William Butler Yeats is widely considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He belonged to the Protestant Anglo-Irish minority which had controlled the economic, political, social and cultural life of Ireland since at least the end of the 17th century. Most members of this minority considered themselves Irish-born Englishmen, but Yeats strongly asserted his Irish nationality. Although he lived in London for 14 years of his childhood (and maintained a permanent home there for the first half of his adult life), Yeats maintained his cultural roots, featuring Irish legends and heroes in many of his poems and plays. He was equally adamant about adhering to his own image as an artist. This conviction led many to accuse him of being elitist, but it undoubtedly also contributed to his greatness. as a fellow poetW. H. Audenannotated in a 1948Kenyon reviewIn an essay entitled "Yeats as an Example", Yeats accepted the modern need to have to make a "solitary and deliberate choice of the principles and presuppositions in terms of which [made] his experience meaningful". Auden credited Yeats with high praise for having written "some of the most beautiful poetry" of modern times. Perhaps no other poet represented a people and a country as movingly as Yeats did, during and after his lifetime, and his poetry is widely read throughout the English-speaking world today.
In 1885, an important year in Yeats' early adult life, his poetry was first published in theUniversity of Dublin review, and began his significant interest in the occult. It was also the year she met John O'Leary, a famous patriot who had returned to Ireland after 20 years in prison and exile for revolutionary nationalist activities. O'Leary had a great enthusiasm for Irish books, music and ballads and encouraged young writers to embrace Irish themes. Yeats, who preferred more romantic settings and themes, soon followed O'Leary's advice and produced many poems based on Irish legends, Irish folklore, and Irish ballads and songs. As he explained in a note included in the 1908 volumeThe Complete Works in Verse and Prose of William Butler Yeats: “When I first wrote I went hither and thither to my subjects as my reading took me, preferring all the other countries of Arcadia and India to the novel, but I soon became convinced ... that I should never pass the scene of a poem for any country other than my own, and I believe I will maintain that conviction to the end.
When Yeats began to focus his poetry on Irish themes, he was forced to accompany his family to move to London at the end of 1886. There he wrote poems, plays, novels and short stories, all featuring Irish characters and scenes. In addition, he produced book reviews, usually on Irish affairs. In London, Yeats met Maud Gonne, a tall, beautiful, and socially prominent young woman passionately devoted to Irish nationalism. Yeats soon fell in love with Gonne and courted her for nearly three decades; although he eventually discovered that she already fathered two children from a long relationship, with Gonne's encouragement, Yeats redoubled his dedication to Irish nationalism and produced nationalist plays such asthe countess kathleen(1892), which he dedicated to him, andCathleen e Houlihan(1902), which featured her as the personification of Ireland in the title role.
Gonne shared Yeats' interest in the occult and spiritualism. Yeats had been a theosophist, but in 1890 he abandoned his broad mystical ideas and joined the Golden Dawn, a secret society that practiced ritual magic. Yeats remained an active member of the Golden Dawn for 32 years, becoming involved in its leadership at the turn of the century and achieving the coveted sixth grade of membership in 1914, the same year his future wife, Georgiana Hyde-Lees, also joined. the society
Although Yeats' hidden ambitions were a powerful force in his private thoughts, the Golden Dawn's emphasis on the supernatural collided with his own need as a poet for interaction in the physical world, and so in his public role he preferred to follow the lead of Yeats.Juan Keats, a romantic poet who remained - in comparison with the romanticsWilliam BlakeyPercy Bysshe Shelley—relatively close to the materials of life. Yeats avoided what he considered to be Blake's darkness, whose poetic imagery was based on mystical visions rather than the familiar physical world. Even so, Yeats' visionary and idealistic interests were more in line with those of Blake and Shelley than Keats, and in the 1899 collectionThe wind among the reedshe used occult symbolism in several poems.
