Yeats' Handling of Myth, Philosophy and History
The Remoteness, heroism and mystery of myth have always fascinated writers. Yeats too, was greatly enthused by the charm of myth and used it in numerous poems to reveal his complex philosophical understandings. Yeats was keen to replace traditional Greek and Roman mythological figures with figures from Irish folk lore. He moulded his philosophy after Berkley, Locke, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell’s philosophical implications. The juxtaposition of the Greek and the Irish myths, and his enthusiasm for old and modern philosophy has distinguished his poems from his cotemporaries. The following discussion hinges round Yeats’ handling of myth,philosophy, and history along with a critical inquiry into some of his major poems:
Leda and the Swan
Myth is used in In Leda and the Swan to express Yeats’ view of history. The legend of the girl Leda being ravished by the Greek God Zeus in the guise of a swan is interpreted by Yeats to illustrate his view of history. The mating of Zeus with Leda gave rise to the Greco-Roman civilisation with the birth of Helen. Helen was responsible for the Trojan War and Troy’s destruction as well as Agamemnon’s downfall. Agamemnon was the King of Argos and as the comandar of Greek army he went to Troy to recover Helen. Agamemnon was murdered by his wife Clytemnestra, as he returned home after Trojan victory. At the end of the poem the poet questions whether Leda was fully aware of the significance of the forced mating. In other words, the incident either simply refers that man are merely instrument of impersonal forces, or he has a portion of divine intelligence himself.
No Second Troy
Myth is used in No Second Troy to highlight the true nature of Maud Gonne. The title makes it clear that he equates her with Helen, the destructive force of Troy. Yeats says that Maud Gonne was capable of making man so violent that she could stir up masses against aristocracy. But this is not her...