Yeats’s change of style and his maturity were probably not generally recognised until the publication of The Tower in 1928. This volume was a collection of poems which reflect the richness of his life: marriage, a family, senatorship of the Irish Free State, the Nobel Prize for poetry, AV published, the discovery of his Anglo-Irish ancestry in politics and literature. There was also the sharpened apprehension, brought by Ireland’s civil war, of approaching conflagration in the world and, by approaching age, of ruin and decay. Yeats had become ‘a smiling sixty-year-old public man’, but with ironic memories of lost youth and love, with the tower to remind him that the glory of a family or a house can vanish, and an idealised Byzantium to set against the realities of living in a country of the young. His verse took on new eloquence, it dealt freely with many of his moods and interests: politics, philosophy, friendship, and love. He wrote of them as they affected his own imaginative life: and his imagination grew stronger as his body decayed: an idea he had seized upon in Blake when he himself was only thirty-four. He looked back on the poetry of The Tower in surprise at its bitterness and power, yet it also carried an antithetical view:
When such as I cast out remorse So great a sweetness flows into the breast We must laugh and we must sing, We are blest by everything, Everything we look upon is blest.
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© A. Norman Jeffares 1968