Saturday, November 05, 2005

Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad? by William Butler Yeats

WHY should not old men be mad?
Some have known a likely lad
That had a sound fly-fisher's wrist
Turn to a drunken journalist;
A girl that knew all Dante once
Live to bear children to a dunce;
A Helen of social welfare dream,
Climb on a wagonette to scream.
Some think it a matter of course that chance
Should starve good men and bad advance,
That if their neighbours figured plain,
As though upon a lighted screen,
No single story would they find
Of an unbroken happy mind,
A finish worthy of the start.
Young men know nothing of this sort,
Observant old men know it well;
And when they know what old books tell
And that no better can be had,
Know why an old man should be mad.

The first thing I noticed about this was the abab rhyme scheme. I think it reflects the subject of the poem, since it reminds me of a mad old man, being childish while the diction is mature. The speaker also capitalizes the first word to give emphasis, adding to the oddness of the poem and giving it a "mad" feeling. The speaker goes on to list several crazy scenarios, then states that no sane person is happy, and because old men know this, that they are all mad. I don't agree with this philosophy, but I guess it explains why old people are usually weird. I also find the ironies in the several examples the speaker uses to be interesting. I am not sure what some of them mean, but each of the examples turns out to be something completely unexpected.


Blogger John Park said...

I liked the rhyme scheme and pacing of this poem. The bounce of the poem, and the theme makes it seem as though it is not very serious, though it is a serious topic. I don't know why but I just can't take the author seriously because of the rhyming. It reminds me of nursery rhymes.

12:18 PM  

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