W. B. Yeats’s Poetry: Analysis of Organic Development and Growth

The entire poetic career of Yeats, stretching over a period of about fifty years may be classified in to four sharply distinct hazes. It is of course, true that a critical analysis which concentrates on dissection is bound to be erroneous. Indeed it is not fair to segregate and pin down each phase as exclusively separate. A critical analysis which is equivalent to true appreciation will not put each such phase in to water bight compartment.

Three is however, a consensus of opinion amongst crib as that Yeast’s poetic career shows a development which is almost organic. Eminent cities including T.S. Eliot hold the view that Yeats’s creative faculty manifests a sort of organic development and growth. T.S. Eliot’s pertinent observation merits quotation.
             “I can think of no poet, not even the greatest, who has shown a longer period of development than Yeats. Development to this extent is not merely generous, it is character.”

The poetic career of Yeats is longer than that of Words worth or Tennyson. His poetic genius during this long period was in a sate of continuous growth and maturity. His later poetry shows distinct marks of advancement over the earlier one. It should, however, be borne in mind that there is no opposition or contradiction between the early and the later phases. His poetry as a whole displays an organic development and the later poetry with all the maturity is but a consummation or fruition of his earlier one. Celebrated critics like Kenner and Untercker have also endorsed the view that there exists a continuity, a trend of gradual development n Yeats’s poetic genius.  Hence the efflorescence of his later poems may be traced to the budding of his genius during the early phase.

However, this evolution of his poetic genius shows a process of show transition. This transition was ever an abrupt one. This process was a long and elaborates one and Prof Scott James has pertinently pointed out that it is in effect semblance with the Greek drama which prominently exhibits a beginning, a middle and an end. Now for the purpose of bringing this organic development in to foes, his poetic career may be divided in two following four stages:
(1)    The Celtic Twilight Period:  To this period belongs the early poetry of yeast. The term, however, takes its genesis from his prose romance captioned The Celtic Taillight. In this phase fall such poems as The Crossways, The Rose and The Wind among the Reeds.
(2)    The Middle period: This is undoubtedly a period of transition. In this period emanated poems like In the Seven Woods, The Green Helmet and other Poems and Responsibilities.

(3)    The complex later Period: This period evinces a maturity which has earned for him a med of universal approbation. To this period belong such masterpieces as The Wild Swans at Cole, The Tower, Michael Robert and The Dancer, The Winding Stair and other Poems, which are replete with crowing illustrations of Yearts’s maturity.
(4)    The Last    Phase: This includes poems composed during the last years. To this phase belongs Last Poems and Plays. 

