What is the theme of the poem "Among School Children"?

One of the themes of the poem “Among School Children” is the nature of change, especially as it is reflected in the aging process. The speaker finds the aging process all rather difficult, not least because he feels, looking back on his life, that he has never quite reached his potential. To a large extent, this is because his love for the young woman of his youth remains unrequited to this day.

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The nature of change is a common refrain in Yeats's poetry, especially in his later ones as he became acutely aware of the onset of old age, which forced him to confront his sense of mortality. In “Among the School Children”, the speaker, who's clearly Yeats himself, finds himself reflecting...

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The nature of change is a common refrain in Yeats's poetry, especially in his later ones as he became acutely aware of the onset of old age, which forced him to confront his sense of mortality. In “Among the School Children”, the speaker, who's clearly Yeats himself, finds himself reflecting on his younger years and how he's changed since then. The presence of children provides the catalyst for these ruminations, forcing Yeats to come to grips with the passage of time.

But it is easier said than done for Yeats to accommodate himself to the aging process. Mainly, this is because he still feels a certain void at the heart of his existence due to his unrequited love for Maude Gonne, the woman who turned down his offers of marriage on numerous occasions. As a consequence of this, Yeats feels that his life is essentially unfulfilled. And as he muses on the future of the children in the school he wonders whether the same thing might happen to them when they get older. Perhaps they too will find it difficult to deal with the change that will inevitably befall them.

In any case, Yeats resolutely refuses to succumb to self-pity. He tries to make light of his situation, referring to himself as a “comfortable kind of old scarecrow.” Ultimately, Yeats finds some degree of comfort in the assertion of his artistic persona. The only way that we can avoid a sense that our lives have been wasted is to express our being in some way, just as the dancer does in the dance.

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