The Earlier Poems: Some Themes and Patterns

  • David Daiches


The greatness and originality of Yeats’s middle and later poems have led to the dismissal of his earlier poetry by most critics as of merely biographical interest, illustrating the morass of late nineteenth-century romanticism from which the poet’s developing genius eventually rescued him. There is of course some justification for this. The moaning self-indulgence of such a poem as ‘The Sad Shepherd’, the meretricious Orientalism of ‘Anashuya and Vijaya’, and what he himself later called ‘all that overcharged colour inherited from the romantic movement’ found in so many of the poems in his first three collections, are not really worth serious critical attention. Nevertheless, there is much of interest in these early poems, some of which at least are of value in their own right. It is true that when we find ourselves arrested by a particular early poem it will generally turn out to be a drastically revised version that we are looking at, and if we turn to the original version in an early volume or in Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland or in the indispensable Allt-Alspach variorum edition we may well find something much vaguer in expression and much less striking in imagery.


Human World Wild Nature Romantic Movement Faint Meteor Collect Poem 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1965

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  • David Daiches

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