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Among School Children
"Among School Children" is a poem used by Yeats to determine an upcoming generation with the underlying concept that no possible life can be fulfilled. The philosophy controlling this work suggests that perhaps life 'prepares us for what never happens'. Consistent with Yeatsean philosophy, it follows the dogma which states that wistlessness brings about innocence, whereas knowledge brings us ballyhoo. Within the realms of acquired wisdom, consciousness produces an anarchic state within the individual, causing conflict to be the degradation of the soul and mind. Understanding these forms of consciousness, inscape and instress, as Tenyson has termed them, causes a heightened awareness towards understanding the human spirit and the universe. According to Yeats, this understanding creates confusion and consciousness becomes conflict.
Consciousness is limited to the realms of experience. Within this experience we may understand individualities of love, death, beauty and spiritual essence. Consciousness is the awareness of one's surroundings and identity; the awareness of universal concepts and the relation this plays upon the individual. Yeats believed that throughout an individuals life there were certain icons and memories which remained constant, turning in what he classified as a gyre, an ever increasing spiral of life veering towards a state of anarchy. This form of consciousness is classified within Western cosmologies as knowledge or wisdom. If one chooses to neglect this knowledge, one has not been enlightened and therefor remains much like the school children Yeats views in the poem. If one grasps these memories within the eternal wheel one is considered a knowledgeable man. He has an understanding of his own relativity within the realms of spirituality held between himself and others, as if his subconscious has been awakened and now lies within his own consciousness. He has reached a new plateau of consciousness and therefor becomes susceptible to both his own and the relativity of other individuals relativity. This may be considered as a form of enlightenment. The question which is aroused by this topic is whether this awareness of consciousness and enlightenment is beneficial. Yeats believed that within the enlightened individual there remains an anarchic state; confusion, which leads to conflict. It is apparent that among the school children there is an air of beauty which surrounds them. This beauty which Yeats views is derived from their innocence. It would seem that innocence is freedom to follow the divine will. It is the natural order and within the child's mind a unknown parallel held between each individual is present. Innocence becomes beauty and consciousness becomes mere confusion.
Yeats is constantly using forms of innocence which may be considered the opposing factor to forms of consciousness. If consciousness is understanding in a universal sense, then innocence would be unable to interpret this wisdom. He displays the children, a mother, a nun and his wife throughout the piece, using them as monuments of innocence and in some senses, heavenly glory and beauty. These images of innocence give us intense pictures of purity and are representative of moral order.
Yeats begins his piece in the classroom. As he walks through the pairs of puzzled young faces he is told by their teacher that they learn to read, sing and sew. These common classroom activities are what we are taught. They are "neat in everything / in the best modern way"(ln5/6), and in relation to his final two lines in the piece, this is one of the only ways in which we know how to dance. These teachings have been passed down by generations in hope of increasing our knowledge into an eternal state of bliss and beauty. Another philosophical concept is aroused here. What constitutes eternal bliss? Is it knowledge and reason, or innocence and wistlessness? Indeed, within Yeat's prospective standpoint, it is the latter. As he tours the classroom with his eyes he sees beauty in these children who view life simplistically. This cosmology is consistent with "A Prayer for My Daughter", where 'arrogance and hatred'(ln25) become the articles for humanities vending store of consciousness and the two forms of 'ignorance', innocence and beauty are vanquished. The tree which becomes symbolic towards the transgression of innocence at the end of this prayer is indeed another play on the eternal gyres of life. The linnet will never be shaken from the tree if the mind does not turn sour: 'If there's no hatred in a mind'(ln54). Therefor Evil brought about
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Abbey Theatre, Irish Dominion League, W. B. Yeats, Soul, Consciousness, Good and evil, Night, Neoplatonism, new plateau, tenyson, forms of consciousness, knowledgeable man, universal concepts, spiritual essence, cosmologies, inscape, gyre, human spirit, ballyhoo, heightened awareness, yeats, dogma, relativity, subconscious, anarchy, innocence, spiral, degradation
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