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

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