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Christine98 Profile
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Yeats and Magic


 “For Yeats magic was not so much a kind of poetry as poetry a kind of magic, and the object of both alike was evocation of energies and knowledge from beyond normal consciousness.” The salient word there is “evocation,” casting the poet as a magus conjuring verbal spirits, not from his imagination but from a higher, or a deeper, place.


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Jul/28/2012, 12:56 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
libramoon Profile
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Re: Yeats and Magic


Listen to the heart of bliss.
Lie on open sand, inhaling vibrance
under oceanic starlit sky
Breeze breathes eternity, opening
inward to see intricately
expansive poetry --
thought in magnificent splendor.
 All art is magical; all magic is art.
Yet they are not the same, and part
of a grander landscape.
Jul/28/2012, 4:16 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: Yeats and Magic


Informative, provocative article, Chris. I hope Tere, who knows far more about Yeats and magic for that matter than I do, will weigh in on this.

Libra, By jove, I think you've got it! Love the ending of your poem: "and part/of a grander landscape."

Last edited by Katlin, Jul/29/2012, 8:49 am
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Terreson Profile
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Re: Yeats and Magic


Fun article, Chris. I remember once, in my early 20s, asking an older brother, exceedingly well read, what he thought about Yeats. Too mystical for me, was my brother's response. Admonishment did not keep me from pursuing that side of Yeats. Anyone who is familiar with that side of Yeats sooner or later gets just how complex his various metaphysical systems, for lack of a better word, could be. Complex, convoluted, indecipherable, and, in the end, unable to stand on their own. I don't say this with reproach. Quite the contrary. His mystical inclination was variegated, many hued, not to be contained by any one system or ideology. As in practically everything else he pursued his instinct here was always in the spirit of play.

But there is a larger context. The case of Yeats cannot be separated out, viewed singly. He belonged to a much larger tradition of mystical questing going back to the alchemists of the early Renaissance. Article mentions the figure of Hermes Trismegistus. There was no such historical character, no such ceremonial magician. Purely an invention of the alchemists who made him up and whose style of writing goes by the name hermetic. Side note here. Other Moderns have been drawn to the hermetic style. Jung comes to mind. Always the intent is the same: to raise up, make fleshy the spirit. This last is key. Since at least the early Renaissance there has been in the West a mystical tradition wholly unsatisfied with what Christianity served up. That is the tradition to which Yeats belonged and the proper context for understanding what he was after. A certain perspective involving this tradition is offered by the case of Newton, who the article also mentions. So think on it. One of the world's greatest mathematicians, whose law of gravity demonstrably has gotten space crafts to the moon and back, was a lifelong alchemist who thought his alchemical studies far more important than his mathematical reasonings. The point is this. Thinkers thought differently back then and so did Yeats. There was no great divide betweeen the spiritual and the material, what the scientific method has increasingly brought us to accept as categorical. They simply thought differently, proceeded differently, took in experience differently. The word that comes to mind for how they did proceed would be mythopoeic.

Here is the thing, for me at least. Was Yeats's mystical bent a curiousity, something for any Yeats reader to be embarrassed by or forgiven in a patronizing way? Or was it, in fact, integral to the genius of a poet who is likely the greatest poet of the 20th C working in the English language? And whose Modern idiom is as fresh on the ear now as it was then. My hunch is that the latter is the case. For Yeats, in my estimation, what lives inside a word, viewed as symbol, is what points to what is behind the word. What is behind the word lives a numinous life of its own. That is what Yeats got and what informed his poetry.

There is a delightful story involving his young wife, Georgie. She was known to complain about his incessant fascination with her automatic writing and visions. In a word, it tired her out. Too many sleep interrupted nights. Also, it is highly likely true that Yeats, in his early 50s, was a virgin when he married Georgie. I sometimes wonder to what extent his suppressed libido fed his highly charged mystical bent.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Aug/9/2012, 5:22 pm
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Zakzzz5 Profile
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Re: Yeats and Magic


Chris,

Read the essay; good stuff. Read your comments, Terreson. Clear and good to read. If any thoughts gell about Yeats, I'll post. It has been a while since I read Yeats. But I do remember he was brilliant. Zak
Dec/6/2012, 8:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 


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