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The Poetry Of W.B. Yeats Essay

2332 words - 9 pages

W.B. Yeats, a key figure of the modernist movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was born in Dublin in 1865. Although spending much of his childhood and youth in London, Yeats is seen as an inherently Irish literary figure. Through his early work, employing not only ancient Greek myth, but also Celtic legend, he sought to re-ignite in Ireland notions of heritage and tradition, which had diminished through the years. In Ireland, from around 1890 onwards, there was a very noticeable return to all things Irish, including a re-introduction of the Gaelic language, through the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, and the formation of a highly nationalist community in Ireland. Alongside these practical returns to Celtic origins, ."..there was a feeling that myth, folklore, a past, was a moral purgative." Yeats not only saw this ."..second go looking at the Celtic past," but also contributed to it through his poetry. However, he did not concentrate his art only on Celtic folklore and legend fused with ancient Greek mythology, but enveloped it with entirely modern issues and concerns, which come to the fore in his later works. His poetry comments on his own concerns over age and physical decay, and how art may be a way of overcoming man's finite time on earth. He illustrates vividly the alluring quality of nature, in relation to Irish myth and legend, and how nature can be used as a method of escapism from life. He focuses not on the physical realism of nature, but on the emotional and spiritual aspect of it. He also makes social comments, with particular mention of the Easter Rising of 1916. Yeats' use of myth in his work ."..has the effect of enlarging a work's scope beyond the merely descriptive," and his poetry binds the descriptive elements of the modern world with the wonder of the ancient and mythological.

Yeats' descriptions of nature often involve specific places, mostly in Ireland. In "The Stolen Child", first published in 1886, he describes a place in Sligo called Sleuth Wood. In this work, he attempts to create a sense of the wonder of nature, the ancient and ageless mystical world of myth and legend. Yeats' "tend[s] to support the idea of a connection between the idea of first, consciousness and the outer world and second, nature and the spiritual world." Instead of concentrating on the physical beauty of the area, he creates a world around it, where faeries "[weave] olden dances"(line 17) and "hid[e] faery vats, / Full of berries/And of reddest stolen cherries" (line 6-8). The poet creates an intoxicating nocturnal world, filled with wonder and spirituality. It seems like a secret world, where a community of fabled creatures spend their time. There is a sense of peace and joy about this place, which the "anxious" world, "full of troubles" could not hope to enjoy.

The poem has a musical tone, which is particularly evident in the refrain at the end of each stanza:

"Come away, O human...

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