Last Poems (1939) Background

Last Poems (1939) Background

The last years of Yeats' life were defined by two conflicting concepts. At the one hand, he felt distain for the in his eyes failure of the democratic process in Ireland and the destruction of Irish nobility. On the other hand, he underwent a youthful renaissance with the help of questionable medical procedures. Both these factors are visible in his poems published in Last Poems in the year of his death.

Yeats' faith in the democratic process was shattered due to the financial crisis of 1929. He considered the democratic possibilities to target the problem following Black Friday to be rather unsatisfying all throughout Europe. Additionally, the rise of a appreciation for a catholic lower class within the Irish society and the loss of importance for the Protestant aristocracy caused him some grief. Unlike his literary contemporaries, with whom he was nevertheless in vivid contact, he refrained from following the modernistic poetic scheme. He often proclaimed his love for a strict rhyme scheme and proper stanza formation.

In 1934 he underwent a "Steinach operation", which is meant to increase the production of sexual hormones in the male body. While the procedure has been widely condemned as nonsensical by modern standards, it seemed to have the desired effect on Yeats. His last years were filled with sexual escapades, many of them with far younger women. Living in France, he took advantage of the sexual freedom movement of early feminist and humanist followers.

When writing "Last Poems" Yeats was already well aware of his declining health and imminent death. He made the conscious decision to live life to the fullest in his last moments. His general view on poetry was that it always should embody the full experience of life and invoke passion in the audience. Therefore, the collection of "Last Poems" contains joyful, frivolous parts as well as instructions for his own funeral.

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