William Butler Yeats World Literature Analysis
The major preoccupation of Yeats’s imagination was expressed in a statement he made at the beginning of his career: “Hammer your thoughts into unity.” These words suggest the various ways in which Yeats perceived the raw materials of his poetry; they also point to the sense of totality that he wished to derive from those materials. Yeats’s raw materials include personal history, family history, cultural history, ancient and modern Irish history, friendship, mysticism, and personal and academic philosophy. There is no denying the complexity of some of Yeats’s poetry. Some of his poems challenge readers to become better acquainted with Irish history and culture. To a large extent, however, the difficulty of Yeats’s poetry resembles the poetry of William Blake, whose work requires readers to hold paradoxical notions of the universe in their minds at the same time. Throughout his work, Yeats struggled with the tensions between the concrete and the abstract, between Irish identity and human commonalities, between things falling apart and things coming together.
The range of Yeats’s poetic resources is also comprehensive; his work covers the gamut of possibilities provided by lyric poetry. Beginning with ballads and songs that are almost naïve in their expression of simplicity, Yeats’s poetry quickly evolves into nuanced, layered works. The allusive symbolism of his collection, The Wind Among the Reeds (1899), for example, has by the...
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