Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen Poem Summary By W.B.Yeats

Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen Poem Summary By W.B.Yeats

This is a beautiful poem Written by the brilliant Irish English poet William Butler Yeats. 

Written and published in the year 1921.

The poem covers various subjects including the temporariness of the world, violence, wars, and politics. All these negativities have been depicted in the poem with the tone of frustration, pessimism, idealism, and lamentation. 

The poem basically presents how the most beautiful and intelligent things that once existed in this universe have gone, however, wars and violence are still persistent in this world. 

W.B. Yeats, by means of this poem, has also mocked the great, wise, and good people, also including the other mockers too, who, no matter what they say or do, can do nothing to prevent the bad and negative things that have been happening in this world. Yeats has tried to provide the readers with a comprehensive image of the prevalence of violence in this world. 

Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen Poem Summary 

Well, the poem has been divided into six sections and I am going to discuss each of them in detail with you.

Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen Poem Summary Section 1


At the beginning of the poem, the poet has shown his disappointment towards the fact that a lot of ingenious lovely things that were present in this world have now gone due to the war. He says that a lot of things made from art including the ancient figures that were made with imperishable olive wood, and the famous sculptures of Phidias from 500-432 B.C. have also disappeared. 

There were a lot of lovely things made in this world and were protected as they were no less than a miracle. Made with the wood of an olive tree, an ancient image would stand against the ornamental statues of bronze stone. But all these beautiful things have gone, including the golden grasshoppers and the famous Phidias ivories as well. 


The poet has also compared the past with the present by using the toys he had at a young age. He is firm that the ownership of those toys cannot be changed through tactics like praise, threats, bribing, and blames. 

But, as the poet has grown up now, he says that though there were laws that seem to protect what is theirs, it all seems like nothing more than a delusion.

the common people who would believe that they are living in an ideal age from where all the worst rascals and rogues have been cleared. However, the reality is that it is just their own belief as they do not last just like toys. 


The poet has described the world and its civilization as becoming dark and dusky over time. Though people in the present believe that no one now remembers the ancient tricks and that the army is nothing but for the purpose of showing off, this is not the reality. 

The weapons of war are not used for plowing, and that is because it is not true that bloodshed has been left in the past. Even today, just a little issue can result in war and violence. The parliaments and the kings still believe that they can use gunpowder and cause harm. 

The poet says that if things still go on this way, then there is a chance that the horses of guardsmen will stop dancing and swinging on their hind legs. 


The poet has described how the tables have turned now, how the present is full of fearful apprehensions. There is no peace and the world is filled with terror and torture, which is why the poet has compared the days are “Dragon-Ridden”. 

There are groups of drunken soldiers out there who are free and can even murder a mother and leave her helpless like that at her own door, and for such cold-blooded acts of theirs, there is no punishment. 

This is why people are extremely terrified and they tremble with fear whether it is day or night. The poet has also compared themselves to weasels who are just fighting in a hole as he says that they tried to put their thoughts into philosophy so that they could plan to bring the world under rule.


The poet talks about the two thousand years of human attempts/endeavors in the face of Ireland. He has observed that the things that once happened to Babylon, Egypt, and Athens once were unimaginable and the same is now happening to Ireland. 

And, since the prospects are grim, the poet knows that no work could remain. However, he still has the belief that just like people in earlier times did, the human spirit will again be able to survive it, as this is what the law of nature confirms. There is always a way of comfort that can draw humans farther from ghostly solitude. 


Just then, the poet adds a rhetorical question, “But is there any comfort to be found?” in an attempt to look at whether there is any hope left in this world. He says that he failed to find any comfort anymore because it is love where the comfort of a man lies. However, wherever he loves, goes away, vanishes, and thus, causes trouble. 

The poet wonders how something a man loves can be destroyed by him. This he states along with quoting some incidents like breaking the famous ivory art pieces or grasshoppers and burning the statues of Acropolis. 

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Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen Poem Summary Section 2


With this, Yeats also tries to remind the readers of Loie Fuller, the famous American dancer, and her troupe. Just like Fuller created a dragon-like figure with ribbons in her act which seemed to control the steps of her fellow dancers, in the same way, the poet believes that everyone has become those dancers who are dancing to the measure of the platonic year. All the men are like those controlled dancers who are not free in reality and they dance to the barbarous clangor of a gong. 

Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen Poem Summary Section 3


In the third section of the poem, the poet begins by talking about a moralist or a mythological poet who compared the soul to a swan and is satisfied with this comparison. However, he realizes that there is something different in this troubled time than that of the olden times. 

The poet intends for the soul (the swan) to be understood in the context of the present, where he perceives the swan as having died before it could take flight. He describes in detail how pitifully it was slaughtered. The poet believes that proudly raised breasts can be a sign of impending death.


Man tends to lose himself when trying to meditate, the poet warns. In politics or art, he is lost in a maze of his own design. Some Platonists say that as the soul prepares to depart from the body, some old habits cling to the body and may interfere with the soul’s ability to exist in solitary after death. So, in order to forget the grimness of reality, one must destroy all of his creations and work.


The poet conveys his dismay at the sight of the swan so readily soaring away. He thinks that in this scenario, merely taking off will not be helpful because the soul might naively continue to cling to the glitter and splendor of the world. The poet is furious when he considers this and fears that it will destroy both the past and the future’s pages of half-imagination and half-writing. He is well aware that the majority of the dreams focused on resolving or ameliorating every problem that seemed to plague humanity.

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Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen Poem Summary Section 4 


The poet introduces a parallel between the past and the present in this little section of four lines. Before the Irish uprising seven years ago, the poet claims that they discussed honor and truth. The weasel’s twist (unreliability) and the weasel’s tooth, in contrast, have them shouting with delight right now (cruelty). He notes that this moral decay is the most abhorrent type of tragedy that may happen to humanity.

Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen Poem Summary Section 5


Section five of Yeats’ poem opens with an appeal to the audience to join him in deriding “the great” and all past accomplishments. These great individuals had the responsibility of leaving certain monuments behind, and as a result, they worked arduously and tirelessly. Unfortunately, they haven’t considered the wind, which undermines all efforts and accomplishments. Everything has been leveled in light of his viewpoints and the effects of the war, making their laborious efforts useless.


Yeats urges the audience to join him in making fun of the ancient wise men. These individuals strained their hurting eyes at calendars but were unable to discern the changing of the seasons. They did nothing but stare at the sun. Otherwise, they could have avoided a disaster by knowing what was going to happen for a long time.


The poet makes fun of supposedly “decent” individuals. They thought that virtue may imply some sort of escape, but in reality, that too did not shield them from the leveling wind’s sweep. They were cast away by this new wind, and nobody could find them.


The poet makes fun of the mockers in this final paragraph of the fifth section. They aren’t very useful because all they do is make fun of other people and cause trouble. They did not lend a helping hand to those who did “good, wise, or magnificent” deeds or assist in blocking the storm. Overall, Yeats notes that destruction is a terrible fact that neither people nor things can halt.

Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen Poem Summary Section 6 


The poem’s concluding stanza gives a graphic account of the violence that has been let loose on the earth. The roadways are filled with violence everywhere. Soldiers on horses ride around coping with deaths and destruction before eventually collapsing from exhaustion. It appears that Herodias’ daughters have come back once more. A picture of a sudden gust of dusty wind that has also arrived and represents the end of the world appeared after that. Yeats also uses the images of Dame Alice Kyteler and Robert Artison, the staggering demon from the fourteenth century.

Final Words

The Anglo-Irish War started in the year mentioned in the poem “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.” Yeats’ image of Post-War-Ireland illustrates the effects of the war. Before concluding that War and Violence are the things that persist on Earth while everything else continues, he contrasts both the past and the present.

The Irish War of Independence officially began in “1919.” From 1919 until nearly three years later, there were several internal struggles and civil war. The poet thought it appropriate to name the poem after the year that the real event occurred. The War had a significant influence and utterly disorganized people’s lives.

I assume that you have found this explanation of the poem by W.B. Yeats helpful. Share it with your friends who are also studying literature so that they can also know about the summary of the poem Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen by W.B. Yeats. Check out: Punishment By Heaney Summary

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