Why Did Owen Pick A Quote From Yeats?

In Owen’s The Show he first quotes a man named W.B. Yeats. I liked this quote a lot so I decided to look up who he was. I found out that he was an Irish poet as well as a Senator, but as far as I have seen, he never fought. Since Owen was a combatant I was interested why he would pick a quote from someone who did not share his experience of the war, especially since there was the huge problem of who really got to tell the story of what the war was like. After some more research I found that Yeats was a strong advocate against the war, calling it an “outbreak of insolence and stupidity the world has ever seen.” Yeats, being a well known poet of the time, was asked to write about the war by his peers. In return he published On Being Asked for a War Poem in which he wrote, “I think it better that in times like these A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth We have no gift to set a statesman right He has had enough of meddling who can please A young girl in the indolence of her youth, Or an old man upon a winter’s night.”  This seemed ironic to me, since he often wrote poetry about Irish politics. This becomes even more confusing when I saw that Yeats actually disliked Owen, stating that he is, “unworthy of the poet’s corner of a country newspaper” because “he is all blood, dirt, and sucked sugar stick.” With the small amount of research that I did I could not find any other connection between Yeats and Owen.

The quote Owen starts with is from Yeats’ Shadowy Waters, which is about men who have been at sea for a long time. While it contemplates death, it gives the reader the impression that things will be alright in the end, he even uses terms such as love and immortality. In the end the main character is with his lover and it could be implied that they either live or die happily together. I also found that Owen did not finish the quote completely, it goes on to say that, “And find their laughter sweeter to the taste For that brief sighing.” Possibly, Owen could be contradicting Yeats but other than that I am struggling to see the connection between the two poets and the quote that Owen chose and find it very interesting.

194 thoughts on “Why Did Owen Pick A Quote From Yeats?

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