However, most of Yeats's poetry used symbols of everyday life and family traditions, and much of his poetry in the 1890s continued to reflect his interest in Irish themes. During this decade he also became increasingly interested in poetic techniques. He became friends with the fading English poet Lionel Johnson, and in 1890 they helped found the Rhymers' Club, a group of London poets who got together to read and discuss their poems. The Rhymers placed a high value on subjectivity and craftsmanship, preferring sophisticated aestheticism to nationalism. The club's influence is reflected in the lush density of Yeats' poetry of the period, culminating inThe wind among the reeds(1899). Though Yeats soon abandoned this lush density, he remained permanently committed to the Rhymers' insistence that a poet should work "with rhythm and cadence, with form and style", as he reportedly told an audience in Dublin in 1893.
The turn of the century marked the emergence of Yeats's interest in the theatre, an interest influenced by his father, a famous artist and orator who loved the highly dramatic moments in literature. In the summer of 1897 the author enjoyed his first stay at Coole Park, the estate of Lady Augusta Gregory in County Galway. There he hatched, with Lady Gregory and his neighbor Edward Martyn, plans to promote innovative native Irish drama. In 1899 they mounted the first of three annual Dublin productions, including Yeats'.Countess Kathleen,and in 1902 they supported a troupe of amateur Irish actors in the staging of George Russell's Irish legend "Deirdre" and Yeats.Cathleen e Houlihan.The success of these productions led to the founding of the National Theater Society of Ireland, with Yeats as president. After a wealthy patron offered to pay for the renovation of Dublin's Abbey Theater as the company's permanent home, the theater opened on 27 December 1904. It featured plays by all three of the company's directors: Lady Gregory, John M. Synge and Yeats, who was represented that night withon the dancing beach,the first of his several plays featuring the heroic ancient Irish warrior Cuchulain.
During the first decade of the 20th century, Yeats was very active in running the Abbey Theater company. By this time he had also written 10 plays, and the simple, direct dialogue style necessary for the stage also became an important consideration in his poems. He abandoned the highly elaborate style ofThe wind among the reedsin favor of simpler conversational rhythms and diction. This transformation in his poetic style can be traced in his first three collections of the 20th century:in the seven woods(1903),The Green Helmet and Other Poems(1910), eResponsibilities(1914). Several poems in these collections use style as a theme. For example, in "A Coat,”Writing in 1912, Yeats mocked his poetry style of the 1890s, saying that he once adorned his poems with a coat "covered with embroidery / Of old mythologies". The poem ends with a cheeky announcement: "There's more company / When walking naked." This departure from conventional nineteenth-century manner disappointed his contemporary readers, who preferred the pleasant musicality of familiar poems like "Island of Lake Innisfree”, which he wrote in 1890.
The simplification was just the first of several major stylistic changes. In "Yeats as an example?" an essay inConcerns: Selected Prose 1968-1978,the outstanding irish poetSeamus Heaneypraised Yeats for continually altering and refining his poetic craft. “He is, in fact, the perfect example of a poet approaching middle age,” declared Heaney. “He reminds you that revision and hard work is what you might have to go through if you're looking for the satisfaction of finishing; he teases you with the suggestion that if you've made a kind of poem your own way, you should abandon that path and tackle another area of your expertise until you learn a new voice to say that area correctly.
Eventually Yeats began experimenting as a playwright; in 1916, for example, he adopted a deliberately esoteric and unrealistic dramatic style based on Japanese Noh plays, the theatrical form to which he had been introduced by the poetezra libra. These works were described by Yeats as "works for dancers".
While Yeats fulfilled his duties as president of the Abbey Theater group for the first 15 years of the 20th century, his nationalist fervor was less apparent. Maud Gonne had moved to Paris with her husband, exiled Irish revolutionary John MacBride, and the author gasped. But in 1916 he again became a strong supporter of the nationalist cause, inspired by the Easter Rising, a failed six-day armed rebellion by Irish republicans against the British in Dublin. MacBride, who was now separated from Gonne, took part in the rebellion and was later executed. Yeats reacted by writing “Easter, 1916”, an eloquent expression of his complex feelings of shock, romantic admiration and a more realistic appraisal.
