In this centenary year, as we pause to salute a great achievement, it is well to remind ourselves that Yeats wrote not only poems and plays but also two of the most remarkable books of his time — the Autobiographies and A Vision. Perhaps because we are still staggered by Yeats’s poetic accomplishments we are inclined to overlook the fact that these works are, so to speak, books in themselves. Of course, we have read them with care, but usually as if they were mines of interpretation situated somewhere underneath the poetry. Because they have been so very helpful to us as mines, the qualities which they possess in themselves are not often remarked. One of their most absorbing qualities is the comic. Nevertheless, in a recent excellent study, The Irish Comic Tradition, Professor Vivian Mercier has disregarded both books; indeed Yeats has usually been considered an essentially tragic writer. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with such an assessment: all of us know that the tragic and the comic, rather than being incompatible, are necessary contraries. But the scales of Yeats criticism have long been tipped rather too far in the direction of high seriousness.
KeywordsStrange Story Intimate Exchange Remarkable Book Instinctive Playing Tragic Irony
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