Illustrated by Jack B. Yeats
Introduced by the poet, this selection of Yeats’s greatest poems is paired with paintings by his brother Jack B. Yeats.
‘O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?’
William Butler Yeats was one of the greatest poets of the 20th century and the pre-eminent poet of modern Ireland. His art underwent an extraordinary evolution, from his earliest romantic and nationalist poems, to his mature works that address the human condition in all its complexities. Yeats believed that ‘creative work must have a fatherland’, and his poetry itself contributed to a renaissance of Irish literature – in 1923 he became the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
This collection spans four decades, beginning with the 1890s lyric poems, including ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’ and ‘He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’. These are followed by the more personal and political works of his middle years including ‘A Prayer for my Daughter’ and ‘Easter 1916’, and his later poems, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ and ‘The Circus Animals’ Desertion’. The selection is complemented by paintings by Jack B. Yeats drawn from collections in the Tate and the National Gallery of Ireland. The introduction – written by Yeats in 1937 for an unpublished collection of his works – describes the development of his poetic style and changing inspirations, from his early admiration for the Romantics, men who ‘tried to speak out of a people to a people’, to his reasons for not writing in Gaelic, as well as his lifelong quest ‘to make the language of poetry coincide with passionate, normal speech’.
‘Unquestionably the master … always a contemporary’
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Review by anon on 19th Mar 2016