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Home » » Discuss the different phases in Yeats poetry

W.B. Yeats claims that his purpose was, “always to write out of of the Irish common people.” Ireland gave him materials to write gave Ireland great poetry. Hence, Yeats owes to Ireland and Ireland to Yeats. Yeats is honored as the great leader in the history of Ireland. In all his works he tried to cherish the dream of his country men and the tradition. Yeats will be longest remembered for his poetry. 

Yeats was at the centre of Irish Literary Movement. His early verses were different in tone and temperament from his later verses. There is a dream like quality in his early poems. His verses were full of romance and magic. He was fond of dreaming than being concerned with the actualities of life. He was more in company with beauty and nature than with the sordid and ugly things of life. However, there came a change in Yeats’s poetic outlook from 1900. His dreamy verses were shaken by the crude realities of life. He began to write about the realities of the world. The Irish troubles of 1916 and the great war of 1914-1918 brought a change in his outlook and made him sorrowful, gloomy, thoughtful and philosophic. The poems of this period reveal a note of suffering and sadness. Yeats romantic love turns into patriotic and consequently mystic. 

Yeats became an authentic voice of the 20th century. The pessimistic note of his poetry makes him one of the greatest poets of the Modern Age. After his disappointment of love with Maud Gonne, he began to write pessimistic poems. Irish myth, legend and personalities constitute the texture and major themes of Yeats poetry. Yeats’ desire for Ireland’s independence was more an emotional rather than political concern. He was deeply attached to his country’s heritage and took pride in Irish history and legend. His love for Ireland was so passionate that he could sacrifice his romantic love for the love of Ireland. The lady—Maud Gonne whom he admired most and who caused great sufferings in his life and the man whom he hated Maud Gonne’s husband Mac Bride etc are all glorified in his patriotic poems. In other words, for Ireland’s sake he sacrificed his personal life and happiness. For example, in the poem “Easter 1916” Yeats says, “The sacrifice of the Irish revolutionary will utterly change Ireland”. He too is changed utterly because he glorified those whom he hated. His hatred is transformed into admiration for them. Yeats writes in the poem “Easter 1916” — 

“I write it out in a verse 

Mac Donagh and Mac Bride 

And Connolly and Pearse 

Now and in time to be 

Whatever green is worn 

Are changed, changed utterly 

A terrible beauty is born.” 

Yeats as an Irish poet has shown tremendous success, at the wake of the modern era. His poetry is woven around his love for Ireland. A study of Yeats distinctly shows his evolution as a modern poet. There are certain phases in his development as a modern poet. The distinguished phases are

(A) His early verses of the Celtic Twilight period-romantic poetry. 

(B) The realistic poetry of the middle age-patriotic poetry. 

(C) The poetry of his old age-mystic poetry. 

(i) The first phase (1885-1902)

The poetry of his 1st phases is highly sensuous, colourful and romantic. He creates an atmosphere of dream like quality in his earlier poetry. Nature and natural objects are beautifully presented on par with the romantic poets. A sense of nostalgia and an evocative feeling is presented in the poetry of his 1st phase. Yeats’ poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, “When You Are Old”, “The Wind among the Reeds” etc are some of the important poems of his 1st phase. Yeats was influenced by French symbolist poems in writing poetry. 

(ii) The second phase (1903-1913): 

The second phase of his poetic career is significant. This period is a transitional period in the life of Yeats. He became more realistic in his approach. The romantic verse of his earlier period turned into patriotic when his love for Maud Gonne is rejected. Maud Gonne’s rejection of love brought about a change in Yeats’ poetic career. He began to write patriotic verse. Irish life, Irish history, Irish liberation etc. become the focal point in his verse. Yeats’ views on history and civilization finds a matured expression in the poetry of his second phase. Yeats views history in terms of events that great events are necessary for the birth of a new civilization. The best known poems of his 2™ phase are, “No Second Troy”, “The Happy Townland” etc. 

(iii) The third phase (1914-1939): 

In his poetic career he composed his greatest poems during this phase. The most memorable poems of this periods are, “The Wild Swans at Cool”, “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’, “Easter 1916’, “The Second Coming’, A Prayer for My Daughter’, “Sailing to Byzantium”, Leda and the Swan” and “Among School Children”. The best of Yeats’ poetic works belongs to this period. Yeats has reached the peak/pinnacle of his poetic power during this period of his life. Yeats’ use of symbols to represent the experience of life becomes both sensuous and spiritual. In this period of life he imagines about the birth of a new civilisation and the close of the Christian Civilization. His poetry becomes highly symbolic, philosophic and mystic. The theme of birth and rebirth become the recurrent themes of Yeats’ poetry. 


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