It would be easy to just say Yeats is the greatest poet of the 20th century and leave it at that.
In an era when many poets seemed to care less for musicality and more for intellectual propaganda, Yeats' lyric verse is surprising and refreshing, like a salt wave hitting you in the middle of the desert. An example:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams...
There's not much to say after that. Yeats hits you all over—in the head, the heart, the spleen—with unrelenting beauty. He's a master of form and content, with easy rhythms and bold melodies. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Yeats never allows his scholarship to interfere with his craft; it provides support when needed, and retreats when its purpose is fulfilled.
The Irish have a natural poetic intelligence; of them, Yeats is chief. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and remains one of its most worthy recipients. Anyone who can form the lines "I went out to the hazel wood,/Because a fire was in my head" is clearly a poet of skill and grace. The world is a better place for having his poems still.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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