Running to Paradise: Yeats's Poetic Art

Running to Paradise: Yeats's Poetic Art

Running to Paradise: Yeats's Poetic Art

Running to Paradise: Yeats's Poetic Art

Synopsis

In Running to Paradise, M.L. Rosenthal, hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as "one of the most important critics of twentieth-century poetry," leads us through the lyric poetry and poetic drama of our century's greatest poet in English. His readings shed new, vivid light on Yeats's daring uses of tradition, his love poetry, and the way he faced the often tragic realities of revolution and civil war. Running to Paradise describes Yeats's whole effort--sometimes leavened by wild humor--to convey, with high poetic integrity, his passionate sense of his own life and of his chaotic era. Himself a noted poet, Rosenthal stresses Yeats's artistry and psychological candor. The book ranges from his early exquisite lyrical poems and folklore-rooted plays, through the tougher-minded, more confessional mature work (including the sublime achievement of The Tower), and then to the sometimes "mad" yet often brilliant tragic or comic writing of his last years. Quoting extensively from Yeats, Rosenthal charts the gathering force with which the poet confronted his major life-issues: his art's demands, his persistent but hopeless love for one woman, the complexities of marriage to another woman at age 52, and his distress during Ireland's "Troubles." Yeats's deep absorption in female sensibility, in the cycles of history and human thought, and in supernaturalism and "the dead" comes strongly into play as well.

Excerpt

It is now well over a half-century since the death of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). He was arguably--although such ranking, if taken too seriously, is a game for innocents only--our greatest poet of this century writing in English. His poetry very often engages, and finds the right music for, the most difficult, intimate private and public issues: issues of love and death, of war and revolution, of Irish history and present crises. And he could be fanciful or playful, as becomes a good poet and true.

We look to the greatest poetry to give us pleasure while expressing subjective awareness and feeling almost to the point of mystical revelation. Simple as it is, this obvious double expectation needs constant restating. In addition, especially in an era that challenges the whole idea of artistic quality, it may call for a brief moment of preliminary explanation.

The "pleasure" in question--the special pleasure of art-- includes much more than the sunny or voluptuous poems of un- alloyed joy that might first come to mind. It extends to work that is elegiac, tragic, bitterly witty, or even grossly disagreeable. It does . . .

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