     It is gratifying indeed to trace this development of his genius and to study the growth and evolution of his poetry in respect of form and content, tone and technique. In the early poetry or during Celtic Twilight period, Yeats appears to be escapist. The poet is found to emulate the pre-Raphaelites and the Romantic poets. Indeed to his early poetry we discern clear marks of Per-Raphaelite colour and romantic imagination.  The poet escapes from the harsh reality and sordidly of the mundane world into a pulsating dream-world of Irish legend, my theology and folklore.
Like Shelley, he found in his poems as a worshiper of abstract beauty. He has an irresistible and un construable attraction for the dream world, and his imagination is hunted by Fairland inhabited by heroes like Oilskin and Red Harahan. The heroes of Yeats are found to leave the real world for the world of the Sigh, the Druids and the Deanna children. The real world is “more full of weeping than you can understand.”  It could not satisfy the poet’s soul. T5hat is why he invited the “human child to the waters and the wild.” This fairy land or dream world with its pastoral background, enlivening solitude and idyllic charm haunted the imagination of the poet. This was a world far removed from the “sick hurries and divided aims”, from the ‘fever and fret’, He used to take refuge in the world of dreamed which could offer spiritual solace, rest and relaxation to his weary mind and soul and his imagination could have a free play here. It is a delightful world of unbridled fanny-a favorites Yeastier Arcadia which could offer scooting anodyne to the fatigued mind and soul of the poet. The man Who Dreamed of Fairyland. The Lake Lisle of In news free and The Stolen Child are some of the representative poems of this phase.Such early poems make us familiar with “a generally living folk culture and a mythology which has not grown stale and hackneyed by centuries of repetition.”
When we enter in to the world of Yeats’s early poetry, we enter in to a dream-world imaginary Colitis twilight. It is essentially an unreal world of fantasy and make-believe, where “rivers run over with red beer and brown beer” and the boughs “nave their fruits and blossoms at all times of the year.”
In perfect kinship with the content of his early poetry the style is also rich, prate and luxurious. It is easy and languid, reminiscent of the stale of Spenser, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Rossetti and Swinburne. The tone is sometimes wistful and sometimes nostalgic and the poet luxuriates with colour. But the colour is anther pale and indistinct, shadowy and misty. There is much of the pictorial quality. There raise. He contributed his mite to the symbolic-aesthetic tradition of the time. But at the sometime, he was gradually switching over to another very complex phase of his poetic career. The year 1904 is a truing point in this respect and he embarked on this phase with an altogether new note. In the Seven Woods is an illustration in this point. He came with a pronounced note of penctralia of his own self, he discovered the inherent beauty of life; but he also realized the terrible inhuman nature of this beauty which is ‘the world’s bane”.
The poems of this realistic transitional phase are marked by sarcastic, harsh and sardonic and conspired together to bring him out of the ivory tower of the early phase. The illusions so log cherished by him were summarily shattered by many a frustrating experience and disappointment undergone by him. The betrayal of Maud Gonne and conferences in the sphere of politics and the sense of utter disillusionment in respect of the Abbey Theatre and his direct involvement in the belligerent public controversies in the political and cultural arena-all these wrought a sea change in Yeast’s career and thus gradually vanished all his early dreams. He was not even complacent with the production of the belles-letters of the transitional period. He came closer to the stern reality surrounding him and to the life itself in its true essence ad entirety. Also he became increasingly conscious of the decay and degradation of the blood and mire. He came out of the exotic dream world of his youthful fancy and esoteric aestheticism.   
The Responsibilities, fraught as it is with the “ironic commentary on contemporary affairs” is a representative poem of tis stage. The somber aspect of life and the grim reality had a great sway on him, which, but for his profound poetic imagination, would have generated a lurid bias, a morbidity in his attitude. He now concerted his attention upon the world and “instead of the remote mythology of Gaelic legend, he creates a new mythology out of the patriots of 18th century Ireland who still lived in the popular imagination.” He relinquished the mood of romantic exuberance and came to dwell upon the inexorable and inscrutable realities of life. The wonderful threnody on o’ Leary world exemplify how yeast at this time attained a superb poetry power of transforming contemporary facts and incidents into marvelous canines of poetry, charged with the intensity of feeling and laden with matters derived from life itself.
    “Romantic Ireland is dead and gone.
          Is with O’Leary in the grave.”
       The underlying wistfulness, despair and nostalgia are some of the distinguishing features of this elegy.
This change in respect of content ushered in a currents pounding change in for, style and technique. The tone became more austere and nor concentrated. His images became more precise and pointed and the diction had a sinewy bareness and vigor and force. At this stage, the poet developed an increasing tendency to us use the colloquial speech, the common diction and “now the soap-behold only earthly and clear, the bare outlines of cold care Rock and Galway Rock and thorn.” Instead of Romanic ebullience and incantatory music, we find epigrammatic terseness, intensity and vigor, Wordsworthian simplicity of diction and an intensity and sublimity which is almost Dantesque in magnitude. The poem captioned A Coat brings into focus the typical poetic attitude of Yeats during this time:                                      “I made my songs a coat
                                                Covered with embroideries
                                                            Out of old my theologies
                                                   From heel to throat:
                                                                   But the fool caught,
                                                     Wore ii in the world’s eyes
                                                                    As though they’d wrought it.
                                                          Song, let them take it,
                                                                       For there’s more enterprise
                                                               In walking naked.”
Wikipedia: William Butler Yeats 
Having had a close view of life and having witnessed with great concern, the blood and mire and the all-contaminating  and all engulfing degradation, the poet was frantically looking for a gleam of hope, an anchorage in The Tower or the Byzantium. He was seeking respite and tranquility. But at the same time he had a great lust for life which could not be totally renounced. Thus there was an inner conflict which found expression in the nature verses of the later stage. The divergent interconflicting moods account for much of the complexity. He displayed an astonishing command over his materials and a superb power if switching over from one particular object to the other completely disconcerting and suggestive of dev lament. No second Troy is a characteristic poem of this category which would illustrate this with crystal clarity. The sinewy bareness of the structural pattern, the complexity and variety of moods expressed, the rhythmic quality of verse and the craftsmanship with which common diction has been  used for complex poetic purpose, all point to an inordinate maturity achieved by the poet. In Sailing to Byzantium, we notice a similar or more intricate design of versification where incantatory diction has alternately been used with “choppy words.” Yeats employed symbols in plethoric abundance at every stage of his poetic career. But at this time, the symbols are more complex and intricate. Evocative, emotive and more full of suggestive implications as his symbols usually are, his time their scope and vista wear all the more widened. The tower and the winding stair symbols are equally personal and traditional. David Daicches has an illuminating comment to make in this context:-
“While in his earlier poetry, Yeats merely presented the antimonies of life, in his later life he dries also to reconcile them.” Eminent critics like L.C. Knights and Middleton Marry are however of different opinion. They maintain that the poet failed to reconcile the disparate elements and this explains the increasing pessimism of his last poems.

