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By Richard Greaves (auth.)

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Example text

2 Yeats’s involvement with the theatre during the phase of transition in his poetry from 1903 to 1914 was closely tied to the change in his poetics which saw a consciously closer engagement with the world. Yet he did not accept the objective view which contemporary drama critics considered essential to good drama, although their idea was that such objectiveness was necessary to the credible dramatic presentation of life. ‘The Tragic Theatre’ shows that Yeats’s idea of the presentation of life was very different.

The immediacy of an older poetry, the closeness of expression to what it expresses, comes from the directness of the poet’s experience of the world. That the absence of intervening theory and generalization allows the life centred in the poet its proper expression is the point Yeats wants to make in this article. The increasing abstraction in language, its move away from such direct expression, renders it lifeless: What the ever-moving, delicately moulded flesh is to human beauty, vivid musical words are to passion.

But the main thrust of the essay is to stress the nature of the poet’s mind as the site of the confluence of emotion not personal to him, and to indicate that this emotion is to be allowed to combine there, and be transmitted as purely, as untainted by that emotion which arises from the poet’s personal circumstances, as possible. 24 Transition, Reception and Modernism in W. B. Yeats Eliot’s idea that the poet as a man, that is to say the poet as he exists in relation to the everyday world, should be kept out of the work seems at first to be similar to the idea Yeats expresses in ‘A General Introduction for My Work’ (E&I 509).

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