Is it possible to produce a study guide for "The Apparitions" by William Butler Yeats? It would be appreciated.
I'm happy to offer my own insight into the poem, but I wasn't able to find a study guide about the whole poem. The speaker of the poem is an old man who has obviously retired and has time on his hands to “. . . sit up half the night” with a friend. In the poem, the speaker has accepted his own mortality, and he’s sharing his fears with us. In the first stanza, the speaker feels it is safe to tell people that he sees ghosts because others will just blame his old age and not take him seriously. This is what he means when he says “Because there is safety in derision”. In the second stanza, the speaker enjoys sitting up for half the night talking with a friend, but he wants the friend to be someone who is good at covering up his real feelings about the speaker when he seems to become lost in his own thoughts and makes no sense when he talks. Basically, the speaker wants someone to keep him company and just to listen to him. In the third stanza, the speaker explains to us why he makes up stories about seeing ghosts and why he needs someone to sit up with him at night. The speaker is afraid of death because he’s afraid of the unknown. He treasures each day, and each day of life gives him the strength to withstand his fears of “Night”, but sometimes he needs a friend to help him get through the night and help him deal with his fears. The last two lines of each stanza which is repeated lets us know that the old man doesn’t really see ghosts because the worst apparition he’s seen is that of “a coat upon a coat-hangar”. By telling people that he has seen ghosts, he gets people to spend time with him and perhaps feel sorry for him because they think he’s losing it, possibly feeling he is close to dying himself. I feel the speaker chooses to see ghosts because they are also an unknown fear that anyone could have. The only way for the speaker to relate his fear of death is to compare it to the fear most people would feel if they saw a ghost, much less fifteen of them. Seeing fifteen ghosts expresses the speaker’s depth of his fear of death.
There are several literary devices in the poem. The last two lines of each stanza, of course, are an example of repetition. There is alliteration, a repetition of consonant sounds, also found in the poem. For example, the “s” sound as it is used in the word hiss is found throughout the poem. The letter “s” with a “z” sound is found in the words “because”, “derision”, and “plausible”, among others. “The coat upon a coat-hangar” is a metaphor for an apparition. In the first stanza, each two lines rhyme, except for the last two lines. The third stanza follows the same rhyme scheme as the first stanza. Yet, in the second stanza, only the first two lines rhyme. Night is personified in stanza three as it is capitalized and then referred to as “her”. The apparitions are a symbol of the speaker’s fear of death.
I hope this helps, and if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask.