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William Butler Yeats
Transcript of William Butler Yeats
Interested in rise and fall of civilizations
Believed civilizations also had cycles - each lasting two thousand years
He had a complicated system detailed in his book "A Vision"
He proposed history as a series of 2,000 year eras, each of which begins and ends with some apocalyptic event in which the divine (in a Christian or some other form) inserts itself into human history resulting in cataclysmic historical and mythological consequences.
He believed that all individual souls are connected through the "Great Memory," which he held to be a universal subconscious in which the human race preserves its past memories.
It is thus a source of symbolic images for the poet.
The Second Coming Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Sailing To Byzantium “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats
Nayra Lancuna Biography Poems His Life Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1865
Spent childhood vacations with his grandparents in County Slingo
Shadow of Slingo’s barren mountains, he was immersed in the mythology and legends of Ireland
Educated in Dublin and London
Ireland’s Hero- In 1922 he was appointed a senator of the new Irish Free State
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923
Continued to write up until a day or two before his death in France The 20th Century A time of change
Unprecedented world wars and revolutions
Mass media explosion
Old tradition was getting swept away
But William Butler Yeats delved deep into his nation’s mythological past for insight
Philosophical Influences His friend, poet Arthur Symons, awakened his interest in the symbolic, visionary poetry of William Blake, and the delicate, musical verse of the French Symbolists
Early poems show Symbolist influences
Pre-Raphaelites- a group of nineteenth-century British painters and writers who turned to medieval art as they strove for simplicity and beauty
Political and Personal Influences 1890s-Yeats led the Irish Literary Revival
Helped to establish the Irish Literary Society based in London and the Irish National Literary Society based in Dublin
Involved in Politics
Spurred by his love for a beautiful Irish actress and revolutionary named Maud Gonne
Supported the movement for Irish independence from England
Style That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
for Yeats it means a cycle in history Circles are bad (they come back to the same place)
Spirals are good (they get to new places by moving up or down) Circles vs. Spirals Poem publish in 1928
World was still in shock from WWI Themes •Nature
•Gyre (For example he talks about birds in stanzas 1 and 4)
Structure •Four eight-line stanzas (Italian poetic form)
•Ottava Rima was usually used in epic poems, although his poem is not about a hero
•Usual rhyme scheme is: ABABABCC
Yeats does not follow this scheme completely.
Sometimes he uses “half-rhymes” instead of “full-rhymes” “Full-rhymes”:
trees/seas, song/long, neglect/intellect
seas/dies, wall/ soul/animal •Written in blank verse
Consistent meter but no rhyme scheme
•22 lines divided into two stanzas
•Second stanza has 14 lines (just like a sonnet, but not really because they don’t rhyme)
•The meter is roughly iambic pentameter, but not used regularly
Has five two syllable “iambs” in each line
Described as unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable
Each line has about 10 syllables
•Yeats has his own way
He stresses the first syllable
Some lines have more than 10 syllables
Meter is so loose that it seems closer to free verse
Form Now it is puzzle time!! •Written in 1919, in the aftermath of WWI
•A description of a nightmarish scene
•The speaker asserts, the world is near a revelation
•Yeats saw the new order as a reign of terror haunted by war. "The Second Coming," in its entirety, is an astounding concise form of Yeats' idea of the gyre and his fears about the future of mankind; it is expertly woven with threads of prophetic literary reference and impressive poetic techniques.
About the Poem About the Poem •Imagery
•Repetition and echoes
•The poem’s power of image and language is to some extent independent of Yeats’s own ideas, and by using Biblical echoes, both in style and reference, Yeats gives the poem an immediacy, which some of the other poems that derive from the System of A Vision lack
Style Themes Yeats spent years crafting an elaborate, mystical theory of the universe that he described in his book A Vision.
This theory issued in part from Yeats’s lifelong fascination with the occult and mystical, and in part from the sense of responsibility Yeats felt to order his experience within a structured belief system.
Centers on a diagram made of two conical spirals, one inside the other, so that the widest part of one of the spirals rings around the narrowest part of the other spiral, and vice versa.
Yeats believed that this image (he called the spirals “gyres”) captured the contrary motions inherent within the historical process
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
William Butler Yeats