Discuss the personal elements of Yeats’s poetry.

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The Lake Isle of Innisfree is a notable literary work by William Butler Yeats. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of The Lake Isle of Innisfree.


Discuss the personal elements of Yeats’s poetry.

Literature is the mirror of society. Every poet writes their literary works from personal experience and a far-reaching perspective. W. B. Yeats (1865 – 1939) had a long literary career and wrote his works by gathering his experiences from different perspectives. Critics have tried to find out his source of success, and they have understood that the power of his personal elements has made him more significant and successful. The personal elements of Yeats’ poetry are discussed here concerning his poems.

The Subject Matter of His Poems: The subject matter of Yeats’ many poems is taken from his personal life. The poems directly related to his personal life are “A Prayer for My Daughter, No Second Troy, Easter 1916, and Sailing to Byzantium“.

Vain Nature of the Beautiful Women: In commenting on the vain nature of the beautiful woman, Yeats hints at the behaviour of Maud Gonne, the attractive girl he loved but failed to marry. Yeats had a lifelong passion for Maud Gonne, and many of his poems reference her. In poems such as “A Prayer for My Daughter, No Second Troy and Easter 1916”, he talks about Maud Gonne. In most poems, we find a blend of passion and censure for his long-loved woman.

In the poem “A Prayer for My Daughter”, he criticizes Maud Gonne, and in the destructive situation, he describes his concern for his daughter’s future. He also prays for his daughter that his daughter should not have extreme beauty like Helen and Maud Gonne and will be married to an aristocratic family. Now, we realize that the futile nature of beautiful girls is universal, and these stupid types of women suffer a lot.

Patriotic Initiative: Yeats is an Irish nationalist poet. His sense of nationalism and patriotism is evident in “Easter 1916”. Here, the poet pays tribute to the Irish nationalists who gave their lives for the interests of their country. Yeats mentions some of his acquaintances among these nationalists. It may be that these people have lived a ridiculous and ordinary life before. But their sacrifice has given meaning to their lives, and as a result, a terrible beauty is born. The poet says that these people embody the eternal human quality, and their stone-like quality can disturb other people’s lives:

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.

Personal Ideas About History and Civilization: Like William Blake, Yeats illustrates his ideas about history and civilization. The poet has adopted the symbolic word to express himself. This is evident in the poem “The Second Coming”. Here, the poet describes his knowledge about the decay and destruction of civilization. Yeats believes in the cyclical sequence of history that he symbolizes by the image of a ‘gyre’.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

From the above reference, it is transparent that the poet talks about his idea of separation, and the idea of disintegration is undoubtedly personal, like that of Blake.

The Conflict Between Physicality and Spirituality: Although Yeats’s early poems were based on love, affection, nationalism, and patriotism, he reunited with these elements and life in his mature years. In the poem “Sailing to Byzantium,” he discusses the conflict between physicality and spirituality. Older people are excluded from physical pleasure, like “A tattered coat upon a stick”. Yet, they have a unique ability to penetrate the soul. This is why the poet travels to the holy Byzantium, a symbol of spiritual practice. Feelings of romantic sadness pervade this poem and many more poems.

Now that my ladder’s gone,
I must lie down where all the ladder starts;
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

These lines are subtle expressions of Yeats’ concept of poetry stemming from his personal experiences and passions like John Keats, who is the youngest influential romantic poet in the history of English literature and famous for his innovative style, which is ideality versus reality.

In the concluding remarks, it can be said that Yeats draws his subject from his personal life. In his poems, he has his ideas about life and society. He relates his ideas and concepts about love, youth, age, death, etc. However, he presents his personal feelings so that they also touch the readers. Although his poetry contains autobiographical elements, its appeal is universal.