Group Five presents: William Butler Yeats' "The Circus Animals' Desertion." Yeats welcomes you to his memories.


Read the Poem

Section One

Section Two

Section Three

Poetic Structure

Meet The Group

Yeats' Life


Section One


Yeats writes this poem out of the frustrating fog of writer's block and immediately introduces his situation in stating that "for six weeks or so" (2) he has "sought a theme" (1). While arguably the most brilliant poet of the twentieth century, Yeats' use of the word "maybe" (3) connotes feelings of uncertainty in his creative genius. Also, the alliterative statement of "being but a broken man" (3) emphasizes his bad condition. Yeats further stresses the content of this adjective clause by making it deviate from the iambic pentameter of the piece.

To read a piece of short fiction that similarly begins with writer's block, click here.

Valley of the Mad

However, Yeats resolves to "be satisfied with [his] heart" (4) as a poetic theme. This decision perhaps implies a deeper meaning to the aforementioned search for a poetic theme. As expressed in much of his other poetry, Yeats often deemed art superior to reality. The inability to create could leave an artist of his caliber devoid of passion in all aspects of his life. Therefore, his search for a poetic theme also constitutes a search for meaning in his life.

He then goes on to introduce the imagery of the "circus" (6) through the diction of "stilted boys, that burnished chariot, / Lion and woman" (8). As the poem goes on, Yeats presents different poetic figures as the circus animals that have deserted him. Here Yeats contrasts the fantasy world of the circus to reality, similar to the stark difference between the brilliance of his poetry and the mundane.
For image copyright information, click here.