Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Rose

Literary Traditions in Yeats' work

When writers use quotations, allusions, or traditions, they are referring to a piece of work or an event that has occurred prior to the moment of their writing. They use the past to help shape the work that they are crafting in the present. T.S. Eliot, in his landmark essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent", makes the point that "the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past." In reflecting on the present by using different traditions and quotations, the writer, perhaps inadvertently, also reflects upon and reshapes the past. Eliot insists that the poet must have a full knowledge of literature dating back to Homer, and that he must use this knowledge when producing a new piece of work. This usage of past works is evident in the writings of W.B. Yeats, who throughout his career made references to the past in order to make sense of the post-war world.

In "Leda and the Swan", Yeats tells the tale of the fall of Troy. This tale takes the form of a sonnet, but feels rather forced at times. In this way, the form reflects the subject, as sonnets are traditionally about love, not rape. The title too is misleading, in that it sounds like a fairy-tale, but...

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