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WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS _1865-1939_

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					                                       WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS (1865-1939)
                                       THOMAS STEARNS ELIOT (1888-1965)


William Butle r Yeats (1865-1939)
‖I had learned to think in the midst of the last phase of Pre-Raphaelitism.” (Yeats in Essays)

father: John Butler Yeats, Irish Protestant family, painter, a religious skeptic, but believed in the ’religion of art’
encouraged his son to read Blake, Shelley, Keats, William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti
mother: County Sligo (West of Ireland) ‖read no books, but she and the fisherman’s wife would tell each other stories that
Homer might have told‖, Celtic myths, history, folk poetry

William Butler Yeats: formative influences in Dublin, London and Sligo/Galway
Dublin: (went to art school 1884-86; abandoned art to concentrate on poetry; started to read Irish literature and
became interested in the occult)
became an Irish nationalist (artistic rather than political), wanted his poetry to contribute to a rejuvenated Irish
culture by bringing together of the two halves of Ireland and thus build a ’unity of life ’: ‖I had noticed that the
Irish Catholics … had not the good taste, the household courtesy and decency of Protestand Ireland I had known, and yet
Protestant Ireland had begun to think of nothing but getting on. I thought we might bring the two halves toge ther if we had a
national literature that made Ireland beautiful in the memory, and yet had been freed from the provincialism by an exacting
criticism, an European pose”
London: met the important poets of the day; founding member of the Rhymers’ Club in 1890 (he believed he
would learn his craft more thoroughly by discussing techniques with his fellow members); through Arthur
Symons he discovered Fre nch Symbolism (A. Symons’s The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899)
dedicated to Yeats ‖the chief representative of that movement in this country‖)
Sligo/Galway: knowledge of the life of Irish peasantry and their folklore

Two women played an important part in the development of his poetry: Maud Gonne and Lady Augusta
Gregory
Maud Gonne: orphan daughter of an Anglo-Irish colonel, violent Irish nationalist, her passionate idealism and
beauty fascinated Yeats all through his life (proposed several times but was refused) and were the inspiration of
many of his poems
Lady Gregory: Irish writer and promoter of Irish literature; under her influence Yeats became involved in the
founding of the Irish National Theatre in 1899 (a focal point of a great Irish literary Renaissance)

‖I am very religious … and deprived [by the scientific materialism of Darwin, Tyndall, Huxle y] of the simple-minded
religion of my childhood, I had made a new religion, almost an infallible church of poetic tradition, of a fardel of stories, and of
personages, and of emotions, inseparable from their first expression, passed on from generation to generation by poets and
painters with some help from philosophers and theologians ‖ (from Autobiographies)
Yeats tries to find support against the secularization and materialization of thought. Seeks compensation for the
loss of religion in:
      occult tradition (Rosicricians, theosophy, Kabbala, Boehme, Swedenborg)
      oriental mysticis m
      Buddhism
      comparative mythology (James Fraze r: The Golden Bough /1890/)
      Neoplatonism
      Irish folklore

    POETRY
I. early poetry: essentially late romantic, belated Pre-Raphaelite with contact with the Irish mythological
tradition and folk culture
Literary influences: Spenser, Shelley
Pre-Raphaelites (fidelity to nature, clarity, brightness; religious themes, symbolic mystical iconography,
medieval subjects; the dichotomy of reality and illusion is emphasized, withdrawal into an artificial dream-
world, revolt against the ugliness of modern life; devoid of moral connotations; eroticism, mysticism: ‖I planned
a mystical Order, which should buy or hire a castle, and keep as a place where its members could retire for a while from the
world, and where we might establish mysteries like those of Eleusis and Samothrace; and for ten years to come my most
impassioned thought was a vain attempt to find philosophy and create ritual for that Order. I had an unshakeable conviction
… that invisible gates would open as they opened for Blake, as they opened for Swedenborg, as they opened for Boehme, and
that this philosophy would find its manuals of devotion in all imaginative literature, and set for Irishmen for special manual an
Irish literature, which …would turn our places of beauty or legendary association into holy symbols. ‖ (from
Autobiographies)
Aestheticism (blossomed in the 1880s, heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites; characterized by sentimental
archaism; central doctrine: art for art’s sake: art is self-sufficient and serves no further moral or political
purpose; the personality of the artist is completely removed from real life; ‖I treated art as the supreme reality and
life as a mere mode of fiction‖ (from Oscar Wilde: De Profundis)

