics. This may be true as an ‘abstract truth’ but the "real truth’ is the passion of love which stirs even an old man. Love is a spontaneous and felt experience; it is quite different from the fate of nation which may hinge on the prospect of war or peace. According to the poet, the destiny of a nation may not really depend on politics but on the everyday experience of love, and the impulses of the heart. Love is, in fact, something which flows through our veins and we know it by the throbs of our hearts. Politics is a remote and d.istant thing and perhaps it even affects the destiny of a country in the long run.

Development of Thought

      There is no development of thought as such in this short poem. The poet as he faces a young girl feels like embracing her. The trouble with him is that he is too old for love. If he were young, he would perhaps have felt the thrill of holding the girl tightly in his arms. Such a situation of love is more immediate and human than the situation of an approaching war or international tension. The common man is not much interested in the power-game of the politicians or of the balance-of-power diplomacy of super powers. He is interested in enjoying life, in love and the thrill which accompanies it.


      This is a short poem of twelve lines. It deals with an important and significant subject—Love versus Politics. The poem was included in the Volume entitled The Last Poems and Plays (1936-39). This volume has been criticized for including poems on sexuality, violence and crime. But if the poems are critically examined, they show the poet’s deep consciousness of the tragedy of human life. Yeats is sensitive to the failings and inadequacies of life, which he found in such ample measure in the life of the ordinary Irishman. The poem also contains an element of pathos—the poet’s lament over his vanished youth. He feels a sense of longing and loss. Though his choice between politics and love is unmistakable, his realization of the inability to love in old age is keen and inexorable. This is a simple poem without any imagery or symbolism.

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