Yeats Essay Magic

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Most pick up on the obvious recurrent references to “Leda and the Swan”—both myth and poem—in lines 9, 20, and 29, but invariably miss the less titular connection to “Sailing to Byzantium” in the scarecrow image of lines 32 and 48.

To be sure, “allegory,” “myth,” and “metaphor” all lack the alliterative element of “parable,” and would require some major reworking for the sake of meter.

Among the literary schools of the twentieth century, the Modernists are unquestionably among the most taxing for readers, not least because they undertook diverse and highly individual experiments in their attempt to redirect and reinvent Western literature in the aftermath of World War I, but also because, in company with the neoclassical writers of the eighteenth century, many delighted in what might be seen as egotistical displays of erudition, patching together dense patterns of language, symbols, and symbolism, daring readers to prove their wittiness (or worthiness) by excavating the clearly present but often inscrutable authorial intentions.

Of them all, William Butler Yeats is perhaps the most challenging.

One finds (arguably) a between-the-lines evaluation of the non-riveting nature of the curriculum Yeats is observing, biographical references that need to be connected to the text (“she” who?

), intertextual references to other poems in the Yeatsian canon (“Leda and the Swan”), and obvious clashes between connotative and denotative value in word choice (“Plato’s parable”) with therein the first of Yeats’s erudite, extra-textual allusions: all stirred together.

However, there’s nothing at all in the Allegory of the Cave that suggests some kind of merging, much less eggs or some connection to the tempestuous relationship between the poet and Maud Gonne.

The only bit of Plato that fulfils You must first learn human nature and its condition.

(1937) with a number of inconsistencies found in Yeats’s poetic corpus, with an emphasis on how one might interpolate an escape from the cycle of lives, in at least one possibility while still maintaining corporality.

The justification for this last comes from an analysis of complex cabalistic metaphors and teachings that Yeats learned as a member of Mac Gregor Mathers’ Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.


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