Politics Poem by William Butler Yeats | English Poem Notes

Politics by W.B.Yeats

Politics by W.B.Yeats

About the poet

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in Ireland. He was a well-known poet and one of the Prominent figures of 20th-century literature. He was a pillar in both the Irish and British literary establishments and achievements. In his later years, he served as an Irish Senator for two terms.

Summary | Main Idea of the Poem|Politics

W.B.Yeats was an Irish poet and dramatist. His poetry is mainly imaginative, romantic, and patriotic. He took an active part in nationalistic politics and a literary movement, and as such his poetry tends to idealize his own country Ireland.

It was his belief that spirit was more ending than that of a form in reality. He has a strong conviction that true poetry contains a revelation in it. Politics is a simple and beautiful poem about politics and love. This poem informs us that in this age, politics has assumed great importance and significance. 
Everybody has been interested in the political activities of big countries. The poet begins the poem with Thomas Mann’s quotation In our time the destiny of man presents its meaning in political terms, It means that in modern times the destiny of a nation depends on its politics. 
The poet believes that this may be true as an abstract truth but there is a greater reality, the reality of love. The intoxicating, powerful influence of love is far superior to the world of politics and war. 
The poet wishes to leave the discussion of politics, war, and traveling in the presence of a beautiful girl standing at a distance and wants to love her. Love according to the poet is a glorious reality.

In this poem, Yeats has painted a contrast of the reality of politics with the reality of love. According to his view, political reality cannot be denied but it is certainly questioned in the face of a greater reality of love. 
The girl in the poem shows a symbol of youth and beauty. 
She stimulates a strong passion for love in the heart of a man. Love is a more enjoyable thing and a good alternative as compared to current political information. The world of powerful politics appears meaningless in the face of this basic need and reality. The diction of the poem is simple, casual, and conversational.

There is a vivid contrast between the politicians with their alarming talk which arouses death and destruction and the girl with her beauty and peace. The citizen’s attention has divided the politicians and the girl. 
We find that the poet wishes wistfully that if he were young again so that he could take the girl in his arms. 
Thus, the politicians are too important to reach peace just as the man is too important to make love. The poet successfully managed to take the impotence of the man as the shadow of the importance of the politicians.


Reference to Context and Explanation 

Lines 1-4

How can l, that gid standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?


These lines have been extracted from the poem Politics by W.B. Yeats.



In this poem, the poet tells us about the strong passion for love. The poem is a contrast between a man interested in politics and his desire for love. Love has a very absorbing, intoxicating, and mighty experience of man’s life. 

Its influence is widespread and gripping. The experience of love is superior to all knowledge, education, and skill. Love is superior to politics and traveling. The poet does not favor politics. Love, according to him, is a glorious reality.



In these lines, the poet expresses his views about politics and war. He says that in the presence of a young girl he cannot fix his attention on the political discussion and situation of a country. 

Her presence demands his attention towards her. He says that politics is a very popular subject. The people are talking about Roman, Russian, and Spanish politics. 
If a man is given two alternatives, one of his involvement in political conversation and the other of his enjoyment of female beauty, it is certain that no young man on earth will choose that first alternative. 
The same is the case with Yeats who is now no younger and still aspires to return to his youth to enjoy her beautiful sight. He tells that love is a greater reality than politics.

Lines 5-8

Yet here’s a traveled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there’s a politician
That has read and thought,

Reference and Context

Same as for lines 1-4



In these lines, the poet compares and contrasts the value of politics and love. He says that widely traveled and experienced persons say sensible things. Also, there are politicians who have studied books and thought well over human problems. 

Yeats admits that the traveler of practical experiences know what he is talking about and the scholar of political books knows what he is reading or thinking about.

Lines 9-12

And maybe what they say is true
Of war and wads alarms
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms!


Reference and Context

Same as for lines 1-4



In these lines, the poet tells that the politicians warn us of war and its harms and destructions. The poet says that their views may be true but he cannot hear them at the cost of beauty and love. 

He feels greater attraction towards the young girl. Now he wishes to become young again and wants to hold her in his arms. Actually, here the poet emphasizes the importance of love-making in human life.


Important Questions & Their Answers

Question 1

What is the central idea of the poem, Politics?

W.B. Yeats does not underestimate politics nor does he reject it. Elaborate.

How far is politics important in the eyes Of W.B.Yeats?

Is love really more important but not absolutely so?


In the poem, the poet, William Butler, Yeats has described the supremacy of love over politics. In all circumstances, he prefers love to politics. Instead of listening to the political leaders who only talk about war, he wishes to become young again and wants to hold her girlfriend in his arms.

He believes that love is a powerful experience of life. It is so powerful passion that it dominates all other passions of life. The poet likes neither the politicians nor alarms of war nor the much-traveled man who talks of nothing but journeys.

Of course, the poet does not deny the existence of political reality but he has only preferred the sweetness of the reality of physical love. He thinks love changes the bitter situation.


Question 2

Write a comparison between a lover and a traveler.

How does the poet distinguish between the traveling man and the politician?
Discuss the poem as a contrast between politics and love.
In Politics, the political reality is not denied but questioned in the face of reality



In this poem Politics, the poet W.B Yeats has made a vivid distinction between a man who has traveled far and wide than a politician. The poet tells us about the traveling man who knows what he talks about. The traveling man has first-hand experience about the political condition of the world.

This beautiful and interesting poem is about politics and love. In this modem age,
politics is given great importance but love enjoys an even greater influence on human feelings. Every, other knowledge, skill, and experience loses its significance before the reality of love.

Love is superior to politics, war, traveling, and education. The poet compares a lover with a politician and a widely traveled person. A traveled man possesses great power of observation. 
He visits different countries and knows much about the lifestyle of different nations.
He is fully aware of the progress, achievement, and socio-economic condition of different countries. His arguments are loaded with his power of observation. In spite of all his knowledge, he is not superior to a lover. Instead of taking part in the disputes and quarrels of politics, a lover is lost in the charm and beauty of his beloved. 
The experience of love is really thrilling and intoxicating. The poet does not want to think about anything of the world in the presence of a young and beautiful girl. He wishes to be young again, enjoy the blessings of young love.

Question 3

In our time destiny of man presents its meaning in political terms. Explain Politics by W.B. Yeats in the light of Mann’s gives comment.


The poem emphasizes the all-powerful position of politics. Every other activity of life fades and becomes useless. The world is dominated by politics whether it is national or international. The modern man has lost his individual identity. 

His position is like a drop of water in the vast ocean. The nations are controlled by politicians. They hold them like puppets in their hands. They often start a war to divert the attention of the people from their despicable bad governance. 
Thus the poor common man is at the mercy of this merciless politics. The political reality is more painful when it pushes people into a vortex of economic problems. They are forced to spend their time making efforts to earn bread for their family. 
The poor lover feels ashamed to see his girlfriend with an empty pocket. Thus the sweetest joys of love and beauty are denied by them. So it is right to say that the modern man is held hostage by the evil forces of politics.

About the Author

Anila Ibrahim

An educationist, web content writer, equipped with an LLB and a Master’s degree in English Literature, as well as a Master of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship. I have a comprehensive understanding of both the English language and the educational landscape. This academic background empowers Anila to deliver content that is not only informative but also thoroughly researched.

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