The Easter Rising contributed to Yeats's eventual decision to reside in Ireland rather than England, and his marriage to Hyde-Lees in 1917 further strengthened that resolve. Earlier, in an introductory verse toResponsibilities,he had apologized to his ancestors for not yet marrying to continue his Irish lineage: "Though I have reached the age of forty-nine, / I have no children, I have only one book." With the marriage came another period of exploring complex and esoteric subjects for Yeats. I have long been fascinated by the contrast between a person's inner and outer selves, between the real person and the aspects that person chooses to present as a representation of themselves. Yeats first mentioned the value of masks in 1910 in a simple poem, "The Mask," where a woman reminds her lover that his interest in her depends on her appearance and not on her hidden inner self. Yeats gave eloquent expression to this idea of the mask in a group of essays,Through the friendly silence of the moon(1918): "I believe that all happiness depends on the energy to assume the mask of some other life, of a rebirth as something other than yourself." This notion can be found in a wide variety of poems by Yeats.
Yeats also continued to explore mysticism. Just four days after the wedding, his bride began what would be a long experiment with the psychic phenomenon called automatic writing, in which her hand and quill supposedly served as unconscious instruments for the spirit world to send information. Yeats and his wife conducted over 400 automatic writing sessions, producing nearly 4,000 pages that Yeats studied and organized with avidity and patience. From these sessions, Yeats formulated theories about life and history. He believed that there were certain standards, the most important being what he calledtwists,interpenetrating cones representing mixtures of opposites of a personal and historical nature. He maintained that the plot twists were initiated by the divine impregnation of a mortal woman: first, Zeus's rape of Leda; then, the immaculate conception of Mary. Yeats found that within each 2000-year era, defining moments occurred in the middle of the 1000-year halves. In these moments of balance, he believed, a civilization could achieve special excellence, and Yeats cited as examples the splendor of Athens in 500 BC, Byzantium in 500 AD. and the Italian Renaissance in 1500 AD.
Yeats further compared these historical cycles to the 28-day lunar cycle, stating that physical existence constantly grows until it peaks at the full moon, which Yeats described as perfect beauty. For the remaining half of the cycle, physical existence gradually fades away, until it disappears completely at the new moon, at which point the cycle begins anew. Applying this pattern to both historical times and the lives of individuals, Yeats noted that a person completes stages as he progresses from birth to maturity and declines toward death. Yeats elaborated on the scheme by assigning particular phases to specific personality types, so that although each person goes through many phases in the course of his or her life, one provides a general characterization of the individual's entire life. Yeats published his intricate and not completely systematic theories of personality and history inA vision(1925; substantially revised 1937), and some of the symbolic patterns (turns, moon phases) provide an important background for many of the poems and plays he wrote during the second half of his career.
During these years of Yeats's esotericism, Ireland was beset by internal strife. In 1921, bitter controversies erupted within the new Irish Free State over the partition of Northern Ireland and the drafting of a formal oath of allegiance to the British Crown. These problems led to an Irish civil war, which lasted from June 1922 to May 1923. Yeats emphatically sided with the new Irish government. He accepted a six-year appointment to the Irish Free State senate in December 1922, a time when rebels were kidnapping government figures and burning their homes. In Dublin, where Yeats took up permanent residence in 1922 (after keeping a house for 30 years in London), the government even posted armed sentries on his door. As a senator, Yeats considered himself a representative of order in the midst of the new nation's chaotic and slow progress toward stability. He was now the "smiling sixty-year-old public man" of his poem "Among School Children", which he wrote after visiting an Irish primary school. He was also a world-renowned artist of impressive stature, having received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.
Yeats's poems and plays produced during his Senate tenure and beyond are at once local and general, personal and public, Irish and universal. At night, the poet could “sweat with terror” (a phrase from his poem “1919”) due to the violence that surrounded him, but he could also generalize these terrifying realities, relating them to events in the rest of the world and to all of history, the poems written in response to these unsettling times gave incredible power to his collection.Torre(1928), which is often considered his best book, althoughWild Swans in Coole(1917; expanded edition, 1919),Michael Robartes and the dancer(1921),Torre,the spiral staircase(1929); enlarged edition, 1933), andWords to music maybe and other poems(1932), also have considerable merit.
