First Assignment: WB Yeats and Jean Sibelius

After the first meeting, we agreed on discussion topics for the next meeting, as follows:

  • The late poetry of WB Yeats – 6 poems to be chosen by TT
  • Sibelius’s 5th Symphony

Here’s my email confirming the Yeats poems that we ended up discussing:

The concensus seems to be that Yeats’s late period began in 1928 with the publication of ‘The Tower’, so that’s where I’ve started. In brackets are the books that these poems were originally published in, but it’s probably easier to borrow or buy the collected works – I can recommend the Vintage Classics Edition, edited by Augustine Martin.

  • The Tower – The Tower, 1928
  • Sailing To Byzantium – The Tower, 1928
  • Leda And The Swan – The Tower, 1928
  • Among School Children – The Tower, 1928
  • The Gyres – New Poems, 1938
  • The Circus Animal’s Desertion – Final Poems, 1939

I think it will be well worth reading some background on Yeats’s life and these poems in particular. Here are some links that might help, and a quote below that if you’re time-starved:

‘The final phase of Yeats’s poetry begins with “The Tower” (1928). Yeats constructs himself as a very self-conscious bard in poems like “The Tower” and “Sailing to Byzantium”. He publicly celebrates Ireland’s culture which he sees embodied in Coole Park and Lady Gregory and which for him become emblematic of a nostalgically remembered Anglo-Irish Ascendancy dispensation. He contemplates old age and its difficulties, and meditates on the function of art in life. Yeats was also an Irish Senator, reflected in the poem, “Among School Children”, which together with “Sailing to Byzantium”, can serve as exemplary verse from the last phase of Yeats’s poetry.’

One response to “First Assignment: WB Yeats and Jean Sibelius”

  1. […] I’m reading G.K. Chesteron’s biography of William Blake, and it’s a real treat, full of Chesterton’s unique insights and witticisms. The following quote provides a fresh angle on three of the poets we’ve discussed so far in the Culture Club: Blake, Shakespeare and Yeats. Chesterton is commenting on the fact that William Blake’s father, James Blake, was most likely Irish. Some have found in his [ie William Blake’s] Irish origin an explanation of his imaginative energy; the idea may be admitted, but under strong reservations. It is probably true that Ireland, if she were free from oppression, would produce more pure mystics than England. And for the same reason she would still produce fewer poets. A poet may be vague, and a mystic hates vagueness. A poet is a man who mixes up heaven and earth unconsciously. A mystic is a man who separates heaven and earth even if he enjoys them both. Broadly the English type is he who sees the elves entangled in the forests of Arcady, like Shakespeare and Keats: the Irish type is he who sees the fairies quite distinct from the forest, like Blake and Mr W B Yeats. […]

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