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Romantic poetry is animated, expressive, and somewhat free of convention. Yeats defied convention, avoided derivative style, and expressed himself with flowery emotion. He spoke through a stream of consciousness that allowed his imagination to flow and yielded images of beauty that speak volumes of perception of human life.
The poetry of William Butler Yeats has much to offer in terms of Romantic ideals, despite the fact some of his poetry is considered modern British literature. The way in which he evokes imagery, and in doing so presents his themes, is concentric to the style of such Romantic poets William Wordsworth and John Keats. There exist certain similarities between the poetry of Yeats and other Romantic poets, like Wordsworth and Keats, that are to be considered at length. In addition to the simililarities of these poets, Yeats poetry will be addressed as a function of life. The dimensions of his poetry will treated in a way that demonstrates the relevance to life and the need for it life.
Much of Yeats poetry does not have a character about which the work is centered on. This is in the same mode as Wordsworth. By doing this, the poets were able to concentrate on their imagery to convey their themes. The images most often elicited are ones of nature that bring about the mental states of man in relation to the poem. For example, in Yeat's poem "A Prayer for my Daughter," he writes:
Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
But Gregory's wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind;
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.
The passage begins with the chaos of a storm and the extreme winds it hurls. This shows the embroiled mental state of the person involved, or, as Yeats puts it, "the great gloom that is in my mind." Keats employed nature in the same way. In the opening stanza of his poem "The Eve of St. Agnes," he brings to life the turmoil of the night and gives insight into the confused minds of the lovers:
St Agnes' Eve- Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in wooly fold;
Numb were the Beadsman's fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem'd taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his prayer he saith.
With these opening lines about nature's cruelty during the winter months, the reader gets a sense of the impending doom of the eve of St. Agnes implies.. The mood for the poem has been set, and the rest it seems to follow naturally.
Year's consciousness provided an intimate expression of natural things that permeates the reader's mind, forcing one to capture the images in vivid proportion. Beneath the surface, one can almost detect a connection between natural objects and supernatural power. The way in which nature precludes action in the poetry is reminiscent of, if not pagan idolatry, then pantheistic ways of thinking. This coincides with the way in which Yeats wrote about the Greek God Zeus in his rape of Leda. As a swan, Yeats described Zeus; in a pristine creature, Yeats allowed brutal rape. But it is the way in which he transforms such an innocent creature, a bird of such beauty, into the active participant of the crime. The introduction to Yeats in \plain\f16\ul The Longman Anthology\plain\f16 says Yeats pictured this act as a "precursor of the traditional Christian iconography of the Virgin Mary visited by God the Father in the form of a dove" (pg 2308). The way in which he uses Greek pantheology to describe the Christian tradition is the same way in which he describes man through images of nature.
Wordsworth, as the prime example of a romantic writer, used nature in the same way. For the Romantics, nature was a model of harm...
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