Another important element of the poems, both in these collections and in other volumes, is Yeats' acute insight into old age. Even his romantic poems of the late 1890s often mention gray hair and weariness, although these poems were written when he was still young. But when Yeats was nearly 60, his health began to fail, and he faced real, not imaginary, "corporal decrepitude" (a phrase from "After a Long Silence") and the approach of death. Despite the author's often acute awareness of his physical decline, the last 15 years of his life were marked by extraordinary vitality and an appetite for life. He continued to write plays includingSophocles' Oedipus the KingySophocles Oedipus at Colonus(translations made with masks in 1926 and 1927) andThe words on the windowpane(1934), a complete work on spiritualism and the Irish writer of the eighteenth century.Jonathan swift. In 1929, as an expression of joy after recovering from a serious illness, he also wrote a series of impetuous and forceful poems narrated by a fictional old peasant woman, Crazy Jane. Her pose like "the wicked old savage” (title of one of his poems) and its poetic revitalization was reflected in the title of his 1938 volumeNew poems.
As Yeats aged, he saw Ireland change in ways that irritated him. The Anglo-Irish Protestant minority no longer controlled Irish society and culture, and with the death of Lady Gregory in 1932 and the abandonment of the Coole Park estate, Yeats felt excluded from the brilliant achievements of the 18th-century Anglo-Irish tradition. . In Yeats' unabashedly anti-democratic view, the greatness of Anglo-Irishers like Jonathan Swift, philosopher George Berkeley and statesman Edmund Burke stood in stark contrast to the mediocre vulgarity of contemporary Irish society, which seemed preoccupied with the interests of merchants. and peasants. . He expressed his unpopular views in later works such asPurgatory(1938) and essays byin the boiler(1939).
But Yeats made up for his often brash manner with the personal conflicts expressed in his later poems. He faced death with a courage based partly on his vague hope of reincarnation and partly on his admiration for the daring heroism he perceived in Ireland, both in antiquity and in the eighteenth century. With pride he could speak in the stern voice of his famous epitaph, written six months after his death, which concludes his poem "Under Ben Bulben": "Look coldly / On life, on death. / Knight, come on!" But the bold assurance of these lines is complicated by the terrified scream that "distracts my thought" at the end of another late poem, "The Man and the Echo," and also by the poignant, frivolous longing for life in the last lines. of “Politica”, the poem that I wanted to endLatest poems:"But oh, to be young again / and hold her in my arms."
Throughout his later years, Yeats's creative imagination remained very much its own, insulated to a remarkable degree from the successive fads of modern poetry, despite his extensive contacts with other poets. Literary modernism had no inherent appeal for him, except perhaps in its general association with youthful vigour. He admired a wide range of traditional English poetry and drama, and was simply not concerned that, in the last two decades of his life, his preference for using strict rhyme and stanzas would alienate him from the trend of modern poetry. However, Yeats' fidelity to the poetic tradition did not extend to what he considered an often obscure and overly scholarly use of literary and cultural traditions byT. S. Eliot
and Libra. Yeats lamented the tremendous enthusiasm among younger poets for Eliot's work.wasteland,published in 1922. Ignoring Eliot's monotonous rhythms and cold, dry humor, Yeats wanted all art to be full of energy. He felt that the literary traditions that provided Eliot with so many allusions and quotations should only be included in a poem if those traditions had so excited the imagination of the individual poet that they could become poetic ingredients of the kind that Yeats described in "The Tower": " The poet's imagination". imaginations / And memories of love, / Memories of women's words, / All those things of which / Man makes a superhuman dream / Similar to a mirror.”
Yeats wanted poetry to encompass all of life's complexity, but only insofar as the individual poet's imagination had direct access to experience or thought, and only insofar as these materials were transformed by the energy of thought. He was, from beginning to end, a poet who sought to transform the local concerns of his own life, incorporating them into the resonantly universal language of his poems. His brilliant rhetorical achievements, bolstered by his considerable powers of poetic phrasing and rhythm, received much praise from readers and especially from his fellow poets, including W.H. Auden (who praised Yeats as the savior of English lyric poetry),Stephen Spender,Teodoro Roethke, youFelipe Larkin. Time is not likely to diminish your accomplishments.