The Feminine in William Butler Yeats' Poetry Essay

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The Feminine in William Butler Yeats' Poetry William Butler Yeats had a long history of involvement with women. He was deeply affected by all types of women; from love interests with Mrs. Olivia Shakespear, Maud Gonne and her adopted daughter Iseult, to a partnership and friendship with Lady Gregory, to marriage with Georgie Hyde-Lees, and finally the birth of his own daughter Anne Yeats. These relationships are reflected in his poetry on many different and multi-layered levels. The mentions of women in his work gives the readers some historical content as well as show the development of his feminine idea. As different as his many relationships with women were, so was his reflection of them in his writing. Yeats took people he…show more content…
He appreciates them in his poem "Friends" by writing, "Now must I these three praise - / Three women that have wrought / What joy is in my days" (CP 124). The comparison of his relationship with Maud Gonne to that of his wife, however, reveals something deeper in his poetry. Although with Maud Gonne Yeats experienced repeated rejection, she was his muse and his beloved. Gonne was unattainable and this tortured Yeats: "Why should I blame her that she filled my days / With misery" (CP 91). He often referred to her as a figure of mythology, usually Helen of Troy; thus creating a mysterious image. Her love was untouchable and her "beauty like a tightened bow, a kind / That is not natural". On the other hand, Hyde-Lees did respond to his chivalry and gave him "a wife, partner in magical evocations, and hostess to his literary friends" (Kline 25). Of which, these being such uninspired things, Yeats could not get from Gonne. Gonne was placed on a pedestal for Yeats to admire and praise while Hyde-Lees became a wife and mother figure that was real and objective. This win/lose situation led to the question: "Does the imagination dwell the most / Upon a woman won or a woman lost?" (CP 195). Kline comments, "The woman lost fascinates the imagination as symbol of all that is lost or elusive or unrealized as the woman won cannot" (25). Therefore Gonne remained a mystery, while the woman won (Hyde-Lees) lent little to his creativity

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