Early poetry characterized by otherworldliness (which comes from the Celtic legends) and an engaging
simplicity (derived from the folk culture of the Irish peasantry); dreamy romantic lyrics, the ugliness of life kept
out of it (regarded as an antidote to the blatant vulgarity of Kipling); abound in mournful and spiritual beauty
Volumes: Crossways (1889) in it: ‖Down by the Salley Gardens‖ (built, like many of Burns’s lyrics, it is built on
a few lines of a folk song);
        The Celtic Twilight (/1892/ it gave its name to the Irish literary movement);
        The Rose (1893) the Rose: symbolized Maud Gonne; Ireland; eternal, intellectual beauty; flower that
        grows upon the tree of life the Rosicrucian emblem of the Rose and the Cross; most known poems in the
        volume: ‖When you are old‖ and „The Lake Isle of Innisfree‖
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise, and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-ro ws will I have there, a h ive for the honey-bee,
And live along the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping fro m the veils of the morn ing to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Luke 15: 18 the prodigal son: ―I will arise and go to my father‖

II. second phase of his poetry influenced by Blake (edited the Poems of William Blake in 1893) and the French
Symbolist Movement
Yeats is making the Voyage Within, withdrawing as much as possible from the co ntemporary world and
enriching his inner life by concentrating on purely visionary themes. (This phase is comparable to Hopkins’s
arduous spiritual training as a Jesuit. The religion that served as a means to purify and intensify Yeats’s inner life
was Symbolism and the high priest of the French Symbolist movement was Stephane Mallarmé. Mallarmé’s
religion was an austere worship of absolute beauty, which was to be reached by the contemplation of symbols.
Yeats accepted Mallarmé’s conception of ’pure poetry’, and in his essay on ’The Symbolism of Poetry’ /1900/ he
called for ‖a return to the way of our fathers, a casting out of descriptions of nature for the sake of nature, of the moral law for
the sake of moral law, a casting out of all anecdotes and that brooding over scientific opinion that so often extinguished the
central flame in Tennyson.‖ His poetry was to be composed of ‖words … as subtle, as complex, as full of mysterious life, as
the body of a flower or of a woman‖.
Mallarmé: private symbols                   Yeats: images of Celtic mythology in his symbolic poems

Volumes: The Wind among the Reeds (1889) Irish myth (used earlier as simple stories) used to express his own
state of mind
‖The Song of Wandering Aengus‖: the story of the ancient Irish hero who dreamed of a wonderfully beautiful
maiden and searched for her throughout Ireland, Yeats turns into a symbol of the search of the poet for an
unattainable beauty
Though I am o ld with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she is gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till t ime and times are done
The silver apples fro m the moon.
The golden apples from the sun.

New force enters the poetry: (mainly despairing) love (used to make Yeats’s dream-world even more precious
When my arms wrap you round I press
My heart upon the loveliness
That has long faded from the wo rld
                 (‖He remembers forgotten Beauty‖)

The Shadowy Waters (1900) dramatic poem, a great hymn to the romantic conception of a love that passes
human understanding; culmination of Yeats’s symbolist poetry:
           Now the secret’s out;
For it is love that I am seeking fo r,
But of a beautifu l, unheard-of kind
That is not in the world.
*          *        *        *
                    You and I
Shall be alone for ever. We t wo—this crown—
I half remember. It has been in my dreams.
Bend lo wer, O king, that I may crown you with it.
O flower of the branch, O b ird among the leaves,
O silver fish that my live hands have taken
Out of the running stream, O mo rning star,
Trembling in the blue heavens like a white fawn
Upon the misty border of the wood,
Bend lo wer, that I may cover you with my hair,
For we will gaze upon the world no longer.

