September 1913

Notes by Fenella Chesterfield 

*Quite drastic change from later poems like “among School Children’ and ‘Easter 1916’, this is a more naive Yeats.

*Expresses Yeats’ frustration over how violence is not the way forward, however peaceful Ireland is ‘with O’Leary in the grave’ and all that is left is violence.

*Significant date, general strike where workers were shut out of factories as their employers did not want to acquiesce to better working conditions / wages

* Union ITGWN (Yeats argued that this was completely against Irish Romanticism)



–  Ballad, has a clear chorus

–  popular form in Irish Culture

–  one of Yeats’ most sarcastic poems, he chooses this form in order to mock

– Simple ABAB rhyme scheme, as sometimes simple structures and strong rhyme carry political messages better.


John O’Leary – died in 1907

– founder of Young Republic Brotherhood

– Yeats was highly influenced by him – he taught Yeats that revolution could             be born of art.

– father / grandfather like figure to Yeats


Stanza 1:

–  lambasting against the apathy of the business owners in Dublin

–  a direct retaliation to the general strike

–  he is disgusted by the business owners, as they are undermining the true Romantic Ireland.


But fumble in a greasy till

–  corrupt  / untrustworthy

–   absolutely lambasting the greed of the owners


And add the halfpence to the pence / And prayer to shivering prayer

–  money and religion are all they care about

–  pence is such a small amount – emphasizes their greed

–  forgotten to care about Ireland


You have dried the marrow from the bone

– absolute annihilation


For man were born to pray and save

–  laced with irony

–  ‘save’ = money or people?


Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, / It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

–  refrain

–  O’Leary was last bastion of man who had no sense of self-interest. He happily went into exile, but was not interested in making a martyr of himself as some of the Easter 1916 people may have done.


Stanza 2: suggesting that the best prayer is action:

Yet they were of a different kind / The names that stilled your childish play

–  talking about great ‘heroes’ of Ireland

–  comparing them to the business owners


They have gone about the world like wind

–  their homes are both everywhere and nowhere. These men are no longer tangible. you may know a name, but not really know what it did.


But little time had they to pray

–  the best prayer is action


For whom the hangman’s rope was spun, / And what, God help us, could they save?

–  all those who died for Ireland, what did they achieve? Ultimately their deaths only fueled this greed.


Stanza 3:

Was it for this the wild geese spread

–  ‘wild geese’ is a metaphor for the Irish men who went abroad to fight wars for other nations

–  Treaty of Limerick – after which only served Catholic armies and Catholic countries


Repetition of for this emphasises Yeats’ desperation towards the current situation in Ireland.


Also, in the third stanza, as Yeats becomes more desperate, the rhyme scheme is compounded.



Edward Fitzgerald – one of the leaders against the 1798 revolution against the British. Died during the revolution.


Robert Emmet – in 1805, he lead a small uprising in Dublin. He was hanged for it.


Wolfe Tone – sailed to france in 1798 to try and bring back a small french army to help Ireland. He was arrested, but committed suicide the day before he was due to be hanged.



Key word: delirium – suggests that they sacrificed their lives for nothing

–  Easter 1916 – ‘ignorant good will’

–  In memory… – ‘some vague Utopia’


Stanza 4:

reference to Cathleen ni Houlihan:


You’d cry, ‘Some woman’s yellow hair / has maddened every mother’s son’

–  Cathleen had blond/ golden hair

–  use of yellow makes her seem fake and distorted


They weighed so lightly what they gave.

–  suggesting that if you truly care about Ireland your life is nothing

–  Yeats is trying to tell people their lives are nothing

–  only when people realize their lives are nothing does the revolution stand a chance

–  perhaps suggesting that if you saw them now, you would say that the dream of Irish independence sent them mad.


But let them be, they’re dead and gone,

–  Yeats is telling himself to wake up and let go



The war comes and everything changes. Irony lies in the fact that the moment Ireland gets the opportunity to fight against the British, there is an even greater threat / unforeseen evil: Hitler.


A terrible beauty = the Irish opportunity to fight back


How does Yeats express disappointment? cross reference to:

–  Man and Echo

–  Easter 1916

–  The Second Coming

–  Among School Children

–  Circus Animals Desertion

17 thoughts on “September 1913

    • Hello you little thing. This poem links with ‘ Among School Children’ , ‘ The Second Coming’ I hope this helps you very much indeed 🙂 X

      • Same question, but could you please explain why they can be linked? Like a little/ short sentence or something?

