Approach to W. B. Yeats Poetry

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      W. B. Yeats is one of the foremost poets in English Literature even today. He was a dreamer and visionary, who was fascinated by folk-lore, ballad and the superstitions of the Irish peasantry. To fully appreciate Yeats’s poems one has to be fully conversant with the Irish background—the Irish mythologies, etc. Besides, one has to be familiar with Yeats’s personal system of thought which he had enunciated in his remarkable book, A Vision.

      Yeats had tried to bring back the simplicity and “altogethemess” of the earlier ages and blend it with the modern ideas of good and evil. He was of the view that the true singer was one who told the most ancient story so that it applied to the people of his time. Thus, almost all his poems deal with ancient Ireland or employ ancient mythology. This does not mean that Yeats kept aloof from contemporary Ireland. He does talk about his contemporaries but they come wrapped in the garb of the ancients. Thus, Maud Gonne becomes Helen of Troy in No Second Troy and Leda in Leda and the Swan.

      To understand Yeats’s poetry one has to be familiar with his interests in magic, occultism, theosophy and the complex symbolism which keeps changing meaning from poem to poem.

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