“Love’s Bitter Mystery”: Joyce and Yeats

  • A. Walton Litz
Part of the Yeats Annual book series (YA)


William Butler Yeats is so frequently discussed in conjunction with the other “moderns” — Pound, Eliot, Joyce, and so forth — that it sometimes takes a conscious act of will to remember that he was not of their generation. Looking at the titles of many recent studies, such as C. K. Stead’s Pound, Yeats, Eliot and the Modernist Movement, we tend to forget that Yeats was seventeen years older than Joyce, twenty years older than Pound, twenty-three years older than Eliot. The poet who was included in Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s Oxford Book of Victorian Verse lived to compile in old age the Oxford Book of Modern Verse. When Pound and Eliot and Joyce were in their formative years Yeats was already recognised as a major poet, a strong source for either anxiety or inspiration. He might even seem, as Pound put it in 1913, “a sort of great dim figure with its associations set in the past”;1 but as he painfully modernised himself Yeats became a spiritual if not a chronological contemporary of what Wyndham Lewis called the “men of 1914”. In Eliot’s words, he was transformed from an “elder” into “a more eminent contemporary”.2


Eminent Domain Modernist Writing Modernist Movement Free Indirect Discourse Dead Mother 
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© Wawick Gould 1990

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  • A. Walton Litz

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