Among School Children poem summary line by line

Among School Children poem summary line by line

Among School Children poem summary line by line-Among School Children emerges as a poignant and reflective masterpiece by the esteemed Irish poet, William Butler Yeats. Penned in 1927, this poem serves as a conduit for Yeats's deep contemplations on life's intricacies, the challenges accompanying aging, and the nuanced layers of the human experience.

Among School Children poem summary line by line

Beyond its apparent educational context suggested by the title, the poem transcends these boundaries to explore universal themes that resonate with readers from various backgrounds. As a Nobel laureate, Yeats demonstrates his literary prowess through the adept use of rich symbolism, vivid imagery, and a masterful command of language.

Among School Children poem summary line by line-Through "Among School Children," Yeats crafts a poetic narrative that skillfully interlaces personal reflections, philosophical musings, and a meditation on the inexorable passage of time. This poem beckons readers into a journey, unraveling layers of meaning and encouraging contemplation on the delicate interplay between youth and age, the convergence of idealism and reality, and the enduring quest for wisdom and understanding.

Among School Children poem summary


"I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;"

The speaker is walking through a lengthy schoolroom and asking questions.

"A kind old nun in a white hood replies;"

The speaker encounters a compassionate elderly nun wearing a white hood who responds to the questions.

"The children learn to cipher and to sing,"

The nun explains that the children in the school are taught mathematics (cipher) and music (sing).

"To study reading-books and history,"

The children are also engaged in studying reading books and history.

"To cut and sew, be neat in everything"

Practical skills such as cutting and sewing are taught, emphasizing the importance of being meticulous in various tasks.

"In the best modern way—the children's eyes"

The teaching approach is described as being in the best modern way, catching the attention of the children.

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"In momentary wonder stare upon"

The children look at something with momentary wonder or amazement.

"A sixty-year-old smiling public man."

The cause of the children's wonder is revealed to be a sixty-year-old man in a public position who is smiling.



"I dream of a Ledaean body, bent"

The speaker is dreaming about a body reminiscent of Leda, a figure from Greek mythology.

"Above a sinking fire, a tale that she"

The dream involves this Ledaean figure sharing a story while positioned over a diminishing or sinking fire.

"Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event"

The story being recounted involves either a severe rebuke or a seemingly insignificant incident.

"That changed some childish day to tragedy—"

The event described in the story transformed a day from the speaker's childhood into a tragic one.

"Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent"

As the story is told, there is a sense of the blending or merging of the speaker's nature with that of the Ledaean figure.

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"Into a sphere from youthful sympathy,"

The blending of natures creates a shared sphere, possibly connected through a sense of youthful understanding or empathy.

"Or else, to alter Plato's parable,"

Alternatively, the speaker suggests a modification of Plato's parable.

"Into the yolk and white of the one shell."

This modification could involve a metaphorical mixing of the yolk and white of an egg, symbolizing a profound unity or connection.



"And thinking of that fit of grief or rage"

The speaker reflects on a past intense emotion, either grief or rage.

"I look upon one child or t'other there"

The speaker observes one child or another.

"And wonder if she stood so at that age—"

The speaker wonders if the child in front of them exhibited similar emotions at that age.

"For even daughters of the swan can share"

The mention of "daughters of the swan" suggests a mythical or symbolic reference, possibly alluding to Leda's daughters in Greek mythology.

"Something of every paddler's heritage—"

The daughters of the swan, despite their mythical lineage, share something common with ordinary individuals ("paddler's heritage").

"And had that colour upon cheek or hair,"

The speaker considers whether the child shares a particular color on the cheek or hair, possibly linked to the earlier intense emotion.

"And thereupon my heart is driven wild:"

The contemplation causes the speaker's heart to be stirred intensely.

"She stands before me as a living child."

The reflection transforms the child before the speaker into a vivid and real presence, as if reliving the past experience.



"Her present image floats into the mind—"

The current appearance of the woman comes to the speaker's thoughts in a fleeting manner.

