W.B Yeats And His Work The Celtic Twilight Research Paper
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William Butler Keats is one of the most significant nature writers to have emerged out of Great Britain. He is credited for reviving Irish literature and making it significant amongst other English literature. His command on prose as well as poetry led him on the way to create masterpieces which the writers even today se as inspiration. Keats has a specific “naturistic” style which is reflected in the narrative of his stories as well as poems. While explaining the plot or the theme through his words, he always managed to pay homage to the different aspects of nature as well.
“The Celtic Twilight” published in 1893 is one of his most significant works which highlight the beauty of nature and emphasize the various narrative forms as well. The book is a collection of various folklore stories which almost always makes the readers reflect upon the complex, human condition. However, the stories also force us to pay attention to the various details about nature which the writer points out.
The stories are some of the folklore stories which are heard in the Irish lands; however Keats adds new life to them by bringing them to life through the complex detailing of his subjects and the flow of his narrative. They speak of fairies and demons and spirits with such great precision that they seem to be supernatural beings with humanistic intentions and desires. These spirit folk, through his writing are made more approachable to humans and readers’ interest is kept alive through as they wish to learn more about these worlds. As Tim Wenzell says:
“From an existence completely devoid of the material, it becomes necessary for the poor people of Ireland to defer to their imaginations; their reliance on the wholly unreal becomes as essential as food and water” (Wenzell, 2007)
This affirms to the fact that Keats’s work broadened the imaginations of his fellow countrymen. They were forced to see the various sides of nature which brought alive by his writing. Hence it is safe to say that Keats used the medium of a common tool of understanding of the common people to make them pay attention to the colourful aspects of nature as well as reflect upon the complexity of the human minds.
Yeats realized the need of the Irish folk to pay homage to their roots and history and hence was driven by the need to develop narratives which did exactly that. Ireland is known for its scenic beauty and Keats through his words makes this beauty come alive. The scenes which he paints vividly for the readers are in fact derived from reality. This is the basis and impetus of Keats success as a nature writer.
Yeats at the beginning of this book declares that:
“I have desired, like every artist, to create a little world out of the beautiful, pleasant, and significant things of this marred and clumsy world, and to show in a vision something of the face of Ireland to any of my own people who would look where I bid them.” (Yeats, 1981)
This comment by Keats explains that he wanted to mesh the real world and the beauty of nature into the folklore narrated to him. Yeats, being true to his roots wanted to portray to the world his land and its culture and preserve it for the generations which were to come. Keats uses the words “beautiful”, “pleasant”, “significant”, “marred”, and “clumsy” in the same sentence for this world, which means that he realizes the harsh realities of it and wishes to elaborate on the better and more positive things of it. Ireland being a land full of Celtic culture and history proved to be good subject topic which Yeats elaborated upon through this specific piece of work.
“Dhoya” is one of the stories which force the readers to analyze nature in a manner unfamiliar to them. It focuses upon a hero Dhoya, who is a Sligo legend who is deserted at the “Bay of Ballah” and his journey of self-actualization. Upon being abandoned by other nomadic tribes due to his uncontrollable fury, Dhoya is left at the mercy of the forest. In the forest he realizes the beauty of it and all the different elements which contribute to this beauty. Our hero encounters various incidents in his life at the forest, such as a raging bull and a mysterious pool. In his state of despondency in love, our hero reflects upon his life and pays tribute to the moon through various little sacrifices. He believes that if he appeases the moon, he can also appease his lover. Through his reference, the writer is trying to highlight the importance of the moon in folklore and how strongly the Irish people considered it to be a symbol of beauty.