III. ‖My work has got much more masculine. It has more salt in it.‖ (January 1903)
Gradual change in his style; first 6 years of the twentieth century: engaged in the Irish National Theatre (1904-
1910: production manager of the Abbey Theatre)
Influence of Irish nationalism: Yeats sought for a style in which to express the elemental facts about Irish life
and aspirations; leaving behind the abstract for concrete images; abandonment of „impersonal beauty‖ to be
able to ‖carry the normal, passionate, reasoning self‖ into his poetry
Read Nietzsche (the so- far passive love-poet started a search for a more active stance, a more masculine style)
Friendship with John Millington Synge
Volumes:        In the Seven Woods (1903) some of the poems are still in the symbolist manner but there is a new
tone of sharp satire and realism; considerable alteration in the tone of his lo ve poetry:
Never give all the heart, for love                   O never give the heart outright,
Will hardly seem worth thinking of                   For they, for all s mooth lips can say,
To passionate women if it seem                       Have given their hearts up to the play.
Certain, and they never dream                        And who could play it well enough
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;                 If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
For everything that’s lovely is                      He that made this knows all the cost,
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.                   For he gave all his heart and lost.

IV. The Green Helmet (1910) the beginning of the new Yeats; almost a complete transition of style: abandoned
the romantic decoration, the mythology and music of the earlier works; terse, unadorned language and rhythm;
poems simple, some even flatly prosaic; instead of the vague and remote emotions of the earlier works: new
immediacy and concreteness recording the emptiness of his passion; experiences of the daily life included in the
poems;
Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the ly ing days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
Now I may wither into the truth.
                  (‖The Co ming of W isdom with Time‖)

turning point in Yeats’s development: the new volume of poems called Responsibilities (1914)
Entirely changed poetry, stripped of the earlier decoration, no dreamy, hypnonic rhythm; concern with the
actual, waking world; savage satire on contemporary affairs; bitterness and disillusions of a man who has
struggled and been frustrated; hard, sinewy, sardonic
Manifesto of a new art which no longer could evade actualities: ‖A Coat‖
I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
Fro m heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there is mo re enterprise
In walking naked.

V. most memorable and important poetry in the volumes published after the First World War:
The Wild Swans at Coole (1919); Michael Robartes and The Dancer (1921); The Tower (1928); The Winding
Stair (1933)
Responded to the change in poetic taste represented by Ezra Pound (introduced him to the Japanese Noh
drama) T.S.Eliot; metaphysical and epigrammatic elements appear in his poems;
Continued his search for a language of symbols, read widely in Plato, Plotinos, Vico, Hegel, Croce,
Swedenborg, Boehme
Conducted various experiments in spiritualism + automatic writing of his wife =a curious and elaborate system
of occult thought to substitute traditional Christian theology exponded in the prose work A Vision (1925)
theory of the movements of history and a theory of different types of personality, both related to a different
phase of the moon (‖Great Wheel‖ consisting of 28 phases corresponsing to the moon; gyres; division of souls
into four ‖faculties‖: will, mask, creative mind, body of fate)
concept of history: repetition of the same pattern; 2 gyres which interpenetrate
a departure from the teleological concept of history of the Romantics (history as progress)
Yeats: history: eternal circles‖
‖system‖ of A Vision discernible in ‖Ego Dominus Tuus‖, The Phases of the Moon‖, ‖The Second Coming‖
behind the visible, tangible, there is an ideal, transcendental reality; correspondance between the visible and
transcendental; material world: symbolic dramatization of eternity

constant search in his late poems for symbols to express a ’unity of life’, achieve a reconciliation of the
antinomies of life ( self-soul, flesh- intellect, water- fire, real-transcendental, time and change, love and age, life
and art)
most impressive symbols of his maturity:
     winding stairs, gyres, spires=life as a journey up a spiral staircase (as we grow older we cover the same
        ground we have covered before, only higher up, the journey is at once repetitious and progressive, we
        go round and upward
     tower=infinite power of man
     Byzantium =holy city; idealized Ireland and timeless paradise
     old man=physical decay but spiritual adventure
    Sailing to Byzantium
This is no country for old men. The young                              O sages standing in God’s holy fire
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees                              As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
--Those dying generations --at their song,                             Co me fro m the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,                           And be the singing masters of my soul.
Fish, flesh, or fowl, co mmend all su mmer long                        Consume my heart away; sick with desire
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.                                  And fastened to a dying animal
Caught in that sensuous music all neglect                              It knows not what it is; and gather me
Monuments of unageing intellect.                                       Into the artifice of eternity.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,                                       Once out of nature I shall never take
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless                                     My bodily form fro m any natural thing,
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing                            But such a form as Grecian goldsmith make
For every tatter in its mortal dress,                                    Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
Not is there singing school but studying                                 To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Monuments of its own magnificence;                                       Or set upon a golden bough to sing
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come                            To lords and ladies of Byzantiu m
To the holy city of Byzantiu m                                           Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
                                                                                                    (1927)
Blake in a letter to a friend (12 April, 1827): ‖I have been very near the Gates of Death & have returned very weak & an
Old Man feeble & tottering, but not in Spirit & Life, not in The Real Man, The Imagination which Liveth for Ever. In that, I
am stronger & stronger as this Foolish Body decays.‖
ottava rima, cc lines: eternity; poem built on contrasts, Stanzas I-II (sensual, earthly, bodily existence; water,
earth, air), Stanzas III-IV (intellectual, transcendental, city of art, fire) conflict between time and body, body
and intellect; theyheI; ‖begotten, born, and dies‖=individual’s life-phases, ‖past, or passing, or to
come‖=universal process; (b-p, d-k, voiced vs.voiceless; life, feeling vs. abstraction, static)
intellectual jouney (c.f. Ezra Pound Canto XLVII, journey for knowledge), attempt to get released from rea lity
through poetry

