The Poetry of W. B. Yeats
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
THIS is the first book to appear which attempts a full assessment of the poetry of Yeats. Mr. MacNeice is particularly fitted to the task. He is at home in the world of abstract thought, and he is a poet himself. As poet, he knows that the background of a poet’s life or thought is not the cause of his poetry, though it may condition much of it; that a poem not only is about something but is something; and that to try to disintricate the value of a poem from the poem itself is like the job of peeiing an onion. He gives a very clear account of Yeats’s friends, literary influences, and political opinions: he is by no means blind to Yeats’s weaknesses — his poses and prejudices, his ignorance of science, his amateur philosophy. But the main interest of the book for lovers of poetry is his presentation of Yeats as the most comprehensive poet of the age the man who could write sometimes as pure singer, sometimes as cynic, sometimes as orator, sometimes as sensualist, sometimes as speculative thinker; who was master of all styles from the most noble to the most colloquial; whose technique has the insolent ease, freedom, and strength that are the result of a perfect control of his medium; whose poetry has more zest than that of any other writer of his time. E. D.