W.B.YEATS: A Modern Poet
W.B.Yeats is a unique poet as he is a traditional as well as modern poet at the same time. T.S. Eliot once said, “Certainly, for the younger poets of England and America, I am sure that their admiration for Yeats’s poetry has been wholly good”. But though Yeats was traditional in his views and very Irish in his outlook, he was a modern poet all the same. Although he started his career as a reflection of the romantics and the Pre-Raphaelites, he very soon evolved into a genuine modern poet. Thus, Yeats is a poet who is both traditional and modern.
The early poetry of W.B Yeats is not realistic. Even in his later poems, despite diction Yeats is till not free from the spell of the fairies, ghosts, magic and the mysterious world. He is indeed the last romantic. But the poetry in specially the last two phases is very realistic.
The pessimistic note is the hallmark of modern poetry; Yeats’s poetry, like that of Eliot and some of the other modern poets is marked with pessimism and disillusionment. To A shade, When Helen Lived, and The Byzantium poems reflects this mood. The last two lines from the poem To A Shade will illustrate this:
You had enough of sorrow before death
Away, away; you are safer in the tomb.
Although the modern age is essentially a scientific age, yet modern poetry has traces of mysticism and religion in it. Yeats is perhaps the one modern poet who built up a system of thought based on the occult and mystic religion and whose poetry was the direct outcome of it. The last poems of Yeats are steeped in mysticism. A dialogue of Self and Soul is in a way a debate between ‘Atma’ and ‘Maya’.
Modern poetry has often been described as being very complex and obscure, and it is not at all surprising that Yeats’s poems have been dubbed as some of the most obscure and complex poems. Yeats’s adoption of poetic person or ‘Mask’ made his poems difficult to understand. But what made his poems (and even his plays) very complex and obscure is the ‘system of symbolism’ which he had built up in A Vision.
Yeats may be regarded as a link between the decadent aestheticism of the nineties and a new realism of the modern age. The romanticism, the mythology and the vague music of his early work are no longer to be found in his later poems.
The Nobel Prize for literature given to Yeats in 1923 confirmed him as a great modern poet.

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