"The Magi"

What are some unexpected and even shocking elements of this poem?

What is contributed to its meaning by its stanza form, line length, rhythm and sounds?

Why is it important that the poet can see the Magi "at all times" and in the mind's eye"? Are these comforting thoughts?

Why are the Magi unsatisfied? Why do they appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky?

Is it conventional to associate the Magi with rain-beaten faces and silver helms? What other features of their description seem to differ from expected or conventional accounts?

What is the result of "Calvary's turbulence"? What is meant by "the uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor"? Is this a hopeful way to describe a birth?

What are some ambivalent features of the final lines?

Do you think this poem provides closure? How do you interpret its tone and final lines?

"The Second Coming"

How is this poem similar to "The Magi"?

What is the poem's opening image? What are some of its literary or historical connotations? Is it effective in representing the poet's point?

What are some striking features of the poet's language? What does it mean to say, "the ceremony of innocence is drowned"?

What role does the speaker's voice play in his own poem? Is it effective for him to give his direct views and vision?

How are stanza length, diction, sounds and repetition used to create meaning?

What are associations of the "shape with lion body and the head of a man"? What features demonstrate his ominousness?

What may be some answers to the question, "And what rough beast . . . slouches toward Bethlehem"?

What is added by the poem's allusions to the Christian story and to the Apocalypse?

How does the poem convey the inevitability of the new cycle?

What historical events may have prompted the anxiety of this poem?

"Sailing to Byzantium"

What sequence of thought is presented in the poem's four stanzas? What is the poem's central metaphor?

Why is the speaker restless in his "country"? What makes him feel out of place in his old age, and what does he seek in compensation?

What qualities does he associate with Byzantium?

To whom and for what does the poet pray? What are his ideals? Why does he wish an artificial rather than natural form, and why do you think he chooses that of the golden nightingale?

What are the special powers of this bird, and of what is he a metaphor? How would he compare to Shelley's skylark or Keats' nightingale?

How is the poem's form useful in embodying its point?

Why do you think this has become one of the century's most famous poems?


How does this poem differ from the earlier "Sailing to Byzantium"? What does it seem to be about?

What are some of its remarkable images?

Can you compare this poem to Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"?

Do you think the poem is a celebration of the wild flood and smities of the Emperor? Can you describe its rhythms?

"Wild Swans at Coole"

How does this poem compare with Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale"?

What is attractive about the image of the 59 swans? Which features of the description seem symbolic?

What is the speaker's relationship to these swans? What do they seem to represent to him?

How is the poem's meaning reinforced by sound and stanza arrangment?

What is the tone of the final stanza?

"Under Ben Bulben"

What account does the poem give of Irish history and culture? Which aspects of life does the poet celebrate?

What seems the purpose of evoking the poet's own death and burial? What is the importance of the images which accompany his death (Ben Bulben, churchyard, rector ancestor, ancient cross)?

What is the meaning of his appeal to "Cast a cold eye/On life, on death"?

What is added by the final image of the riding horseman?