The Romantic Survival: A Study in Poetic Evolution

By John Bayley | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VIII W. B. Yeats

IN THE previous pages I have tried to show how romantic ideas, developing and proliferating over the course of more than a century, affected the writing and the reading of imaginative literature. We have seen how the novel was transformed, becoming the dominant creative form under the impulse of romantic egotism and individualism, and showing the all-important and all-interesting 'T' creating his environment or at odds with it; how 'counter-reformations' like that of Hulme and Eliot sought to discredit romanticism and reverse its tendencies; and, most important of all, how the universe of romantic poetry began to shrink, diminishing into the mental world of the symbolists, or into a catalogue of stock romantic properties.

I shall now take three poets-- Yeats, Auden, and Dylan Thomas--in whose work can be seen many of the aspects of romanticism which have been discussed and who constitute the greatest and most interesting exponents of a new sort of romantic revival. In their poetry the romantic horizons have expanded again, the original vitality and breadth of the movement have been restored. As we examine the ways in which this has been brought about, we shall see that only in the context of romantic thought and theory, both its strength and its weakness, can the size of their poetry be properly appreciated and its positive qualifies understood. All are poets

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