Tag Archives | W.B. Yeats

W. B. Yeats’s Vision of Historical Cycles

Neil Mann interprets:

General Outline

Since it affects the poetry more obviously and more directly than almost any other part of the System, the view of history proposed in A Vision has received more critical attention than any other area, not all of it entirely accurate. The basic principles are, however, relatively easy to grasp, and Yeats himself noted that the section treating history, ‘Dove or Swan’ (AV A Book III and AV B Book V), was among the more accessible parts of A Vision.

The title ‘Dove or Swan’ alludes to a particularly potent yoking of ideas through symbol. The Archangel Gabriel’s annunciation to the Virgin Mary is often accompanied in art by a descending dove to symbolise the angel’s message that she would conceive a child: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:35).

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William Butler Yeats: Poet and Practicing Magician

The Lapham Quarterly has published a rather excellent essay on W.B Yeats magical studies and his relationships with the Theosophical Society and the Golden Dawn. Of particular interest is the author’s take on why so many of the era’s most prominent thinkers and artists were  preoccupied with magic:

When Yeats arrived in London in 1887, the vogue for spiritualism was at its height, and the young poet was immediately sucked into the vortex. The implications of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution had sunk in and were undermining basic assumptions of the established social order. In 1867 Matthew Arnold had heard the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of the Sea of Faith in retreat, and cults sprang up to fill the gap, to satisfy those who, like Yeats, were searching for something to believe in beyond the material world.

Read more at The Lapham Quarterly.

Hat tip: Revolt of the ApesRead the rest

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