Yeats, William Butler. (1865 - 1939).
P o e t r y
- creates his own symbolic system of mystical or quasi-mystical ideas
- characterized by coherence of imagery, power of vision, passionate sensuality, and often violent sexuality
P h a s e 1 , R o m a n t i c i s m :
- uses precise natural imagery, heroic themes, and Irish folklore
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree”:
- controls the handling of the imagery to achieve a haunting quality
P h a s e 2 , N a t i o n a l i s m :
< influenced by Augusta Gregory and his stay in her house Coole Park
- co-founded the Irish Literary Theatre (1899 - 1901), actively participated in play production, and made pronouncements on public controversies
The Wild Swans at Coole (1919) and Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1821):
- combines the colloquial and the formal, adds a metaphysical element
P h a s e 3 , S y m b o l i s t - M e t a p h y s i c a l P o e t r y :
- subject matter: revolutionary politics x personal regret, ideal past x prophecy, agony of ageing x celebration of cultural history
The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair (1933):
- uses the recurrent symbol of winding stairs and spirals of all kinds, e.g. to indicate a journey up a spiral staircase, both repetitious and progressive
- presents a series of contraries: dialogues between soul x heart, the public domain of the soldier x the withdrawal of the meditating saint, etc.
“Leda and the Swan”:
- a tense sonnet on the rape of Leda by Zeus disguised as a swan and the long-term consequences of the rape in the ruin of Troy and the murder of Agamemnon
D r a m a :
- national drama: draws on Irish traditions, provides focus for nationalism
- poetical legendary drama: uses ‘only symbolic and decorative setting’, turns away from the ‘common realities’
The Countess Kathleen (1892):
- a nationalist folklore play, inaugurated the Irish Literary Theatre
‘The Cuchulain Sequence’: On Baile’s Strand (1903), At the Hawk’s Well (1916), and The Death of Cuchulain (1939):
- a sequence of plays based on the symbolic patterns of the Japanese Noh drama, concerned with the ancient hero Cuchulain
- an increasingly innovative symbolic and ritual drama using light effects, masks, dance, music, etc.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorWilliam Butler Yeats. (1865 - 1939). Irish.
WorkPoet. Playwright. The leading figure of the Irish Literary Revival. Nobel Prize winner (1923).
GenresRomanticism. Symbolism. Mysticism. Metaphysical poetry. Poetic drama. Nationalism.
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"Between extremities / Man runs his course; / A brand, or flaming breath, / Comes to destroy / All those antinomies / Of day and night."