"Did Quattrocento finger fashion it"

The speaker wonders if the woman's image was crafted by artists from the Quattrocento period (15th century Italian art).

"Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind"

The description suggests the woman's cheeks are hollow, as if affected by the wind.

"And took a mess of shadows for its meat?"

The image may appear as if it fed on shadows, conveying a sense of darkness or mystery.

"And I though never of Ledaean kind"

The speaker contrasts themselves with the mythological Leda, possibly indicating they are not of a similar nature.

"Had pretty plumage once—enough of that,"

The speaker acknowledges having had attractive features or qualities in the past but dismisses dwelling on it.

"Better to smile on all that smile, and show"

It is suggested that it's better to smile at everything and everyone that smiles back.

"There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow."

The speaker likens themselves to a comfortable and possibly aged scarecrow, suggesting a content and relaxed attitude towards their current state.



"What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap"

The speaker begins by asking about a young mother holding her infant.

"Honey of generation had betrayed,"

The sweetness (honey) of creating new life (generation) is described as a betrayal, possibly hinting at the challenges and struggles of childbirth.

"And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape"

The infant is described as experiencing typical behaviors such as sleeping, crying (shrieking), and struggling as they enter the world.

"As recollection or the drug decide,"

The mention of recollection or drugs suggests the various ways that the mother might cope with the pain and challenges of childbirth.

"Would think her son, did she but see that shape"

The speaker wonders how a mother would perceive her son when looking at the grown-up individual who was once an infant in her arms.

"With sixty or more winters on its head,"

The image shifts to the son in his old age, having lived through sixty or more winters, representing the passage of time.

"A compensation for the pang of his birth,"

The question arises whether the son's life and existence are a compensation for the pain (pang) experienced during his birth.

"Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?"

Alternatively, the son's life might be seen as compensation for the uncertainties and challenges he faced when setting forth into the world.



"Plato thought nature but a spume that plays"

Plato viewed nature as a fleeting foam or froth that dances.

"Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;"

This spume or froth interacts with an ethereal model or pattern of reality.

"Solider Aristotle played the taws"

Aristotle, in contrast, is described as more substantial or "solider."

"Upon the bottom of a king of kings;"

Aristotle's influence is depicted as having a strong impact on a powerful ruler or a supreme authority.

"World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras"

Pythagoras, known for his mathematical contributions, is highlighted with a descriptive phrase.

"Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings"

Pythagoras is portrayed as playing a musical instrument, perhaps symbolizing his exploration of harmonic ratios.

"What a star sang and careless Muses heard:"

Pythagoras seemingly interprets the cosmic music or patterns produced by celestial bodies, and the Muses, associated with the arts, are described as indifferent or careless.

"Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird."

The passage concludes with an image of old garments on sticks used to frighten birds, suggesting that the teachings or philosophies of these thinkers may be outdated or no longer effective.


However, there is a difference between the images illuminated by candles in a religious setting and others.

"That animate a mother's reveries,"

The images that come to life in a mother's thoughts are distinct from those in a religious context.

"But keep a marble or a bronze repose."

The religious images, lit by candles, maintain a static and unchanging appearance, often made of marble or bronze.

"And yet they too break hearts—O Presences"

Despite their seemingly tranquil nature, these religious images also have the power to cause heartbreak.

"That passion, piety or affection knows,"

These presences, whether evoking passion, piety, or affection, have an impact on the emotions of those who encounter them.

"And that all heavenly glory symbolise—"

The religious images symbolize heavenly glory and spiritual significance.

"O self-born mockers of man's enterprise;"

The speaker addresses these images as self-born mockers, possibly suggesting that they challenge or question human endeavors, especially in the context of religious pursuits.


"Labour is blossoming or dancing where"

The opening line suggests that labor can be compared to blossoming or dancing.

"The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,"

Labor is ideal when it doesn't harm the body to please the soul, emphasizing a harmonious connection between physical and spiritual aspects.

