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How great is Yeats?


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Larsen M. Callirhoe

i think he was a great poet. not the best but in my top 25 or sure. i am into more modern ametuer poets one my favoite being wynn manners who is sophisticated like yeats and devoted himself to the cause of SOPHIA the Goddess of all that i and wynn call the christian holy ghost now this is why i relate to yeats for his wanting of women equalization and feminine rights in the world. his poetry transcends most visionary types even the likes of edgar allen poe another of my favorites.

 

victor

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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One reply in a thread about the greatest poet of the century...

 

Answer your questions, argue your viewpoint, why is he the greatest poet of the century?

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First and foremost, he was a master of lyric form. He new how to exploit whatever form he wrote in to its utmost expressive possibility. He also had an uncanny ability to marry so many polar worlds: the mythological/spiritual and the everyday, the sensuous, emotional, and intellectual, etc. He could write in a variety of voices and tones, he had a supreme command over diction, rhythm, and sound, and he actually had interesting things to say on top of all that.

 

I think Yeats is considered great firstly because of his compositional skills. Mentored by Lady Augusta Gregory, Yeats spent years practising his writing, refining himself and taking influence from other writers as far back as Shakespeare, Keats and contemporaries like Ezra Pound, etc.

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Larsen M. Callirhoe

i have to agree with you barry. did i get the name correct??? i enjoy reading his poems for they all had vision in my opinion. i wlll go through some of his poems on line and pick out lines in them that are analogies of my viewpoint.

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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Not being so learned when it comes to this poet, the best I can do is provide an example of Yeats' revisioning process. I remember sharing this stuff in a topic on the old board (it was one of the topics that was lost), and I'll share it again here now. Below are three versions of Yeats' "Leda and the Swan" found in an old poetry textbook I have called An Introduction to Literature (Little, Brown and Company, 1961).

 

 

Leda and the Swan (an early version)

 

Now can the swooping godhead have his will

Yet hovers, though her helpless thighs are pressed

By the webbed toes; and that all powerful bill

Has suddenly bowed her face upon his breast.

 

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?

All the stretched body's laid in that white rush

And feels the strange heart beating where it lies.

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and Tower

And Agamemnon dead ....

---------------------------------------Being so caught up

Did nothing pass before her in the air?

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

--------------------(from a manuscript dated 18 September 1923)

 

________

 

Leda and the Swan (a later version)

 

A rush, a sudden wheel, and hovering still

The bird descends, and her frail thighs are pressed

By the webbed toes, and that all-powerful bill

Has laid her helpless face upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs!

All the stretched body's laid on that white rush

And feels the strange heart beating where it lies;

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead ....

---------------------------------------Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

--------------------(printed in a magazine, August 1924)

 

________

 

 

Leda and the Swan (the final version)

 

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still

Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed

By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,

He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

 

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?

And how can body, laid in that white rush,

But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

 

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead.

----------------------------------Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

--------------------(first published in 1928)

 

 

Take note of the years with respect to all three versions: 1923, 1924, 1928. You can see that Yeats was detail oriented. He was a master craftsman, in tune with and availing himself of all the nuances in the English language and laboring over them. Even so, he didn't radically alter what he was saying as he revised from version to version. See how he goes back and forth. He omits, in version two, the question at the beginning of version one. He then uses two questions in the second verse of the final version. Note how he toggles from "in that white rush" to "on the white rush" back to "in that white rush." He doesn't do any of it haphazardly either. In each version his meter is flawless.

 

An interesting note from the book re composition and content. When Yeats set out to write "Leda and the Swan," he saw political significance in the myth, but that changed:

 

"My fancy began to play with Leda and the Swan for metaphor, and I began this poem, but as I wrote, bird and lady took such possession of the scene that all politics went out of it."

 

It seems it became ars poetica, art for art's sake. And what a work of art to rival any painting it is.

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Thanks Eclipse. That is a starting point. Now we need the proof: examples to substantiate the opinion.

 

I lookforward to your response.

I am waiting for your views...

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A view supported by an example:

 

He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

 

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

 

 

I find the final two lines memorable. They convey vulnerability and fragility when all self-pride is abandoned. They give a physicality to the abstraction of 'dreams'. They convey hope, apprehension, and the trust in another. Perhaps this makes the lines memorable, but the fact that they are memorable in this way makes me glad that Yeats wrote them.

 

I quite like all that stuff on cloth and half-light too, again the intangible made tangible and tactile.

 

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Larsen M. Callirhoe

i was going to say something similar tony. he cover every fibr of nusances in his poetry. he was a tru craftsman of rhythm and meter when he used it. i am till going through his poems. but i promise to say more to enlighten the overall converstion. i like what you and tony ring to the discussion to date badgeer. i would like to know what brought this up eclipse?

 

victor

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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  • 4 weeks later...
David W. Parsley

I, too, consider Yeats the greatest poet of the twentieth century. So did T.S. Eliot, apparently, pronouncing him "the greatest poet of our time -- certainly the greatest in this language, and so far as I am able to judge, in any language" and "one of the few whose history is the history of their own time, who are a part of the consciousness of an age which cannot be understood without them." In fact, Eliot's assessment of Yeats' development and influence is a study in itself:

 

http://www.ancientsites.com/aw/Post/327817

 

I do not consider myself an expert on WBY (am I the only one who has to occasionally explain it's not a chain of world renowned yogurt outlets?), and I have not even gotten through the entirety of his work. But what I see is a poet who masters and integrates lyricism and drama. He brings a sense of liveliness largely lacking in Eliot and Auden, dignity unsought by Stevens, humanity lost in Pound, depth of lyricism deliberately abandoned by Williams (that will bring the stones flying), groundedness missing from Thomas and Plath, greater substance than Merwin or Stafford. He touches with inimitable mastery all the organ notes between serenity and meditation (see "Wild Swans at Coole" and "The Lake Isle of Inisfree") to myth (see above, "Leda and the Swan"), through personal and national tragedy (see "Easter 1916") and apocalypse ("The Second Coming"). Bravo!

 

- Dave

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