1923: Nobel Prize for Literature

Letter to a friend (22 January, 1938) ‖It seems to me that I have found waht I wanted. When I try to put all into a phrase
I say: Man can embody truth but he cannot know it.‖



T.S.Eliot (1888-1965)

T.E.Hulme (1883-1914) philosopher, aesthetician: Romanticism and Classicism (written 1913, 1914; pbl. in a
collection of essyas: Speculations in 1924) manifesto of modernist poetry : ―a classical revival is coming‖; ―dry,
hard poetic style‖ – impersonal…Rousseaistic idealism, the belief in the perfectibility of man who is inherently
good: „man is intrinsically good spoilt by circumstances‖ will be replaced by classical concept of man ‖intrinsically
limited, but disciplined by order and tradition to something fairly decent‖.

Born in 1888, St Louis, Missouri – family of English origin (Puritans emigrated from East Coker, Somerset)
-Harvard – Oriental philosophy
      ―The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock‖, 1911 – pbl. 1915 Chicago
-Germany, France (Sorbonne: French literature and philosophy)
Influence of the French Symbolists: ―The kind of poetry that I needed to teach me the use of my own voice, did not exist in
English at all, it was only to be found in French‖ Baudelaire, Jules Laforgue
-1914 Merton College, Oxford (Greek philosophy)
-1917 Prufrock and Other Observations (―The Love Song…‖)
-Poe ms (―Gerontion‖)
-1920 The Sacred Wood: ―Tradition and the Individual Talent‖
       history rejected; personality destroyed
-1922 founded The Criterion (ed. till 1939) in the 1st issue The Waste Land (1931: ―When I wrote a poem called
The Waste Land some of the more approving critics said I had expressed the ‘disillusionment of a generation’; which is
nonsense…I may have expressed for them their illusion of being disillusioned, but that did not form part of my intention.‖)
-1927 became a British subject, joined the Church of England
     1928 – self-definition: ―Classical in literature, royalist in politics, Anglo-Catholic in religion‖.
-1930 Ash Wednesday (sequence of 6 poems composed at intervals)
-1932 Returned to US – lectures at Harvard > The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism
-1939 Old Possum Book of Practical Cats (nonsense < Lewis Carroll)
-1943 Four Quartets: ―Burnt Norton‖ 1935
                            ―East Coker‖ 1940
                             ―The Dry Salvages‖ 1941
                             ―Little Gidding‖ 1942
            Letter to Stephen Spender, March 28, 1931: ―I have the A minor Quartet on the gramophone, and find it quite
inexhaustible to study. There is a sort of heavenly or at least more than human gaiety about some of his later things which one
imagines might come to oneself as the fruit of recollection and relief after immense suffering; I should like to get something of
that into verse before I die.‖
-1948 Awarded the Noble prize
-1956 On Poetry and Poets (occasional lectures)
Dramatic works (Sweeney Agonistes /1926/; Murder in the Cathedral /1935/; The Family Reunion /1939/; The
Coctail Party /1949/; The Confidential Clerk /1953/; The Elder Statesman /1958/)
-1965 died


