A Life, Volume 2: The Arch-Poet 1915-1939
By R. F. Foster
(Oxford University Press, USA, Hardcover, 9780198184652, 798pp.)
Publication Date: December 2003
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In the conclusion of this first fully authorized biography, Foster brilliantly illuminates the circumstances--the rich internal and external experiences--that shaped the great poetry of Yeats's later years: "The Wild Swans at Coole," "Sailing to Byzantium," "The Tower," "The Circus Animals Desertion," "Under Ben Bulben," and many others. Yeats's pursuit of Irish nationalism and an independent Irish culture, his continued search for supernatural truths through occult experimentation, his extraordinary marriage, a series of tempestuous love affairs, and his lingering obsession with Maud Gonne are all explored here with a nuance and awareness rare in literary biography. Foster gives us the very texture of Yeats's life and thought, revealing the many ways he made poetry out of the "quarrel" with himself and the upheaval around him. But this consummate biography also shows that Yeats was much more than simply a lyric poet and examines in great detail Yeats's non-poetic work--his essays, plays, polemics, and memoirs. The enormous and varied circle of Yeats's friends, lovers, family, collaborators and antagonists inhabit and enrich a personal world of astounding energy, artistic commitment and verve; while the poet himself is shown returning again and again to his governing preoccupations, sex and death.
Based on complete and unprecedented access to Yeats's papers and written with extraordinary grace and insight, W.B. Yeats, A Life offers the fullest portrait yet of the private and public life of one of the twentieth century's greatest poets.