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W. B. Yeats and His Poems. William Butler Yeats (1865-1939).

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William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

  • An Irish poet, drew wisdom and inspiration from the ancient culture of Ireland. In his later years he found a metaphysical approach to poetry and wrote on the great, eternal subjects of time and change, love and age, life and art (“The Wild Swans at Coole”). There is profound beauty in his poetry.


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  • Acknowledged as one of the greatest poets in the English language, Yeats’s work covered 50 years.

  • He was deep-rooted in Irish culture with its folklore, legends, music and magic, from which he draw wisdom and inspiration and he wrote about the traditions and history of the Irish nation. (He was active in the Irish struggle for independence and the founding of a national Irish theatre).


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  • Born in Dublin influenced by the currents of Irish nationalism

  • With a fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde he organized the Rhymer’s club

  • In 1899 fell desperately in love with Maud Gonne a beautiful actress and passionate Irish nationalist who refused to marry him and she is the subject of most of his love p


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  • Yeats actively participated the movement but disapprove the bloodshedding together with a noble woman and playwriter found the Irish National Theatre in Dublin When Ireland finally won its true independence in 1922 he was appointed a senator in the following year he won the Nobel Prize of literature


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The Three Periods of His Work reputation rests on his 50 years of poetic career which falls roughly into 5 phases of about one decade each.

  • 1.During the 1980’s he wrote chiefly in the tradition of romanticism a leading member of the Aesthetic movement


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  • 3.by the second decade of the 20thc Yeats no longer a romantic influenced by the modernist movement

  • 4. the fourth period was the greatest of his p career in his sixties he attained full maturity as a realist-symbolist-metaphysical p with an uncanny(离奇的) power over words and symbols, summing up in his poems many of his lifelong ideas.


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  • Yeats believed that all history, and life follows a circular, spiral pattern consisting of long cycles which repeat themselves over and over on different levels, so symbols like winding stairs, spinning tops, gyres and spirals are frequent and important in his poems


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Analysis of The Second Coming circular, spiral pattern consisting of long cycles which repeat themselves over and over on different levels, so symbols like winding stairs, spinning tops, gyres and spirals are frequent and important in his poems

  • See the textbook


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Question circular, spiral pattern consisting of long cycles which repeat themselves over and over on different levels, so symbols like winding stairs, spinning tops, gyres and spirals are frequent and important in his poems

  • What does “gyre” mean in this poem?

  • What does the line “things fall apart; the center cannot hold” mean?

  • What do the “ a shape with lion body and the head of a man” and the “rough beast” refer to?


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Discussion circular, spiral pattern consisting of long cycles which repeat themselves over and over on different levels, so symbols like winding stairs, spinning tops, gyres and spirals are frequent and important in his poems

  • At the beginning of the 21st c, what do you think of this poem?


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Three influences of modern poetry literature. Their principles and wiring practice were a revolt against the imprecise language and sentimental emotions of the Victorian poets. This revolt led to the modernist movement in literature..

  • 1. Imagism

  • 2. Metaphysical poets

  • 3. French symbolist poetry


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Main traits of modern poetry literature. Their principles and wiring practice were a revolt against the imprecise language and sentimental emotions of the Victorian poets. This revolt led to the modernist movement in literature..

  • 1. Direct treatment of things

  • 2. Freer metrical movement (these two from Imagism)

  • 3. High degree of intellectual complexity

  • 4. Symbolism

  • 5. Close to conversation (colloquial, slang)

  • 6. Irony and puns

  • 7. International and urban themes


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In summary literature. Their principles and wiring practice were a revolt against the imprecise language and sentimental emotions of the Victorian poets. This revolt led to the modernist movement in literature..

  • ‘ the remarkable career of W.B.Yeats, stretching across the whole modern period, showed how a truly great p can at the same time reflect the varying development of his age and maitain an unmistakably individual accent…. Yet he is always Yeats, unique and inimitable—without doubt the great English speaking p of his age.’ ---from Wang’s book


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