Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Rose

An Essay on the Symbolism of W.B. Yeats' Poetry

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) was very influenced by the French symbolist movement and he is often regarded as the most important symbolist poet of the twentieth century. Yeats felt 'metaphors are not profound enough to be moving,' so his poems heavily incorporate symbols as a means of expressing abstract and mystical ideas. However, through the use of symbolism Yeats's poems are much more dispersed and fragmented than the work of earlier poets, and therefore may at first appear to be more difficult to understand because there is no direct (one to one) correspondence. Instead symbols become reverberating images that provide a contemplation and rearrangement of material things, where one must complete the meaning by filling in the gaps with different interpretations. 'The symbolists aimed for a poetry of suggestion rather than direct statement, evoking subjective moods through the use of private symbols, while avoiding the description of external reality or the expression of opinion.'

Focusing on the two poems 'Sailing to Byzantium' from The Tower (1928) and 'Byzantium' from The Winding Stair (1933) we can examine the symbols that Yeats uses to express himself and his ideas. Firstly, the images that...

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