W.B. Yeats as a Symbolist

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Yeats as a Symbolist

William Butler Yeats is thought to be one of the vital important representative symbolist of the 20th century English literature who was primarily influenced by the French symbolist movement of 19th century. Symbolism as a conscious movement was born in France as a response in opposition to naturalism and the precision and exactitude of the ‘naturalist‘ college represented by Emile Zola.

The French symbolists, led by Mallarme, condemned mere “exteriority”, and laid great emphasis on the treatment of the sensations or the illustration of the obscure, fleeting impressions that continually pass before the thoughts’s eye. It meant a virtual withdrawal from the life, a focus on its experience and its expression by means of using symbols.

Before the French movement Yeats had already experimented his poetry with symbolism and after the rise of French symbolism he was extra determined and dedicated to it. In order to understand his poetry, one must be acquainted with his personal version of complicated symbolism, magic, history, occultism and theosophy. Symbolism is a significant means of conveying Yeats’s concepts who wants to say more than what meets the eye wants to suggest one thing beyond the expressed meaning. His symbolism was primarily based upon the poetry of Blake, Shelley and Rosette. But, more than that, his symbolism was primarily based upon his studying of books on the occult from the works of Madame Blavatsky Yeats realized that Anima Mundi, a reservoir of all that has touched mankind, could also be evoked by symbols. He additionally turned acquainted with the doctrine of correspondences, the doctrine of signatures, and the doctrine of magical in connotations and symbols which have power over religious and material reality.

Read About: Analysis of A Prayer for My Daughter by W. B. Yeats

Symbols could also be of two kinds:

(1) Traditional and (2) Personal.

Traditional symbols are such inventory symbols as have been typically use. For instance, ‘rose’ is a conventional symbol of magnificence and has been in use in poetry from the earliest times. As a majority of readers are acquainted with such inventory symbols their use will increase the attraction and pleasure of poetry with out introducing any factor of complexity or obscurity.

Personal symbols, how-ever, are devised by the poet for his personal functions, to express the imprecise fleeting impressions passing by means of his thoughts, or to convey his personal sense of the mystery of life. They express the poet’s experiences which are sometimes of a mystical nature. As the readers will not be acquainted with such symbols, they create difficulties for them, although on the identical time they add to the attraction and dignity of the language.

A rebel in opposition to the world of matter, Yeats realized that each one material things correspond to ideas in the world, and that by means of using material object as magical symbols the specialist could summon disembodied powers. In 1925, Yeats introduced an occult system of his own. The essential component in A Vision is Yeats’s view of history. He noticed history as sequence of cyclical processes. 

Each age was seen because the reversal of the previous age. The Second Coming conveys the fear of a coming of antithetical civilization. This poem creates its impact by its images, by disgust at prevalent anarchy, by horror on the overcoming of innocence, and by its revelation of what’s to convey the picture of the tough beast slouching in direction of Bethlehem. In his seek for a compensating tradition, Yeats went first to romantic literature, after which to mysticism of 1 form and another, to folklore, theosophy, spiritualism, Neo-Platonism, and at last elaborated a symbolic system of his own, primarily based on quite a lot of sources, giving order and proportion to his insights. He grew to become increasingly more himself, he shed his coat of mythological embroidery for a colloquial however ceremonial nakedness, a precision, power and symbolic density all his personal.

Read About: Among School Children; Appreciation

In the collection The Tower, Yeats achieved a form of ripeness in disillusion. The scorn so pervasive before is gone. “Sailing to Byzantium” is the opening poem of this volume. The poem displays the curiosity in Byzantium art felt by Yeats since his go to to Ravenna, a city whose church buildings include the best of all Byzantine mosaics. Yeats noticed in Byzantine tradition what he known as the “unity of being,” a state in which are and life inner-penetrated each other. Rejected by the merciless world of birth, generation, and loss of life as obsolete, the poet determines to sail to a spot where he will probably be appreciated, specifically, Byzantium. He hopes that he’ll thus be capable to defeat time, because art is timeless. He desires to sail from sensual music made by the birds-that “dying generation” to the ethereal music made by the By Byzantine birds of hammered objective and aim enameling. And, yet, regardless of the favor of his resolution, this can be a poem of remorse, uncertainty and the rootlessness that follows rejections.

Further, his symbolism is absolutely and firmly grounded in Irish mythology and legend and this reality imparts to it a precision, definiteness, a clear lucidity, which the French symbolism is wanting in. Yeats’ symbols will not be obscure or hazy. They have well-defined forms which perceptible meet the attention. 

Yeats’ symbolism has yet one more attribute high quality which makes it stand aside from the French symbolism. The symbols of Yeats are all-pervasive. There are certain key-symbols spherical which quite a few poems are organized, and every poem that follows in succeeding order throws light on foregoing ones and illuminates their sense. For instance, in The Rose Volume of verses, rose is the key symbol. In these poems, rose symbolically stands for intellectual Beauty, beauty of woman, austerity and likewise Ireland. Such symbols will not be tailored abruptly on the spur of the moment however they’re firmly planted in mythology and legends. Likewise, within the poem The Wild Swans at Coole, the swan is the ever-recurring symbol. Another symbol which continually glitters in Yeats’ poetry is Helen, symbolizing damaging magnificence, and the linking up of Helen with Dierdre and Maud Gonne furnishes to the poems like No Second Troy an unthinkable vastness, complexity and continuous expansiveness. As his art grew to maturity, Yeats’ symbols change into increasingly more complicated and private. This complicated nature of symbols is manifested within the poems included in The Tower and The Winding Stair group of the poems. The Tower symbol partakes of each conventional and private character. It was a tower of actual physical existence where the poet lived for a while, and on the identical time it’s used as an emblem of loneliness and isolation, a secluded place of retreat for the poet.

In A Prayer for my Daughter; the tower hints on the poet’s imaginative and prescient of the dark and dismal way forward for humanity. All these associations and ideas related to the tower, make it an emblem of excessive complexity. While they add to the richness and magnificence of the poem in addition they add to the perplexity and bewilderment of the reader. The complexity of symbolism isn’t any much less intriguing within the Byzantium group of the poems. Such intricacy of symbols will increase the obscurity of Yeats’ poetry. Yeats was a symbolist from the very outset of his poetic career as much as the last, even before and after the temporary spell of the French affect. As his powers attained maturity, his symbols acquired richness of associations, evocative quality and intricacy. Symbolism enabled him to make his imaginative and prescient and traces concrete and substantial. 

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Shaheer

Shaheer, owner of Literature Times, is a BS (Hons) English graduate and loves to write literary articles. Apart from that, he loves to explore technology, reading books and writing about his own life.

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