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In 1936 Yeats wrote, "I too have tried to be modern". How does his poetry reflect the modernist movement?

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Introduction

In 1936 Yeats wrote, "I too have tried to be modern". How does his poetry reflect the modernist movement? Modernism is the persistent experimentation with language and form. It relies and is dependent upon poetic images and mythology. It gave licence to artists to break away from convention and gave liberation from tradition. The period between, if regarded as a time-bound concept, 1890 and 1930 (Childs, p.12) saw the emphasis shifting away from the representational towards the subjective and impressionistic. The artist's focus no longer remained on what was seen, rather how it was seen. The presentation of the artist's vision of the object was fundamental to the artists of the modernistic movement, not the object (as it was with their literary predecessors). The term 'Modernism' has many definitions and meanings. Due to the limited scope available in this essay it is not possible to include a comprehensive study of the modernistic movement. "It is now, however, perhaps both impossible and undesirable to speak of a single 'Modernism'." (Childs, p.12) This essay will be looking at the aspects that I feel are the most salient and how Yeats' poetry reflects them. One of Yeats' most famous and most anthologised poems is The Second Coming, which represents (in Yeats' conception) ...read more.

Middle

(Britzolakis) He wants to be reborn in the form of a beautiful and enduring work of art, a golden bird. "Gold" (28) is emphasised in this stanza, because of its beauty, but also for its endurance, for its permanence. The reference to the form of a bird reminds the reader of and contrasts with the real "birds in the trees"(2). And yet, the poem ends on a note of sensual longing. The bird, as an artistic creation, has it origins in the world of human desires. It too will sing of, "What is past, or passing, or to come."(32) The search for permanence appears to be less than satisfactory. The conflict between natural and artificial, youth and old age, and body and soul, remain unresolved. (Britzolakis) Easter, 1916 is striking in not only for its political content, but also the way it is written with its contrasting imagery, themes and tone. It is an important poem from which the reader can ascertain Yeats' opinion on the subject of the Easter Rising, those involved in it and Irish Nationalism as a whole. All this is achieved through the various techniques he employs including the nature of the form, diction and imagery, which combines to elucidate his chosen themes. ...read more.

Conclusion

Amidst all of this change, the stone is a symbol of consistency, as it does not move from its position on the bottom of the stream (Britzolakis). In line 57-58, Yeats expresses the heart in a transformation, becoming steady like the stone. "Too long a sacrifice"(57) in regards to war, has caused the heart to become a stone, bringing detrimental effects upon the hearts of all men. When this occurs, the responsibility the world must take is to love each corrupted soul, calling each by name "as a mother names her child/When sleep at last has come"(63). However, sleep is a metaphor for death and these men die in consequence of their failure to change among the changing events around them. (Britzolakis) The reference to "needless death" Yeats "writes out in a verse,"(74) as he does in many of his poems to convey enlightenment and understanding to affect the future readers. He leaves this poem as a legacy and memorial to those people - MacDonagh, MacBride, Connolly, and Pearse - who are all untied by their dedication to the heroic dream, giving Ireland everything they could. Yeats continues to say that wherever the spirit of Ireland lies, represented by people wearing the colour "green," those people will be forever changed. The terrible beauty, dying for this heroic dream, has been born. Yeats embraced Modernism and its underlying artistic philosophies. ...read more.

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