William Butler Yeats

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Yeats is one of the last Romantics. Discuss.

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William Butler Yeats, a much read and loved Irish poet even today, is considered by many as one of the finest poets of the 20th century. His contributions to English poetical traditions are many, like Sailing to Byzantium, The Second Coming, Easter 1916, Adam’s Curse, Lapis Lazulietc. to name a few.

Yeats was chiefly influenced by Percy Bysshe Shelley, a major English Romantic poet. "Magic" was one theme that Yeats probably took from Shelley. Besides this, Yeats once admitted, however, that William Blake, another Romantic poet, had a more profound influence on his poetical style than Shelley. Yeats was also an ardent admirer of other Romantic poets like S.T Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Lord Byron. He borrowed from them the Romantic symbolism, subjects, diction and vision. The romantic influence can be seen in his later poems like Sailing to Byzantium where we find his escapist tendencies that are interwoven with themes of life, magic and death.

Yeats witnessed a stormy Irish history of subjugation that creatively touched his poetic style. Yeats poetry shows his fascination with Irish past, traditions and myths. In the later years, Yeats poetry became mature and acquired alluring mysticism, in comparison to his poetry of early years, which is lyrical but less intense. Yeats Romanticism is rebellious, revolutionary, reflective and sensational. Yeats himself declared that he and his associates were last Romantics in his poem- Coole Park And Ballylee, 1931

We were the last romantics - chose for theme
Traditional sanctity and loveliness;

Though Yeats style was inclined to being Romantic, there is some amount of contradiction in saying that he was truly Romantic. His constant interest towards Irish Nationalism and Irish National affairs, resulted in bringing a touch of Modernism in his poetry, which is why Yeats is also often referred to as a Modern Poet.


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