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Zoas and Moods: Myth and Aspects of the Mind in Blake and Yeats

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Abstract

This chapter takes a fresh look at the oft-compared couple, Blake and Yeats, comparing and contrasting their use of myth to convey aspects of the mind, and relating the differences between them not only to changing conceptions of the mind, but also to their different political assumptions. It should, of course, go without saying that Blake can figure in a discussion of modernism and mythopoeia, and not just because of Yeats’s clear indebtedness to him. One of the more dispiriting effects of the resurgence of historicism has been a tendency to revert in practice, though perhaps not in theory, to simple models of temporality which lend a spurious ease to talk of historical periods. But Blake is merely one of the more acute examples of a textual history which renders such talk inadequate. In point of his reception he is in many ways a poet of the modern period. Among his first serious readers was Swinburne, whose influence extends well ahead; and he is important to the understanding of Joyce, Auden, Ted Hughes and Allen Ginsberg. Roger Fry seems to have regarded him as an exponent of ‘significant form’. The first serious edition of his works was the great three-volume edition by Edwin Ellis and W. B. Yeats in 1893.

Keywords

Modern Period Renaissance Manual Blue Curtain Eternal Form Iconic Quality 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1971), 271, 378;Google Scholar
  2. Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, 2nd edn (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976), 287–305;Google Scholar
  3. Henry J. Cadbury, ‘Early Quakerism and Uncanonical Lore’, Harvard Theological Review, 40 (1947), 204–05.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 3.
    Jean Seznec, The Survival of the Pagan Gods, trans. B. Sessions (New York: Pantheon Books, 1953), 237.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Robert James, A Medicinal Dictionary, 2 vols (London, 1743–45) II, ‘Mania’.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Morton D. Paley, Energy and the Imagination: A Study in the Development of Blake’s Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 95.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Jean H. Hagstrum, ‘Blake and the Sister-Arts Tradition’, in Blake’s Visionary Forms Dramatic, David V. Erdman and John E. Grant, eds (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), 88.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Cf. a quotation from Conrad in Michael Levenson, A Geneaology of Modernism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 2, and compare with this the use of the word ‘mood’ by T. E. Hulme, quoted in Levenson, A Geneaology of Modernism, 44.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Compare the contrast between the prophet and ‘the enchanter’ in Margaret Rudd, Divided Image: A Study of William Blake and W.B. Yeats (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1953), 1–34.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Hazard Adams, The Book of Yeats’s Poems (Tallahasee: Florida State University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
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    W. B. Yeats, Essays and Introductions (London: Macmillan, 1961), 195. Hereafter, EI.Google Scholar
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    W. B. Yeats, The Poems: A New Edition, ed. Richard Finneran, 2nd edn (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989), 56.Google Scholar
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    Stan Smith, The Origins of Modernism: Eliot, Pound, Yeats and the Rhetorics of Renewal (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994), 177–78.Google Scholar
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    Cairns Craig, Yeats, Eliot, Pound and the Politics of Poetry (London: Croom Helm, 1982), 72–111.Google Scholar
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    See also the discussion in Edward Larrissy, Yeats the Poet: The Measures of Difference (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994), 193.Google Scholar

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© Edward Larrissy 2006

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