      • The names mentioned in stanza 3 such as “Edward Fitzgerald” “Robert Emmet” and “Wolfe Tone” links to ‘Easter 1916′ with the martyrs mentioned there such as “MacBride”; although these heroes have different stories behind their martyrdom, they are similar still heroes in Yeats’ mind, and he uses them as examples of the negative connotations and effects of war, particularly in ‘Easter 1916’ where he states that martyrs such as “Pearse” were wasted talent. Both poems represent the bad effects of war however in ‘September 1913’ Yeats is more hopeful, the use of questions and addressing the reader such as “could they save?” presents his hope that there can be a solution, however in ‘Easter 1916’ Yeats recognises that we all have “hearts with one purpose”; that the people lost to war and the forthcoming effects from it cannot be altered.

        Hope this helps! 🙂

  1. How can the poem be linked to The Second Coming, Among School Children and In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz? (please explain)

  2. I fear I agree with Jake – I mean was Hitler a threat to Ireland in the years after WWI!? It has become so caught up in the contextual information that analysis is lacking. Key things are overlooked. The poem personifies ‘Romantic Ireland’ in the form of O’Leary, Fitzgerald, Emmet and Tone – they epitomise the Irish spirit that Yeats believed in, the one of myth and legend such as in ‘The Stolen Child’. He juxtaposes their heroic acts with the miserly Irish shopkeepers who has converted to British ideals – after all Britain is the nation of shopkeepers.The imagery behind the fact that they have ‘dried the marrow from the bone’ and literally sucked the life out of Ireland, left it brittle – this can be compared to Leda and the Swan, ‘before the indifferent beak could let her drop’, the swan has taken all that it needs from Leda and has no care for her now, much like Britain taking even ‘the marrow’ in Ireland and then leaving. The structure of the poem is also key, four structured stanzas each made up of long drawn out sentences – this is Yeats ranting! What do the middle class Irish care about? Money? Their God? Yeats sarcastically says ‘God help us’ to poke fun at the middle class. ‘The halfpence to the pence’, in Irish mythology you pay 1/2 pence in the after life – they are saving up for death! Yeats is saying sacrifice your soul and save Ireland, after all as said in ‘The Cold Heaven’ the is only ‘sent out naked on the roads’. The Irish ‘fumble in a greasy till’ – they have betrayed Ireland and are literally ‘greasy’ for doing so! Ultimately Yeats is reflecting on the Irish heroes that had been and what Ireland is now – is he going to take on the task of trying to save Ireland himself? He says ‘let them be’ as he tries to inspire others to act. This is what I thought anyway.

    • yup really good thanks. Original notes: Hitler arguably isn’t even portrayed as a great threat as Yeats was significantly never explicitly anti Nazi and for that matter positively appeared to approve of Fascism so in my opinion wasn’t really a greater evil he was considering when you discuss his views on war

    • nice of you to help other people, but you do know you’re in competition with everyone else as it will affect the grade boundaries. So really your helping out the opposition.

  3. The point you made about Yeats expressing how violence is not the wat forward is confusing, is it not that he wants the people to fight for what they believe in? Like the heroes of Irish Nationalism that did it before him… There is no evidence to support this point.

    • easter 1916. “polite meaningless words” shows he may admire them in some way, but he never fully agrees with them or feels like a part of them. Also shows that Yeats may believe that on the greater scheme of things they are quite insignificant (link with theory on gyres) therefore they have all died for nothing.
      “a terrible beauty is born” the concept of freedom is beautiful. but the consequences of getting there are terrible and not worth it.

    • What Yeats is really saying, is that the goal they were fighting for wasn’t worth the struggle, and that it is cultural and not political independence that are more important and that violence doesn’t solve the problem. In the Easter Rising, something like 500 people died, and they didn’t gain independence. The evidence you are looking for is in the words: “delirium of the brave”, where Yeats implies that it was madness to do what they did. Yeats thinks it is madness, hence he believes that it is not the way forward – What he really wants is people to believe in something apart from money, and not to “fumble in a greasy till”. He is disgusted by the general character of Ireland and his aim is to give Irish people pride, not for them to die for violent causes. His admiration for the heroes of the past is in the strength of their belief and their bravery, but he doesn’t believe that they should have fought and died for it.
      Good luck, hope it helps.

  4. The contemporary Ireland’s attitudes in Easter 1916 towards a ‘vague utopia’ is resolute; thus, Yeats’ compares the permanence of their hearts, like ‘a stone’ with the less assured hearts in September 1913, which are less assured and easily modified- thus they are willing subordinate to potent forces such as religion and capitalism, which in this poem, possibly, is not so relevant as, to a great extent Ireland’s contemporary has changed, however, this is not the same change as a change in which nature undergoes, it is a artificial change, ‘Macbride’ for instance ‘has been changed’.

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