The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W.B. Yeats

The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W.B. Yeats

The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W.B. Yeats

The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W.B. Yeats

Excerpt

Whatever flames upon the night Man's own resinous heart has fed.

'Two Songs from a Play.'

A year or two before his death I spoke with Yeats, and he asked me what quality in his work I valued most. I replied 'Wisdom'; though it was, indeed, an imprecise word. I meant that his writing had given me pleasure through its revelation of stable values in thought and in mood; that its assertions of gaiety, courage, bitterness, sorrow, seemed to me of the great tradition; and that much of its symbolism carried in itself that quality of expansion and resonance in the mind which he sought to give it. At the time, I think, I saw his work against a background which we shared, and particularly in relation to the Ireland of the period between 1916 and the Treaty. Of that period I have written in the opening chapter.

Although the events of his life are available from many sources, I have found it more convenient to recapitulate them in outline under the tide of 'Choice and Chance' in so far as they bear on the arguments I have sought to develop. To those events I have related his own theories of the mask, as justifying his complex and apparently contradictory personality. I have shown some of the factors which determined his early style, and then gone on to consider the development of his maturer poetry. But before this stage could be reached it seemed important to survey the whole series of poetic springs represented by his exploration of magic, astrology, and mystical mathematics in general; to consider at some length his dominant symbols and their ramifications; and to trace in outline the dramatic work, which together with much of the prose, must be considered side by side with the poetry before the latter can be understood.

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