The poems composed during thus last phase are ironical and tragic. A note of pathos, irony and poetry of this last phase. But all these were calculated to cover up the intensity of his suffering, the frustration and tragedy of life. But the poet retained the command over his materials all through. Up to the end he was in the fullness of his powers. But with the passing away of time, the poet was gradually becoming an isolated entity, immune from the complex world around him. The poet was pathetically conscious of this deplorable isolation, of the lonesome existence which lay heavy on him:
                                        “But I grow old among dreams
                                                 A weather-worn marble Triton,
                                             A moug the streams.”
In the above analysis, we have already viewed the exceptional and sterling artistic felicity of Yeats, his brilliant poetic craftsmanship and many other intrinsic merits as a poet of the modern era. He is pre-eminently a poet of the age. Despite the romantic quality of his early poetry and the Pre-Raphaelite tinge, he is out and a modern poet.
The term ‘modernity’ is undoubtedly a relative term which should transcended the bounds of his age by virtue of the sheer appeal of his poetry which has sometimes been of course universal. But besides this, he is typically modern in respect both of the from and besides this, he is typically modern in age-consciousness was pronounced in him and the poet has depicted a full-length picture of the modern world in a host of his mature poems,. The modern world has been observed by him with the modern civilization much what is contemptible, vulgar and ugly. The poem Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen does conform to the modern age in being a faithful revelation of the horror of Ireland. The poem begging with a note of lament for Athens and then subsequently the poet deplores the situation of the contemporary Ireland The poet was satisfied with simply drawing a grim picture. He opined that what happened to Egypt and Babylon had recurred in Ireland. Meditations in Time of Civil War is also a typically modern poem in which are condensed and creolized some of the complex thoughts houses lead the poet to ruminate over root of all such ruination. The decline of the ruined houses, a according to the poet, should be ascribed to the decay from within.
Yeats may legitimately be regarded as a connecting link between the decaying aestheticism of the present century. The Green Helmet published in the year 1910 marked the beginning of a new phase. The circumstances and events of his life, the upheavals of the contemporary society, his sensitive poetic temperament compelled him to participate actively in almost all the momentous movements, activities and influences of his age. He was sees tidally a visionary, a dreamer of sweet dreams and as such it was natural that he felt himself to be an alien being in the world of mechanical civilization were worth of everything is evaluated by scientific tests and experiments and were heart is put into the acid-test of reason. He clamored out to break the shackles of artificial bondage and he believed that civilization tends to thwart refined human sensibilities and stilt the fundamental consciousness of ourselves. Although as a technician he was more traditional than an innovator, the epithet-‘modern poet’ may justifiably be assigned to him. He has played the modern tune over the old keyboard of tradition.

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert     
     2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature
      3.Caudwell's Illusion and Reality