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What is there in Yeats' poetry which makes him a modern poet?

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hibo | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Honors

Posted September 4, 2011 at 4:20 PM via web

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What is there in Yeats' poetry which makes him a modern poet?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 4, 2011 at 8:18 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that one of Keats' strongest elements of modernism would be in how he was so open to embracing a sense of negative capability.  Keats was ahead of his time in suggesting that it is impossible for individuals to know everything, and that living with the unknown is an acceptable part of consciousness.  Of course, this becomes a source of liberation for Keats, making him distinctly different from his modern counterparts.  In poems like "Ode on a Grecian Urn," the striving for totality and a sense of transcendent truth is something that exists outside the realm of the human being and that is "all ye need to know."  In other poems such as "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," there is a truly puzzling element to figure out moral values such as who is right and who is wrong.  In the end, Keats' poetry forces the reader to accept the idea that negative capability is something that is evident in consciousness and in being.  One might wish to repel it, but Keats suggests that this is impossible.  In this, Keats is echoing the modern thinkers who will also argue that there are levels of understanding that exist outside the grasp of human understanding.

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