"Nor beauty born out of its own despair,"

True beauty, the passage suggests, does not arise from a state of hopelessness or desperation.

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"Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil."

Genuine wisdom is not acquired through excessive and exhaustive effort, as implied by "midnight oil."

"O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,"

The speaker addresses a chestnut tree, appreciating its ability to blossom while firmly rooted.

"Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?"

The speaker questions the chestnut tree's identity within its various parts, contemplating whether it is defined by its leaves, blossoms, or trunk.

"O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,"

This line refers to a body responding to music and a gaze that brightens or becomes more vibrant.

"How can we know the dancer from the dance?"

The passage concludes with a philosophical question, suggesting the inseparability of the dancer and the dance. It invites contemplation on the interconnectedness of elements in life and the difficulty of distinguishing one from the other.

Among School Children poem Themes

Nature and Art:

The first passage explores the imagery and symbolism associated with nature, as well as artistic creation. It contrasts the perspectives of different philosophers on the essence of nature and knowledge.

Maternal Reflection:

The second passage delves into the reflections of a mother on her son's life. It explores the emotional complexities of childbirth, the passage of time, and the possible compensations for the struggles associated with giving birth.

Philosophical Reflection:

The third passage engages with the thoughts of the speaker on various philosophical perspectives, highlighting the contrast between Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras. It also suggests the transience of certain philosophical ideas.

Religious Imagery and Emotion:

The fourth passage juxtaposes the worship of images by nuns and mothers. It reflects on the emotional impact of religious images and the potential for heartbreak, even in a seemingly serene religious context.

Labor and Spiritual Harmony:

The fifth passage explores the idea of labor as a blossoming or dancing experience when it doesn't harm the body. It emphasizes the interconnectedness of physical and spiritual aspects, and the question posed about the chestnut tree and the dancer suggests unity and harmony in existence.

Interconnectedness of Elements:

The passages collectively touch upon the interconnectedness of various elements—nature and philosophy, maternal reflections and childbirth, religious imagery and emotion, labor and spiritual harmony. They invite contemplation on the relationships between different aspects of life.

Reflections on Time:

The second passage specifically involves reflections on the passage of time, from the birth of a son to his aging. It considers whether a person's life compensates for the difficulties faced during birth and the uncertainties of life.

Beauty and Wisdom:

The fifth passage contemplates the sources of true beauty and wisdom, suggesting that they should not arise from despair or excessive effort.



In conclusion, "Among School Children" encapsulates the timeless brilliance of William Butler Yeats, offering readers a poetic tapestry woven with profound reflections on life's complexities. As we traverse the verses, Yeats's mastery of language, rich symbolism, and vivid imagery guide us through the labyrinth of personal experience, philosophical contemplation, and the inexorable march of time. The poem invites us to reflect on the delicate dance between youth and age, the intersection of idealism and reality, and the enduring pursuit of wisdom. "Among School Children" transcends its initial school setting to become a universal exploration of the human condition, leaving an indelible mark on the literary landscape.


Q1: What distinguishes "Among School Children" from other works by William Butler Yeats?

"Among School Children" stands out for its introspective exploration of aging, the human experience, and the pursuit of wisdom. While Yeats often delves into profound themes, this poem uniquely navigates the complexities of life within an educational context.

Q2: How does Yeats employ symbolism in the poem?

Yeats uses rich symbolism to convey deeper meanings. For instance, the school setting serves as a metaphor for life's classroom, where individuals grapple with lessons and self-discovery. The poem also employs vivid imagery to enhance its impact.

Q3: What is the significance of the title, "Among School Children"?

The title suggests a specific setting but is metaphorical, representing the broader human experience. It underscores the universal nature of the poem's themes, extending beyond the confines of the literal school environment.

Q4: How does the poem address the passage of time and its impact on individuals?

The poem delves into the impact of time on individuals, particularly in the context of aging. It explores the tension between youthful idealism and the realities of aging, offering poignant reflections on the inevitability of change.



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