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The Tower by W. B. Yeats
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The Tower

by W. B. Yeats

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I read this collection because my high school junior has begun learning "Secrets of the Old," the only poem of Yeats's that Samuel Barber set to music:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MORVsHMmAP4

"Secrets of the Old" is one of the few poems in the collection that can be mistaken for upbeat, or at very least nostalgic--and yet these more happy interpretations of this poem are incorrect, I think. While "Secrets" is not a lament, it's utterly sad. The speaker expresses the solitude of age--everyone has died except three old women, one of whom has lost her mind. Everything that once seemed vital--especially old loves--are gone and forgotten by all but these three women. Says the speaker: "we three make up a solitude," a feeling I often wonder about when I see old people together, especially after they have just heard that another old friend has died.

Reading the entire anthology left me with the same deep sadness that I felt from the last book of the Iliad/the sadness of Priam meeting with Achilles, both of them in mourning, both of them knowing they are soon going to die themselves. I just complained in a recent review of the utter bleakness of Cheever's Falconer, but I feel so differently about this collection, because the sadness it evokes rests on the premise that life is good; humans are good; so even though I'm weepy and thinking about the sadness of aging and death, it feels like in these poems I've read the best kind of literature. ( )
  poingu | Mar 30, 2013 |
E-Bay with Uncut pages
  N11284 | Aug 3, 2010 |
I will never be able to sufficiently thank the highschool english teacher who introduced me to Yeats. I bought this edition days ago simply because it was so beautiful. 1.28.07 ( )
  ben_a | Jan 28, 2007 |
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That is no country for old men.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743247280, Paperback)

The first edition of W. B. Yeats's The Tower appeared in bookstores in London on Valentine's Day, 1928. His English publisher printed just 2,000 copies of this slender volume of twenty-one poems, priced at six shillings. The book was immediately embraced by book buyers and critics alike, and it quickly became a bestseller.

Subsequent versions of the volume made various changes throughout, but this Scribner facsimile edition reproduces exactly that seminal first edition as it reached its earliest audience in 1928, adding an introduction and notes by esteemed Yeats scholar Richard J. Finneran.

Written between 1912 and 1927, these poems ("Sailing to Byzantium," "Leda and the Swan," and "Among School Children" among them) are today considered some of the best and most famous in the entire Yeats canon. As Virginia Woolf declared in her unsigned review of this collection, "Mr. Yeats has never written more exactly and more passionately."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:03 -0400)

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