Previous        Home        Credits


    By writing this elegy, W.B. Yeats glorifies Major Robert Gregory and seeks to provide comfort for Lady Gregory and himself.  Losing a friend is tough, and the reader can relate with Yeats's dilemma.  Throughout his life, Yeats has used his poetry as a means for solving his problems.  A coming-of-age process involves a person learning about himself, and therefore, during the Middle Yeats period, he usually comes-of-age after writing a poem.  However, this poem is an exception because it is one of four poems dedicated to Robert Gregory--it takes four full poems for Yeats to accept Gregory's death.

    "In Memory of Major Robert Gregory" was not written for only one man but for an entire generation of youth who died in the horrors of war.  Major Robert Gregory symbolizes all the promising youth who fell to an early death.  In memorializing Robert Gregory, Yeats remembers three of his dear friends who also died young.  Each of these men had a third of what Yeats considers to be perfection, and Robert Gregory was the synthesis of these traits.  Robert Gregory was in harmony with mind, spirit, and body, as a "soldier, scholar, horseman."  He excelled at every task he set to do, and that is why Yeats labels him as "life's epitome."

    Yeats's healing process is a microcosm of Europe's reconstruction following the first world war.  Deep wounds with "salt to lengthen out the smart" take a lifetime to overcome, and neither Yeats nor Europe has shown any sign of coming of age.  Yeats ends his poem in speechless frustration.  Europe has a second world war just twenty years later.  The poem provokes the reader to re-evaluate his own experiences with death.  If writing to achieve catharsis works for Yeats, then it might for the reader.  Following the death of a loved one, the reader must not keep his emotions bottled inside.  Accordingly, Yeats avoids the dangers of not facing the reality of death, and, at the same time, teaches the reader a lesson by venting his emotions through poetry.