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Name: Amman Shoaib

Submitted to Miss Saima Khan

Irish Literature Assignment

W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Tower” was published in 1928. This poem contains almost all the

features of modernist poetry. It is argued that the elements of modernist poetry come in terms of

a few subheadings that are new experiment in form and style, multiple themes as well as wide

range of subjects, new modes of expression. Yeats has also incorporated all these ideas in his

poem “The Tower.” While talking about the multiplicity of themes and wide range of subjects, it

can be clearly observed that this poem never fully says, as in traditional poems, what the one and

precise meaning is. There is no single and fixed meaning or theme. In this poem, Yeats talks

about his own old age, beauty, nature, power of words and songs, war, violence, destruction.

This single poem discusses many things. The themes upon which modernist poetry is build,

revolve around love, pessimism, nature, mysticism, death and this poem also portrays all these

themes. The theme of love is present in this poem and it also touches the subject of pessimism as

there is a whole note of pessimism and disillusionment when Yeats talks about death, decay, old

age in autumnal tone.

In modernist poetry, various modes of expression have also been introduced that include

different isms like imagism, symbolism, realism. Yeats has used all these strands in this poem. If

we talk about imagism, this poem is impregnated with concrete and beautiful images that helps

the reader in understanding the whole idea and experience. The image of “tower” is dominating

in the whole poem as the narrator is sitting on the top of the tower and observing everything from

there. Images in this poems are mainly associated with three different kingdoms: mineral
kingdom, animal kingdom, vegetable kingdom. The images from mineral kingdom are of “rod

and fly,” “proud stones of Greece,” rocks, mirrors, iron. Whereas, images that are drawn from

animal kingdom are of dog, bird, swan, hare. Gardens, plants, and “ancient trees” are associated

with vegetable kingdom.

Symbolism is also one of the main strands of modernist poetry. Yeats’ use of symbols is

another modern trait in his poem which is complex and rich. In “The Tower,” symbols are drawn

from Irish folklores, mythologies, metaphysics, paintings. While narrating the episode of the

beautiful girl, the poet takes help from folklore. He has recalled the memory of Helen from a

mythology, who symbolizes beauty. Bird in this poem symbolizes peace and it gives a striking

image of dynamic nature of symbol. On one hand, the image of the tower symbolizes grandeur

and authority but on the other hand the same tower becomes the symbol of old age.

While talking about the form and style of the poem in the context of modernism, this is

quite clear the Yeats has experimented new style like all the other modernist writers. He includes

multiple styles. The first part of this poem is written in free verse. Whereas, in the second part,

the rhyme scheme ABABCDDC is applied in all the stanzas of this section. In this part, Yeats

begins every stanza with parameter but breaks this rule in a few lines of this stanza. The third

part is also simple and free in style.

From all the aforementioned discussion, it can be concluded that “The Tower” is a

modernist poem as it has all the features and characteristics of a modernist poem.

Work Consulted

Pruit, Jim. “What are the Features of Modernist poetry?” Quora, 2017, www.quora.com/What-are-