Eliot’s contribution to modern literary theory:
1. concept of literature as an order; 2. the imperative for criticism to become scientific; 3. the idea of
impersonality in art and in criticism; 4. the rejection of value judgements
list can be supplemented, as demonstrated by Northrop Frye: ―So many critical theories claim to derive from Eliot that
he seems rather in the position of the country squire in Smollett to whom young w omen in the neighbourhood ascribed their
fatherless offspring, confident of his good-natured support. Such late essays as ‘The Frontiers of Criticism’ record some
bewilderment at this impossibly fertile paternity.‖ (T.S. Eliot 26)

Most important essays:
Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919) literature as order; poet as catalyst; extinction of personality
Hamlet (1919) ―objective correlative‖ ―The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective
correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula for that particular
emotion; such that, when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion in immediatel y
evoked.‖
Dante (1919); William Blake (1920)
The Metaphysical Poets (1921) ―dissociation of sensibility‖ ―In the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set
in, from which we have never recovered.‖
Andrew Marwell (1921); The Function of Criticism (1923); The Use of Poetry and t he Use of Criticism (1933);
The Idea of a Christian Society (1940); Notes Towards a Definition of Culture (1948)


Oswald Spengler ( 1880-1936) Decline of the West

Eliot = height of civilization: Middle Ages
Dante= unified vision. Ever since: decline

Inferno:         ―Love Song…‖
                  ―Waste Land‖
                  ―Hollow Men‖

Purgatory:       ―Ash-Wednesday‖
                  ―Four Quartets‖

Humility ―the only wisdom we can hope to acquire‖ (―East Coker‖) = egocentric, selfish self subdued

―Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock‖
Motto: Dante: Inferno (XXVII, 61-66) : ―If I thought my answer were to one who ever could return to the
world, this flame should shake no more; but since none ever did return alive from this depth, if what I hear be
true, without fer of infamy I answer thee.‖

        Let us go then you and I,
        When the evening is spread our against the sky
        Like a patient etherised upon a table;
      Let us go, through certain half deserted streets,
      The muttering retreats
      Of restless nights in one/night cheap hotels
      And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
      Streets that follow like a tedious argument
      Of insidious intent
      To lead you to an overwhelming question…
      Oh, do not ask, ―What is it?‖
      Let us go and make our visit.

     In the room the wo me co me and go
     Talking of M ichelangelo.
     …..
     And the afternoon, the evening sleeps so peacefully!
       Smoothed by long fingers,
       Asleep..tired…o r it malingers,
       Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
       Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
       Have strength to force the mo ment to a crisis?
       But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
       Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
       I am no prohpet–and here’s no great matter;
       I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker
       And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
       And in short, I was afraid.

Dramatic monologue< Robert Browning, language: colloquial idiom, rhythm of speech <Gerald Manley
Hopkins (allusions to Bible, Hamlet, Andrew Marvell)
Juxtaposition of the heroic and the trivial (mock heroic tradition)
Non-sequiturs, elliptical text which coheres through repetition


―The Hollow Men‖
  A penny for the Old Guy

(Guy Fawkes)
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Kurtz


      We are the hollow men
      We are the stuffed men
      Leaning together
      Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
      Our dried voices, when
      We whisper together
      Are quiet and mean ingless
      As wind in dry grass
      Or rats’ feet over broken g lass
      In our dry cellar

      Shape without form, shade without colour,
      Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

      Those who have crossed
      With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
      Remember us–if at all–not as lost
      Vio lent souls, but only
      As the hollow men
      The stuffed men.

….
      This is the way the world ends
      This is the way the wrold ends
      This is the way the world ends
       Not with a bang but a whimper.

Four Quartets ―Little Gidding‖ IV
       The dove descending breaks the air
       With flame of incandescent terror
       Of which the tongues declare
       The one discharge from sin and error.
       The only hope, or else despair
        Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre –
        To be redeemed fro m fire by fire.

       Who then devised the torment? Love,
       Love is the unfamiliar Name
       Behind the hands that wove
       The intolerable shirt o f flame
       Which human power cannot remove,
        We only live, only suspire
        Consumed by either fire or fire.



Halász Gábor: Az újabb angol líráról, 1939….a kakofonia kielégítetlenné tesz: növeli a sóvárgást a tiszta
hangok után. Az elioti vers, akár a modern zene, csak pillanatokra enged feloldódást, megkínoz a zűrzavarral,
hogy növelje a megváltó villanások értékét…a hangsúlyok elosztásával kisérletezik, a rímben a kiszöktető
helyzeti energiát keresi

				
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