Views on the Late Poetry of WB Yeats

In our second session, held on the 20th July 2006, KC quoted Auden on Yeats:

This is from the essay on Yeats and Modernism in the Cambridge Companion – and it seems the author lifted it from Humphrey Carpenter’s biography of Auden. Don’t know when or where Auden wrote it.

“As Auden wrote many years later, Yeats ‘has become for me a symbol of my own devil of inauthenticity […his poems] make me whore after lies.’ This almost repeates Eliot’s complaint that Yeats’s “‘supernatural world’ was the wrong supernatural world. It was not a world of spiritual significance, not a world of real Good and Evil, of holiness and sin, but a highly sophisticated lower mythology summoned, like a physician, to supply the fading pulse of poetry with some transient stimulant so that the dying patient may uttter his last words.”

For Auden and Eliot, Yeats was false: he wrote potent, unforgettable poetry without caring whether the content was good or evil, truth or error.

KC also read a Phillip Larkin poem, High Windows, to illustrate an interesting comparison with Yeats’s poem Amongst School Children.

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