Category Archives: Yeats (William Butler)

Prayer for My Granddaughters

As Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida after having devastated several islands, I find myself delivering up Yeats’s “Prayer for My Daughter.”

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can Poetry Stop This Man?

Poetry may not have been able to stop Donald Trump, but it has its ways of mounting resistance. Poems by Tennyson, Auden, and Yeats explain how.

Also posted in Auden (W. H.), Tennyson (Alfred Lord) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Terrible Beauty of Political Fanatics

While many are celebrating the centenary of Ireland’s Easter uprising, Yeats’s famous poem on the rebellion offers us cautions about how to respond to such acts of rebellion today.

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Enjoy Reading Is To Enjoy Instruction

David Foster Wallace, like Plato, Horace, and Sidney before him, wrestles with the dichotomy between reading for enjoyment and reading for instruction. But what if this is a false dichotomy.

Also posted in Wallace (David Foster) | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Trump as Yeats’s Rough Beast

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar accuses Donald Trump of being the actual terrorist and compares him to Yeats’s “rough beast” in “The Second Coming.”

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Two Exam Poems To Lift Your Spirits

For students encounter end-of-semester pressure, here are two comic poems about exams. Laughter is an important resource for you at the moment.

Also posted in Bevington (Helen), Browning (Elizabeth Barrett), Keats (John), Shelley (Percy), Townshend (F. H.), Wordsworth (William) | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Political Commentary’s Most Cited Poem

The Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne has called Yeats’s “The Second Coming” the most cited poem in political commentary. Yeats may set up a false dichotomy between “passionate intensity” and “lack of conviction,” however.

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bloodless Criticism Undermines Lit

Literature can function as an evasion as well as a guide. But only if we talk about it in evasive ways.

Also posted in Byron (Lord Gordon), Hardy (Thomas), King (Lily) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yeats & Ireland’s World of Faery

Yeats’ “Stolen Child” longs for the lost world of faery but also finds something precious in the here and now world of Ireland.

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

“Leda and the Swan”–Warning Necessary?

Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan” contains a disturbing description of a rape. Should teachers issue warnings before teaching it?

Also posted in Ovid | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Divine Stairway of Sharp Angles

Levertov uses to story of Jacob’s Ladder to describe the miracle of poetry.

Also posted in Herbert (George), Levertov (Denise) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Am of Ireland

Yeats captures the enduring myth that is Ireland in two poems.

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Disaster Ahead, No More Fantasizing

Can the Tea Party move beyond fantasies and deal with the world as it really is? Shakespeare and Yeats weigh in.

Also posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncontrollable Mystery on the Bestial Floor

A Yeats poem about the Magi helps us transition out of Christmas and back into our work lives.

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

If They Lose, Irish Can Turn to Poetry

Even if they lose the national championship game, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame have Ireland’s poetic legacy to fall back on.

Also posted in Joyce (James), Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Great Political Novels Not Agenda Driven

Great political novels are rich in spiritual attitude. Poor ones are agenda driven.

Also posted in Conrad (Joseph), Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Ginzburg (Natalia), Gordimer (Nadine), James (Henry), Llosa (Vargas), Naipaul (V.S.), Pamuk (Orhan), Roth (Philip K.), Stendahl, Turgenev (Ivan) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Terrible Beauty of Political Fanatics

In “Easter, 1916,” Yeats gives us a framework for understanding the ambivalence of Muslim moderates towards protesters.

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Yeats and a Prayer for My Granddaughter

Yeats’s “Prayer for My Daughter” has questionable sexual politics but points to deep truths.

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

A Poem for Those Feeling Dragged Down

In “The Fascination of What’s Difficult,” William Butler Yeats gives us a poem that will help get us through end-of-the-year workplace fatigue.

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

At 60, a Comfortable Old Scarecrow

Having just turned 60, I’ve been thinking of Teiresias. Wise though the blind seer may be, his advice doesn’t help others that much. Aging, in other words, appears to require humility.

Also posted in Eliot (T.S.), Euripides, Johnson (Samuel), Sophocles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Poetry to Read at a Hippy Wedding

Today is my wedding anniversary so you get to hear how I wove poetry into the ceremony. W. B. Yeats, Archibald MacLeish, D.H. Lawrence, and the Song of Solomon all made appearances. Get ready for time travel back to a very different era.

Also posted in Bible, Lawrence (D. H.), MacLeish (Archibald) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Slouching towards Bethlehem?! Get a Grip

“We are starting to wonder whether Congressional Democrats lack the courage of their convictions, or simply lack convictions,” stated a recent New York Times editorial. The editorial was displeased that the Democrats were afraid of standing up against the Bush tax cuts, due to expire by the end of this year. What with cowardly Democrats […]

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , | Comments closed


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete