W. B. Yeats's Theory of Poetry

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      Yeats’s theory of poetry is of great importance for a full understanding of his poems. He has thought and written much about the theory and practice of his own art. In the early stage of his poetic career, he believed in the theory of “art for life’s sake.” He was in full agreement with the views of his father that dramatic poetry was to be preferred because it was clear and sharp in outline, while the lyric was vague and blurred. However, his genius was lyrical and it penetrates even his dreams which are essentially lyrical. But in the nineties, he became the advocate of “art for art’s sake.” Under the influence of the French Symbolist and the English Aesthetes, he started to write “pure poetry”, a poetry from which all the exterior decorations had been done away with. In the last phase of his poetry, Yeats tried to reconcile art with life. In his later poetry, we get a nice fusion. In his later phase, he insisted that the life of the past can be made relevant to the present by the synthetic power of the poet’s imagination. He said that literature must be “flooded with the passions arid beliefs of ancient times, otherwise it is a mere chronicle.”

      Yeats believed that “literature is always personal, always one man’s vision of the world, one man’s experiences. But he also believed that there must be a fusion of the impersonal with the personal, of the objective with the subjective before really great poetry could be born. But above all, Yeats valued artistic integrity. A poet to him was essentially a visionary who must remain true to his vision. Poetry to him was “the commonsense of the soul: it distinguishes greatness from triviality, mere fancifulness from beauty that lights up the depths of thought.”

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