ISSN : (Online)
DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.14354/yjk.2003.20.139
Women and Feminism in Yeats’s Poems
Among many women who influenced Yeats, Maud Gonne was the mostimportant figure. It seems that she was a real feminist who tried to seek a dignifiedlife and ideal as a woman, cultivating her identity and soul rather than being acommon woman who is financially and physically subject to man and to cultivateoutward appearance to draw man's attention. Even though not accepting Yeats's love,she was not an extreme feminist who denied the entire role and realm of man andsupported just woman's opinion and benefits. Instead she seemed to be a moderatefeminist who tried to find the real freedom and hope for the Irish women andchildren who suffered from the dignity and violence of a patriarchal husband aswell as chronic poverty.
Yeats’s painful but productive relationship with Maud Gonne determined hisfavor for certain type of women with masculinity rather than with a passive,complaisant, and traditional beauty. As in his fascination of Niam suggested, Yeatsliked to praise beautiful women who have masculinity, and he took a courtly loveattitude to receive their love. Therefore, he tried to write poems which needed great labour like a woman’s childbirth and praise women of a masculine spirit. Yet MaudGonne’s constant decline of his suit and radical political inclination, and hisdepressed Libido made him deeply feel the pain caused by such a mannish woman.Especially, the sudden confession of her past love with Millevoye and her marriagewith MacBride gave him a great shock and changed his view of woman. Now heinstead dreamed of living a comfortable life with a woman who has traditionalfeminine nature. At last, Yeats got married to Hyde-Lees with such feminine factors,only to find that her charm and sexual satisfaction didn’t last long.
After the conflict with Maud Gonne in 1919, Yeats came to emphasizeconservative view of woman, insisting that woman should live in a pure blessingand give up her opinionated mind. He asserted that woman with perfect beautycould be happy only when she made herself beautiful and played a faithful role asman’s supporter. In this period, Maud Gonne’s images was painted dark in hispoems; ‘intellectual hatred’, ‘opinionated mind’, and ‘a woman who lost the Horn ofPlenty’. But such dark images soon disappeared. Yeats again longed for his lostlove, Maud Gonne. However he could not escape from the conflicts between bodyand soul, ideal and reality. Such a dilemma made him pay attention to Unity ofBeing, the harmonious union of body and soul, and create his persona, Crazy Jane.
Yeats's views of woman suffer many changes through his earlier, middle andlater poems. It can be said that his views of woman are expressed according to theincrease or decrease in femininity or masculinity inherent within Yeats’s self, theinfluence of his suppressed libido, and his attitude toward Irish politics. However itcan’t be denied that woman was the continuous motif and inspiration of his poems.