Trace the romantic elements of Yeats’ 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.


Trace the romantic elements of Yeats’ poetry.

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) is the most prominent poet of modern English literature. He has another identification: he is a romantic poet. His poetry is absorbed in the Romantic tradition. The early period of his poetry, known as “The Celtic Twilight,” is characterized by subjectivity, high imagination, romantic melancholy, escapism, and romantic interest in myth and folklore. On one occasion, Yeats described himself as one of “the last Romantics.”

High Imagination and Escapism: According to critic Charles Harold Herford, Romanticism is “an extraordinary development of imaginative sensibility.” Yeats’s poetry blazons the romantic quality of high imagination and escapism. In the poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” of the collection of poems “The Countess Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics” (1892), Yeats indicates his desire to escape from the hectic town life to the remote island of Innisfree. He would like to build a small cabin of clay, wattles, and his daily necessities with his hands.

The poet also imagines the sweet music of birds and insects. He feels the rhythm of nature will lull him into peaceful sleep. It helps him come in contact with nature so forcefully that he can see the place in his imagination. In his mind’s eye, he imagines the gentle movement of lake water. It is in the poet’s tongue:

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway or the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

The above quotation is evidence of the Romantic longing of the poet to scrap city life in favor of life around nature. Besides, the language of this poem is decorative and musical. It conforms to the notion of romantic poetry.

Subjectivity: Many of Yeats’s poems bring subjective matter from his life. “A Prayer for My Daughter” of the collection of poetry “Michael Robartes and the Dancer” and “Among the School Children” are instances of such types of poems. Yeats declares his homage to the aristocratic concept of tradition and custom in the first poem. The poet wants her daughter to have a husband whose family would admire traditional customs.

How but in custom and tradition
Are innocence and beauty born?

These lines, like beauty, tradition, and innocence, have a romantic tone. “Among the School Children” exemplifies Yeats’ nostalgia for childhood.

Again, in “Easter 1916”, his sense of nationalism and patriotic fervour is evident. Indirectly, he also cites his romantic love for Maud Gonne. The poet’s veneration for Irish National Leaders is untold in this poem. He declares that their sacrifice has provided meaning to their life, and as a result, a terrible beauty is born.

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

The Personal Notion about History and Civilization: Yeats puts forward his vision about history and culture in a symbolic term like William Blake. Thus, in “The Second Coming”, the poet writes:

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,

Here, the poet describes his idea of the decay and defeat of civilization. He thinks in the cyclic order of history, symbolized by the image of the ‘gyre.’ The idea of disintegration is illustrated by the ‘falcon.’ The poem shows that Yeats’s symbols are very often of a personal nature, like William Blake’s.

Romantic Search for a Spiritual Home: Yeats had a romantic quest for a spiritual home. In “Sailing to Byzantium” of the collection of poetry “The Tower,” 1928, he deals with the clash between physicality and spirituality. 

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,

The old men are banned from physical enjoyment, like “A tattered coat upon a stick.” Nonetheless, they have the unique power to penetrate the soul. This is why the poet has drifted to the holy city of Byzantium, which is the cultivation of spirituality. A sense of romantic melancholy suffuses in the poem and many other poems.

Other Elements of Romanticism: Yeats’ poetry abounds in classical myth, romantic themes, and love for nature, which drive him to be one of the last romantics.

Yeats’ romanticism is not less than that of pure Romantics. Instead, he is a genius for his versatile viewpoints on writing capacity. The significance of romanticism in the history of English poetry is improved once more through him.