Many readers of poetry who enjoy the work of William Butler Yeats know him primarily for his great poems written during the 20th Century, such poems as “No Second Troy,” “The Mask,” “On Being Asked for a War Poem,” “The Second Coming,” and “Leda and the Swan.” This book focuses on his early poetry written during the 1880s and 1890s. One key idea is that readers of his later poems can enhance their understanding and appreciation of his later poems by understanding what Yeats was attempting to do in his early poetry by way of creating literary symbols and expressing themes.
In Ireland, Yeats shared with other young writers an interest in Irish folklore and Irish pagan culture and religion (which seems to have been motivated in part by Irish nationalism, as Ireland sought independence from Great Britain, as well as by a loss of faith in Roman Catholicism). There was a related interest in Neo-Platonism, the occult, and Theosophy (a philosophical study that aimed to understand metaphysical truths about humanity and God). There was also an interest in comparative religion and in Irish and Greek mythologies. All of these interests were assimilated by Yeats in the symbols and themes of both his early and later poetry.
[This ebook is a work of literary criticism with 69 pages, 18,294 words. Note: For the book cover photo, photo credit is to the Earth Observatory of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).] Continue reading