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Ben Bulben and Black Tower: A Study of Yeats’s Two “Death Poems”

Kyung-Soo Lee

Abstract

"Man can embody truth but he cannot know it," said Yeats a few days beforehis death. And this truth is embodied in the two “death poems,” "Under BenBulben" and "The Black Tower". How is that truth embodied? And what is itscontent? A close reading of the two poems gives some sort of significant answer tothat question.
The truth Yeats tried to embody may be "Unity of Being", the poet's eternalpursuit. Throughout his long poetic career, wearing various masks, and in variousways, Yeats sought to accomplish its poetic embodiment. To solve multi-levelleddivisions of being, Yeats sought persistently to "remake" and "renew" himself, hisself as an archetype of the Irish people. "Under Ben Bulben" and "The BlackTower" suggest the poet's dream as returning to and restoring the heroic Celticismand integrating it into making Ireland.
In "Under Ben Bulben", drawing on the Celtic heroes' wisdom and strength, thepoet asserts his philosophy of reincarnation and man's profane perfection, and, also,the greatness of artists' creative power. After presenting his selected history of thegreat artists, the poet asks the Irish poets to succeed to his poetic dream. And,then, he casts cold eyes on life, on death, renewing himself as one of the heroes ofhis dream.
In "The Black Tower", the poet's inner drama upon the threshold of death, thetower, his old symbol, reveals itself as a microcosm of Ireland that the poet wishesto defend against his enemies by death. In this poem, the poet does not give up hisdream to the final, even if the dark and gloomy mood is dominant. Finally, for thetower's defense, the poet commits "an epic suicide", to become a legendary Irishhero himself. Thus, the poet embodies the truth he has found.

벤 불벤과 검은 탑: 예이츠의 절명시 두 편 연구

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