W.B. Yeats' Adam's Curse

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W.B. Yeats' "Adam's Curse" Though written only two years after the first version of "The Shadowy Waters", W.B. Yeats' poem "Adam's Curse" can be seen as an example of a dramatic transformation of Yeats' poetic works: a movement away from the rich mythology of Ireland's Celtic past and towards a more accessible poesy focused on the external world. Despite this turn in focus towards the world around him, Yeats retains his interest in symbolism, and one aspect of his change in style is internalization of the symbolic scheme that underlies his poetry. Whereas more mythological works like "The Shadowy Waters" betray a spiritual syncretism not unlike that of the Golden Dawn, "Adam's Curse" and its more realistic fellows offer a view of the world in which symbolic systems are submerged, creating an undercurrent of meaning which lends depth to the outward circumstances, but which is itself not immediately accessible to the lay or academic reader. In a metaphorical sense, then, Yeats seems in these later poems to achieve a doubling of audience, an equivocation which addresses the initiate and the lay reader simultaneously. This doubling of the audience is achieved first through the invocation of an implied reader in the text itself. When Yeats sets the scene he writes: "That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,/ And you and I, and talked of poetry" (2-3). The two women present become symbolic of the different sorts of readers the poet is addressing, "that beautiful mild woman" standing in for the average intelligent reader and the "you" (who is not described in physical characteristics until the poem's last stanza) representing Maud Gonne, the poet's long-beloved fellow initiate. This doubling of the implied reader is ... ... middle of paper ... ...at "more than their rhyming tell" ("To Ireland", 20). Yeats investment in the mystical Order of the Golden Dawn deepens his symbolic resources, extending his fascination with Celtic mythology into a syncretic spirituality which stresses the Jewish mystical doctrine known as the Kaballah. Through a combination of highly accessible rhyming and metrical poetry with such esoteric systems Yeats is able to construct a dual-level poetics in which readily traceable meanings are amplified by an acquaintance with the symbolic systems Yeats spent a great deal of his life mastering. His investment in these symbolic systems, and their ability to invoke unseen spiritual forces instantiates the poet's resistance to certain developments of modernity - such as the stress on reason, urbanity and individuality - and makes his poetic work a central aspect of his magico-religious Work.

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