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A STUDY OF W. B. YEATS
- A STUDY OF W. B. YEATS
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- 대학원 영어영문학과
- 이화여자대학교 대학원
- The difference between the early and later poems of Yeats is not the one between a rhetorical poem and a poem of Wordsworthian simplicity. It is the difference between a poem form which the poet purposely eliminated the dramatic element and the concreteness, and a poem in which the poet is bent on including both.
The poetry of "the tower" is not harder and drier and more logical than the poetry of "the rose"; it is only more concrete, more skillful in rhetoric, and more crowded with what Yeats found in life. He discarded the early elaborateness for a final sharpness; he turned away form the poetry of incantation to a plain speaking verse, from the mystic rose to a more personal symbolism such as the tower and winding stairs. His symbols keep altering but the later symbols are mature equivalents rather than new departure. The heroes of the later verse are simply the heroes of the early verse who have, like their creator, matured. In fact "nothing was abandoned and yet every thing is changed" in his later years.
T.S. Eliot has remarked: "I find myself regarding him...as a contemporary and not a predecessor... I can share the feeling of younger men, who came to know and admire him by that work form 1919 on. It is only in his later works that Yeats became a contemporary. His mood is contemporary, yet it transcends its time. It is aristocratic, yet has all the coarseness of common experience. It is intellectual but its blood runs hot. It is full of anger, yet holds perfect calmness. It is full of mockery, but keeps its dignity. It is wise, without wisdom's chill. His wisdom is that of a man who has built slowly and painfully on a lifetime of experience. In the words of an elegy for Yeats Auden writes: "You were silly like us; your gift survived it all." The silliness was the lack of what the world calls commonsense; but commonsense and wisdom are different.
He sought to shape life to his heart's desire not merely in fancy but in fact. But his later poems honestly state both his own dilemma and anxiety. "A Prayer for Old Age" states his dilemma as his own arrogant and yet humble epitaph:
God guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;
Form all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song's sake a fool?
I pray - for fashion's word is out
And prayer comes round again -
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.
The reason for the superiority of Yeats's later works is the greater expression of his personality which gives the poetry both intensity and passion. It is the earnest cry of the flesh and the cry of the soul. Unlike many writers he cared more for his poetry than for his own reputation as a poet or his image of himself as a poet. As a result he became unquestionably the master of his art, and at the same time he preserved his place as a contemporary poet.
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