Yeats (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
Douglas Archibald’s contribution to the admirable Irish Studies series of Syracuse University Press is a brilliant volume on Yeats—compact but definitive. Drawing upon an idea from Yeats’s introduction to The Words upon the Window-Pane (1934), Archibald proposes to examine the process by which the “originals” of the poet’s thought—each source “in its first language”—changed and evolved to become the achievement of “an ideal expression.” This process involved both the modification of the poet’s art and the influences of changing life experiences that molded his temperament. In his study, Archibald attempts more than a close reading of certain poems or other works by Yeats; instead, he searches into the sources of artistic growth, development, and final expression of crucial patterns in Yeats’s writings. To discover these sources in the poet’s life, Archibald studies as well the evolution of Yeats’s thinking about problems that served repeatedly as his subjects.
To organize his material, Archibald treats in chapters topics that are individually self-contained essays but cumulatively give the reader a full understanding of the poet’s development. These chapters, arranged from general or introductory to more specialized, usually center on one or more major poems. In “The Last Romantic,” Archibald shows how Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s meditative lyrics, especially “Frost at Midnight,” relate to “A Prayer for...
(The entire section is 1496 words.)
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