W.B. Yeats and the Importance of Imagination Essay

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W.B. Yeats and the Importance of Imagination

The poetry of the Irish writer WB Yeats celebrates how the human imagination gives meaning to life's struggles. Yeats's vision of human creative power evolves with his writing, broadening from seeing the imagination as the embodiment of human desires to understanding the power of the imagination to inspire others and immortalize the creative spirit. Yeats's work, by embracing this power, embraces the human condition itself, giving dignity to hardships and suffering by transfiguring 'dread' into 'tragedy.' The inevitable suffering described in poems like "Adam's Curse," "The Wild Swans at Coole," and "The Circus Animals' Desertion," is transfigured into works of art which immortalize the human spirit, as in "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," "A Dialogue of Self and Soul," and "Lapis Lazuli."

In Yeats' poems, human life is an experience wrought with sorrow and suffering. "Adam's Curse," for example, defines the human condition in terms of the twin hardships of labor and mortality. Just as the Biblical Adam was cursed with toil and death when he was exiled from Eden, all people in "Adam's Curse" must struggle to live, only to ultimately die. Like the "old pauper" who must "scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones" to survive, all people labor in life, especially when making a work of beauty: the poet, for example, works "hours" at "stitching and unstitching" lines in order to create "sweet sounds," only to be called an "idler," and every woman is " know" that she must "labour to be beautiful." The "curse" of labor is made more bearable when it informs the creation of beauty, as in a poem, a woman's "sweet and low" voice, or a "love...compounded of high courtesy," but the curs...

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...g the inflexible realities of life, Yeats's works come to appreciate the greater powers of the creative soul to inspire others to embrace their own suffering, to see and balance all parts of the human experience and transfigure even hardship into art. The imagination thus empowers man to defy with his spirit what his body cannot- he finds spiritual timelessness, perfection, and immortality in a world where he will decay, fail, and perish. It is the imagination which allows this discovery, transfiguring the deepest anguish of bounded life into free and eternal "gaiety."

Works Cited

Finneran, Richard, ed. The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats. 2nd ed. New York: Scribner, 1997.

Frye, Northrop. The Educated Imagination.Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964.

Parkinson, Thomas. W.B. Yeats: The Later Poetry. University of California Press: Berkeley,

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