Symbolism and Symbols in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats

1858 Words8 Pages
The present research work deals with the development of symbols in the poetry of W. B. Yeats. To comprehend and thereby fully appreciate Yeats’s poetry requires some knowledge of the forces working together to form the basis of his philosophy and the symbolic system Yeat’s view of the artistic function of the imagination and of the symbol and the development of his personal symbolic system are made clear in this chapter. W. B. Yeats has been regarded as a great symbolic poet. Arthur Symons dedicated his book “The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1919)” to W. B. Yeats and called him “the chief representative of that movement in our country”. The Symbolist movement began in France. Its high Priest was Stephane Mallaseme. Yeats has already much in common with the symbolists. Both aimed at something elusive and intangible. Both were subjective, alike in method and natural mode of thought. In Yeats own words, “a symbol is the possible expression of some invisible essence, a transparent lamp about a spiritual flame - - - -.” In this essay we discussed the various symbols which are used by W. B. Yeats in his poetry. Introduction: W. B. Yeats is one of the foremost poets in English literature even today. He was considered to be one of the most important symbolists of the 20th century. He was totally influenced by the French movement of the 19th century. He was a dreamer and visionary, who was fascinated by folk-lore, ballad and superstitions of the Irish peasantry. Yeats poems are fully conversant with the Irish background, the Irish mythologies etc. Yeats has tried to bring back the “simplicity” and “altogetherness” of the earlier ages and blend it with the modern ideas of good and evil. Almost all his poems deal with ancient Ireland ... ... middle of paper ... ... Master of symbols. Yeats use of symbols is complex and rich. Symbols, indeed, give “dumb things voices and bodiless things bodies” in Yeats’s poetry. The rose, the swan, the tower, the winding stair, and spinning tops – all assume a life to their own and speak to the reader, often to different things. Symbolism was a help in gibing concreteness to his visions. Symbolism made it possible for Yeats to express “the richness of man’s deeper reality” which is something essentially mystical. Perhaps one of the effects of his knowledge of symbols is that the moon may be more than just a moon, and a flower more than a flower. Works cited: 1. Yeats, W.B., “Selected Poems” Handout. Dr. S. Sen and J.K. Chopra. 2. Yeats, W.B. “The Symbolism of Poetry” Handout: Dr. J. Whitsitt, September 2006, P 153-164. 3. Yeats, W.B., Explorations (New York: The McMillan Company, 1962).

More about Symbolism and Symbols in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats

Open Document