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Revisiting the Romanticism in Early Yeats

Jerry Chia-Je Weng
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Taiwan University

Abstract

In this paper I reconsider the inheritance of romanticism in the early poetryof Yeats—especially the 1895 collection of Poems consisting of the sectionsCrossways (1889) and The Rose (1893). While the pervasive influence of Blake andShelley on Yeats has received much scholarly attention, it has generally been inreference to Yeats’s later system of symbolism and mythology; the poetry of Yeats’syouth has suffered from comparative neglect. As Yeats strives to integrate thetraditional materials of Irish folklore and mythology into his early work, the questionof the poet’s relation to the earth emerges as a central concern—one that inevitablydraws on the English romantic tradition. I argue that Yeats critically engages withthe fundamental themes of romanticism in his earliest poetry, challenging andrevising the poet’s link to nature while questioning the efficacy of poetic language.In addition to Blake and Shelley, William Wordsworth emerges as a steady influenceon early Yeats, evinced by the various echoes and allusions regarding the status ofnature and poetry.

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