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The Cold Heaven Argumentative

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‘The Cold Heaven’ presents Yeats’ epiphany in his understanding of his life; the vision of the extremes, the icy cold bleakness of life, as well as the hysteria which erupts from him upon this realisation. His vision of life is presented with searing pain, memories of his wasted youth and sadness in his relations to Maud Gonne which eventually consume his willpower, and he concludes that life is without use, a punishment from ‘the injustice of the skies’.

Yeats’ vision focuses on the pain in life, describing his youth memories as ones ‘that should be out of season’; he has spent much of his youth in search of Maud Gonne, only to be met with rejection and in this moment of realisation he senses that he has in fact wasted his youth, and has been unable to fulfil his goals of creating happy memories. This failure is attributed to Yeats’ vision, where he sees that the future only holds a bleak outcome for him: his version of ‘heaven’ is only described ‘as though ice burned’ in this heaven, and ‘was but the more ice’, a supposed paradise that to him will only bring him more pain.

The iciness in Yeats’ ‘heaven’ creates the painful image of raw coldness, almost akin to his vision itself, a cold and unhopeful view of his life ahead. The vivid description of ice also serves to describe his future as almost lifeless, and this can be attributed to the fact that much of his youth could also be considered lifeless and full of inertia; ‘Broken Dreams’ similarly describes this inertia and his failures in his pursuits for Maud Gonne which only ended in ‘vague memories, nothing but memories’.

The Cold Heaven’ similarly describes how Yeats is simply left with these broken fragments of his memories, all of which have almost ‘vanished’ in his pain. Yeats alludes to the ‘imagination and heart’ which ‘were driven so wild that every thought of this and that’ would simply vanish, and we see how Yeats’ vision has a profound effect on himself; it consumes him wholly in that he is sent simply into a frenzy of fear, describing himself as having ‘cried and trembled and rocked to and fro’ in this sudden icy shock.

The metaphor of ice is sustained as a description of the shocking, almost physical-like blow Yeats receives from his vision; a new sense of realisation and an epiphany which only seems to suggest damnation in his future life, and the after-life. The raw icy nature of his vision also serves to prove that Yeats vision is indeed very clear to him now, simply life being a cycle of pain coupled with pointlessness. Yeats describes how in this vision he saw himself in his youth trying to make the most of his life, in pursuit of Maud Gonne, his ‘hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago’.

Yet despite this optimism in his youth, Yeats’ vision is described as finally offering him insight into the real workings of his life, a life only full of regrets. ‘An Irish Airman foresees his Death’ notes the intense feelings of regret upon a similar realisation, describing ‘the years to come [seem] (a) waste of breath’, and his vision similarly concludes that he indeed takes on the view that life is without any use and was wasted by him; his hope for romance with Maud Gonne was a bout of craziness on his behalf, and the contrasting heat of youth from the brittle and fragile ice serves to show Yeats life full of wasted opportunity.

Yeats notably with a sudden crash, his vision abruptly setting his mind alight with the realisation that the remainder of his life, the so-called ‘heaven’ of the supposed future is only ‘cold and rook-delighting’; he cannot cope with the same level of isolation that the rooks he describes can, and in this he also alludes to his vision as being shocking. Yeats is shocked to realise that he will never be able to succeed in his pursuits for Maud Gonne, and while this leads him to wish to be able to move on, he soon realises that this new future, or supposed ‘heaven’ will only contain ‘more ice’.

The Stolen Child’ similarly describes this wishes to move on ‘to the waters and the wild…for the world’s more full of weeping’, and yet ends with the realisation that the future may not necessarily be so bright, and this holds especially true for Yeats’ vision in that it is in fact possibly even worse, as he continues to endure the pain, and is unable to recover from his initial shock from his epiphany.

His final epiphany is introduced with a sudden exclamation of ‘Ah! , and from this Yeats’ vision finally allows him to open himself to the true reality; the death that may sometimes be seen as peaceful, once again is only brimmed with a sense of pain, he can only wince in response to this pain. Yeats details that once ‘the confusion of the death-bed (is) over’, the question of divinity playing a role still remains for him a constant fear. Notably this is also the first instance within the poem where Yeats finally breaks off his sentence, emphasising the dawn of another new realisation upon himself, yet this vision is still very much confused in its imagery.

It is described as being ‘riddled with light’, mysterious and refusing to give Yeats further insight into his future, the broken nature of the light reflecting upon his own character as ‘broken’ by this realisation. Religious imagery is introduced into this new vision, and this vision results in Yeats questioning the real purpose of divinity, and asks whether he has simply been ‘sent out naked on the roads…by the injustice of the skies for punishment’; in his vision he sees heaven finally exposing him to the harsh reality he lives in.

Yeats concludes that once death finally takes its toll upon his life, he indicates that his soul would simply continue being the same helpless, vulnerable and aimless character as he lived throughout his life. He finally questions the purpose of afterlife, venting his anger on the possibility of divinity forcing his life to be a ‘punishment’, quoting the injustice as what ‘the books say’. Yeats comments on his vision as being an abrupt, awakening experience for himself as he realises that his entire life before him has been wasted by his fruitless pursuits for Maud Gonne.

His failures in youth is also attributed to his inability to see any positivity within his future, instead describing it as a ‘cold heaven’, ironic in the sense that his form of ‘heaven’ is neither heavenly or pleasant; Yeats’ idea of a ‘heaven’ is very much hostile and threatening, only serving to force ‘injustice’ upon him, and from this Yeats begins to see his feelings of regret from his vision, his regret for spending his entire youth fruitlessly despite it being ‘hot blood’, a stark contrast to the later clarity and burning nature of ice.

As Yeats continues to contemplate this bleak view, another vision springs into his mind, alluding that this failure and pain could possibly be linked to divine intervention, or possibly fate itself. Despite these visions, Yeats implies that these visions are still confusing, and at the last line Yeats is still not able to find any meaning for life.

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