WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

1

DURING forty years W. B. Yeats has changed the manner of his poems strikingly. He made his fame with a soft and frenzied verse. He has kept it with a harsh and thoughtful, almost a didactic verse. But Yeats has hardly changed the matter of his poems at all. Almost every poem he has written debates the same theme: the poet's place in the world. Far more pointedly than his criticism, Yeats's poems debate a theory of poetry; and I study his theory in them.

Yeats debates his theme less in words than in images. This is the other steady mark of his poems: that whatever their manner, they are heavy with images. Once the images were to make a stiff pattern on the surface of the poem. Now they make the thought within the poem. It is less a thought than a brooding, which in the end is summed in the images of the poem. Yeats now believes that the image gathers the hidden knowledge of man like a lens, and throws it out again in a halo of light. 'No mind is more valuable than the images it contains.' And he believes that the pleasure which the image gives can itself make a thought and even an ideal. Sidney and other poets thought that man's pleasures and his ideal are at odds; but Yeats has shut up this battle within the image.

In his early poems Yeats does hold an ideal. His

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The Poet's Defence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword 1
  • Sidney & Shelley 17
  • Philip Sidney 19
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley 57
  • John Dryden 87
  • Wordsworth & Coleridge 127
  • William Wordsworth 129
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge 155
  • Swinburne and His Heirs 185
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne 187
  • Alfred Edward Housman 209
  • William Butler Yeats 229
  • List of Quotations And Index 253
  • Index 257
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