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Meticulous and Inspired,
This review is from: W. B. Yeats: A Life , Vol. 2: The Arch-Poet 1915-1939: Arch-poet 1915-1939 v. 2 (Hardcover)
This book may be much better than four stars but to be honest I stopped reading after about half way. This was not because of any fault of the book, simply because my interest was not sustained. There are some things about Yeats I understand and some things I do not. I understand his love of the land and of tradition, I understand his interest in the past and Irish mythology, and I understand his promotion of Irish cultural life, the energy he put into the Abbey Theatre, and his carefully measured but at times passionate support for the independence movement. I also have an interest in how the occult becomes a constant theme in Yeats' poetry and his interest in the relationship between image and truth, 'How can you know the dancer from the dance?'
But for me the real interest in Yeats is his struggle to arrive at the kind of plateau he seems to have arrived at by the mid 1920s, from which point he seems to repeat old themes, and whatever there is that is new and further refined somehow ceases to engage me.
For me the vital chapters of this book are those that deal with the sudden re-arousal of Yeats' ferocious political instincts which occurs at the time of the Black and Tans, (as evidenced by his poem 'Reprisals', a fine poem never before printed but here included), and then Foster's careful discussion of 'A Vision', which I have never read but intend to, and which is no doubt a summary of many of his beliefs.
As in the first volume Foster's approach is exhaustive and meticulous without being dry or disinterested. All his relationships are hung up to dry, but for me are perhaps less fascinating than in the earlier volume. The relationships which most interest me are those with Gonne, Synge and Gregory, and to some extent his wife; those that came later don't grab me and unless I'm missing something it is Synge and Gonne more than anyone who turn up again and again in his poetry throughout his life.