Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Rose

Among School Children: A Condemnation of Old Age?

In his poem “Among School Children,” W.B. Yeats describes his feelings upon entering a classroom full of young children as a sixty year old man. The beauty of the children that he encounters in the classroom leads him to question the value of the lives of old individuals like himself. As life appears to grow progressively worse with age, Yeats questions the desirability of living a long life. His visit to the classroom sparks for Yeats a contemplation of love, nature, men and women, philosophy, and finally the relationship between life and an aging body and imagination.

In stanza one, Yeats depicts himself as a kind, sixty year old man in a school classroom, making polite inquiries to a nun, the teacher, about the education that the students are receiving. The nun, proud of her school and its modernity, informs Yeats that “The children learn to cipher and to sing, / To study reading books and history, / To cut and sew, be neat in everything…” (3-5). In the classroom, Yeats realizes that because he is many times the age of anyone else present aside from the nun, that he is an object of wonder for the kids. A famous and “public” man, his appearance is a special occasion, as the school likely did not have many visitors. The...

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