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William Butler Yeats - Essay Example

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William Butler Yeats

Yeats can get away with absolutely cliched poetical language like "loveliness" and still create lines of matchless significance about a woman's beauty: "How many centuries spent/The sedentary soul/In toils of measurement/Beyond eagle or mole,/Beyond hearing or seeing, Or Archimedes' guess,/To raise into being/That loveliness" (Opening song from the play Fighting the Waves). Of language he was a past master.
The themes and subjects of Yeats' poetry could be varied, because he was a man of varied interests and pursuits. Yeats could combine simplicity, a concise style, and innate wisdom for commentary on war from a soldier's point of view: "I know that I shall meet my fate/Somewhere among the clouds above;/ Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love;"An Irish Airman Forsees His Death, The Wild Swans at Coole. 1919).
He could make a commentary on the Easter Rising in Ireland like he did with his poem Easter(1916): "Too long a sacrifice/ Can make a stone of the heart./O when may it suffice/ That is Heaven's part, our part /To murmur name upon name,/As a mother names her child /When sleep at last has come /On limbs that had run wild". Or, he could write with a deep sense of almost Wordsworthian longing for the peace and beatitude of nature: "I will arise and go now, for always night and day/ I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;/ While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,/ I hear it in the deep heart's core".(The Lake Isle of Innisfree, The Rose, 1893).

In his final years, Yeats was also known to give expression of his occultist beliefs in a 2000-year cycle of existence: "The darkness drops again but now I know/ That twenty centuries of stony sleep/ Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,/ And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/ Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born"( The Second Coming, Michael Robartes and the Dancer.1919)

This range and versatility is the outcome of a lifetime of evolution, because Yeats is one of those rare breed of creative minds who can produce their best work in their waning years. Yeats was born on 13 June 1865, and came from an Anglo-Irish heritage. It was his mother who introduced him to Irish folktales which were to be an important influence on his poetry.

He had ideal parents for his profession as a poet : "Yeats has told of the deep emotional reserves in his Sligo-born mother, "whose actions were unreasoning and habitual like the seasons. From his father, John Butler Yeats, a man of original mind who had been trained in the law but turned to painting and to the pre-Raphaelite enthusiasms current in the '70s and '80s, Yeats early heard that "intensity was important above all things." (Bogan, 1938)

Yeats was moved to London from Ireland when he was two, and remained there for all his schooling till he enrolled in the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin for two years in 1884, and here he saw the early beginnings of his poetry. In Dublin he made famous acquaintances like G.B. Shaw, and W.E. Henley, and soon began to publish poetry, and in 1889, came out with The Wanderings of Usheen [Oisin] which included works ...Show more

Summary

Some time back, I attended a wedding ceremony where the groom read W.B.Yeat's well-known poem "When You Are Old" to the bride, and these lines stayed with me: How many loved your moments of glad grace, /And loved your beauty with love false or true;/ But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, /And loved the sorrows of your changing face…
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