“Oil and Blood”: Yeats’s Return to the Nineties

  • Stephen Regan
Part of the Yeats Annual book series (YA)


Harold Bloom’s notion of “dialectical revisionism” has had a compelling effect on our understanding of literary influence in the nineteenth century, though, not surprisingly, such poets as Ernest Dowson and Lionel Johnson assume only a marginal role in the visionary company of Bloom’s “strong authors”. Bloom concedes that the poets of the Rhymers’ Club had “a lasting effect upon Yeats”, but the statement is heavily qualified by the later assertion that “their principal effect upon him was in the style of their lives, and their stance as poets, rather than in their actual works”.1 A more enterprising view of Yeats and the nineties was proposed by the late Richard Ellmann, whose wonderful biographical forays and close investigative studies of the nineteenth century gave renewed attention to the enigmatic presence of Oscar Wilde in Yeats’s developing aesthetic.2 More recently, R. K. R. Thornton has argued in The Decadent Dilemma3 that a significant connection can be seen to exist between Yeats’s mature poetic theory, especially his concern with artifice, and the aesthetics of the 1890s. If symbolism represents the final resolution of “the decadent dilemma”, then there is clearly much in the later poetry that maintains a direct connection with what Yeats felt to be most vital and characteristic in the poetry of the nineties.


Strong Author Literary Influence Aesthetic Ideal Modern Poetry Christian Mystic 
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© Wawick Gould 1990

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  • Stephen Regan

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