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by William Butler Yeats

About Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Tower

The Tower, written by W.B. Yeats in 1928, contains some of the poet’s best-known works, including “Leda and the Swan” and “Sailing to Byzantium.” The Tower was written during a pivotal time in Yeats’ artistic development. As a young writer, he had been attracted to Irish mythological themes, and his work was characterized by an almost flowery lyricism. Later in Yeats’ life, he met Ezra Pound, who many contend influenced his style, making him more fragmented and modernist.

The fragmentation of The Tower could be read in many other ways, as well. Elements of Yeats’ later writing correspond to his allegiance to theosophy, with mystical elements appearing in poems like “The Tower” and “All Saints’ Day.” Also, Yeats’ very country was falling to pieces around him during the years when he wrote this collection. The chaos and uncertainty around him may have done as much to influence his style as his friendships or his allegiance to any new literary style.

In form as well as subject matter, i[The Tower] marks a break from Yeats’ previous style. Rather than writing of young Irish heroes, glory, and hope for the future, Yeats turns to the darker subject of age. He explores the contrast between his rising energies and creativity, and his deteriorating body. In “A Man Young and Old,” most particularly, he confronts the existential crisis of aging, waiting to die, and watching one’s friends die.

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