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W.B. Yeats Poetry | In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz

winwoodedu | Wednesday September 21, 2011

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Context

This poem was written in 1927. The people mentioned in the title are Eva Gore-Booth (1870-1926) and Constance Markiewicz (nee Gore-Booth) (1868-1927). They were childhood friends of Yeats.

Structure

The poem has 3 stanzas with 10 or 12 lines. There is no regular rhyme scheme in the poem which may reflect the fact that Yeats is writing about friends; this is a personal poem and not the place for the formal or structured.

Stanza 1

‘Lissadell’ is a late Georgian house, home of the Gore-Booths, in County Sligo. The description ‘one a gazelle’ is of Eva, likened to a small graceful antelope. Yeats had thought of marrying her in 1894. She devoted her life to the suffragette movement and to working among Manchester mill girls.

‘[A] raving autumn’ indicates the ageing process; moving towards the end of the year or the end of life. The phrase ‘shears blossom from the summer’s wreath’ suggests beauty fading with age. We then move to ‘the older’, Constance. She was ‘condemned to death’ for her part in the Easter Rising. The sentence was commuted. The ‘lonely years’ refer to when she was estranged from her husband and stepson who returned to live in Poland.

‘[C]onspiring among the ignorant’ is a reference to Con’s part in the Easter Rising; ordinary Irish are seen as ‘ignorant’ as they don’t understand the need for a revolution. The phrase ‘what the younger dreams’ refers to Eva’s dreams which are more elusive; she wasn’t a revolutionary like Con.

‘[S]ome vague Utopia’ refers to Eva’s work for women’s rights, perhaps seen as Utopian in 1927. The descriptive phrase ‘withered old and skeleton-gaunt’ is another of Yeats’ horrific visions of old age. ‘[A]n image of such politics’ refers to the work Eva has undertaken which has taken a physical toll on her.

The phrase ‘speak of that old Georgian mansion’ refers to the fact that Yeats liked to meet Eva and Con to talk...


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