- Visiting a Classroom as an Old Man
- Maud Gonne’s Beauty
- Loss of Innocence
- Aging and Death
- The Fleeting Nature of life and one’s achievements
- The ABABABCC rhyme of each stanza is in iambic pentameter and ends in a heroic couplet which gives each stanza a decided end.
- This pattern changes at the line “There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow” which has a feminine ending.
- Several feminine endings and rhetorical questions occur from this point to indicate his broader social concerns and uncertainty.
- Yeats makes many Classical allusions to celebrate Maud’s beauty: Leda, Helen of Troy e.g. “Even daughters of the swan”. The rape of Leda and the swan motif “I had pretty plumage once” connotes corruption of innocence and decay.
- Classical allusions are also used to contrast the old world with the modern one: Yeats ridicules the ‘music’ of Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras to show that one’s achievements are fleeting.
- The extended metaphor of the scarecrow connotes old dried bones and brings up Yeats confrontation with death: “Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.”
- In the seventh stanza, Yeats contrasts the different purposes we give ourselves for living in the accumulation: “O presences / That passion, piety or affection knows” and says that our desire to attain perfection makes mockery of us – the human condition.
- In the final stanza, Yeats uses synecdoches to comfort himself that death is a part of life, as are our failures to attain perfection and the brevity of our achievements e.g. “O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer / Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?”