Another interesting aspect of this story is the way Yeats speaks of the complexity of the human nature by using a spirit from the “other” realm as a symbol. Dhoya is united with a spirit who is looking for love in this realm. She longs to gain love which is something that she has not been able to acquire in her own world. However, Dhoya’s affection is shared by a man from her own world as well as a fairy. Dhoya manages to defeat that man through a duel, however, he cannot overpower the fairy in a match of chess. This is a comment by Yeats on how the intelligence if rightly harvested has the ability to mould nature to its will. Dhoya is unable to do so because he emphasizes on his strength and loses his love to the fairy. The spirit which seeks mortal love is a symbol of the way humans wish to know more about the spirit world and wish to encounter the unknown. It is a comment on the way human beings are not content in their lives and do not take the time to appreciate the beauty and vibrancy in their own world. Hence it is safe to say that Dhoya is one of the most perfect examples of Keats’s signature homage to nature.
Yeats also very interestingly draws parallels between the spirit world and the real world. The interesting thing to note from this is he manages to capture the “naturistic” side of both the world. Even though he is writing of an imaginary spirit world, he paints it in a light which makes it seem homologous to the real world due to the detailing of the aspects of nature. As elaborated in the analysis of Dhoya, Yeats uses the spirit world as a symbol to elaborate on our own and through this mode of elaboration he manages to keep the interest of the readers alive. Many critics have even commented that this piece of work is the perfect combination of Celtic folklore as well as modern narrative. According to Edward Hirsch “The Celtic Twilight is a curious hybrid of the story and essay” (Hirsch, 1981). He elaborates this by saying that the writer uses these two forms to increase the level of a reader’s understanding about the two forms just as he meshes the two worlds in this piece of work. He maintains the narrative value of the folklore stories but makes certain that they are clear enough to and well elaborated like an essay is. As mentioned above, Yeats realized the need for paying attention the things in life which humans tend to often ignore such as nature. He paints these factors vividly in his narrative; this is the beauty on which the piece of work rests, and the main reason for this text’s success.
Yeats being a nature writer might seem like an unlikely choice to write a collection for folklore stories. However, the beauty of “The Celtic Twilight” rests on the fact that the writer meshes his own style of writing into the Irish folklore stories. These are stories which were narrated to him by various people, but by adding his own style of writing to them, he made them a part of his own identity. It could even be said that this itself was the impetus for his writing for this piece. Keats very brilliantly manages to make these stories much more interesting to read rather than heard from the mouths of the local storytellers. As mentioned before, Irish folklore pays homage to their history. By writing these stories, Yeats has immortalized these stories for generations to come. This is one of the foremost reasons as to why Yeats is considered to be responsible for the revival of Irish literature.
Keats comments about this book that:
“Hope and Memory have one daughter and her name is Art” (Yeats, 1981)
These words explain the book very aptly and completely. It also affirms the arguments above that Keats intentionally painted two worlds in this book. He spoke of the spirit world and the real world. However, there are various layers of worlds which he elaborates upon. He meshes the world of tales and essays through his style. These two styles are brought together by him in order to make stories come alive in a much clearer way for his readers. As he says, hope and memory have been used by him as the main impetus of the book. He caters to the hopes of humans who wish for other worlds and have desires of miracles and magic. These are the readers who Yeats targets through “The Celtic Twilight” to ignite within them the spirit of reflection and thinking. He makes them think about nature, about human conditions, about the complexities of the human mind and behavior however this thought process is not ignited to induce only intellectual realization. This is induced to and help them escape from the “marred and clumsy” world he talks about into a world which is full of the realization of their dreams.
Fillis, I. (2007). An Examination of Celtic Craft and the Creative Consciousness as a Contribution to Marketing Creativity. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 15(1), 7-16. doi:10.1080/09652540601088633
Hirsch, E. (1981). Coming Out Into The Light: W. B. Yeats's "The Celtic Twilight" (1893, 1902). Journal Of The Folklore Institute, 18(1), 1. doi:10.2307/3814184
Wenzell, T. (2007). YEATS AND THE CELTIC TWILGHT: Between the Worlds. Yeats Eliot Review.
Yeats, W. (1981). The Celtic twilight. Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire: Smythe.
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