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ISSN : 1226-4946(Print)
ISSN : 2288-5412(Online)
The Yeats Journal of Korea Vol.71 pp.35-48

Symbolic Connotation of Birds and Water in Yeats

Wonkyung Shin
Yongin University


A good knowledge of all kinds of legends, folk tales, and mythologies and extensive reading of Platonism, Neo-Platonism, Druidism, and many other philosophies were strongly imprinted on Yeats’s thoughts. He questioned radical human issues on life and death, and both in plays and poetry he symbolically expressed his philosophical beliefs in life after death, reincarnation, and the Platonic “world of ideas.” Water and birds are symbolic devices he often uses for these themes. Birds mostly take a symbolic connotation of disembodied souls and the sea is in most cases a background through which the souls pass to reach the perpetual world of ideas that transcends ephemerality of the material world. It is noteworthy that among many works of Yeats, The Shadowy Waters and “Sailing to Byzantium” well incorporated such philosophical convictions. The human souls, escaping from the natural world, pursue true happiness and dream of the eternal “world of ideas.”





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