Summer 1953 • Vol. XV No. 3 Art and "Symbolic" |

The Art of Yeats: Affirmative Capability

I. VARIETIES OF THE IMAGE Goethe remarked, in a phrase that Yeats liked to quote, that the poet must know all philosophy, but keep it out of his work. Yeats's notion was not to exclude philosophy, but to admit it on his own terms. He came to study it through its dingy back entrances, those cults which W. H. Auden has appropriately termed "Southern Californian," and at first he saluted more reputable thinkers with something of the reluctance of an officer of another service. But in later life he investigated them carefully to find parallels between his thought and theirs. In the 1920's and 1930's especially, he read fairly widely in Plato, Plotinus, Croce, Whitehead, Russell, Hegel, G. E. Moore, and others, searching out whatever he could find on the relation of the antinomies, on the connection between the sphere of reality and the gyres of illusory appearance (to use his terms), on subjectivism and kindred subjects. During the middle '20's he carried on a controversy by co

Already have an account? Log in

Join KR for even more to read.

Register for a free account to read five free pieces a month from our current issue and digital archive.
Register for Free and Read This Piece



Or become a subscriber today and get complete, immediate access to our digital archives at every subscription level.

Read More

Subscribe

Your free registration with Kenyon review incudes access to exclusive content, early access to program registration, and more.

Donate

With your support, we’ll continue 
to cultivate talent and publish extraordinary literature from diverse voices around the world.