Colby Quarterly
Volume 21 Issue 3 September 9-1-1985 Article 3

Yeats and the Quest for Unity: "Among School Children" and Unity of Being
Evan Radcliffe

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Colby Library Quarterly, Volume 21, no.3, September 1985, p.109-121

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Radcliffe: Yeats and the Quest for Unity: "Among School Children" and Unity

Yeats and the Quest for Unity: "Among School Children" and Unity of Being
by EVAN RADCLIFFE Yeats have often sought to unify, or at least connect, the of his career. In have Canvarious aspectsby Yeats himself,this endeavor theylife to been followexample set for unifying his and work was ing

one of his principal projects. It was an ideal he sought for a long time"Hammer your thoughts into unity" was a sentence that he recalled as coming to him in his early twenties - 1 but it was also something he despaired of achieving-"Our own acts are isolated," he wrote in the Autobiography; "We are never a unity ... to ourselves."2 As a result, during his career Yeats tried out many ways of achieving and thinking about his ideal. None was more important to him than his concept of Unity of Being, which served as the focus for his thinking about unity in the 1920s. Yet although its importance has been noted by Yeats's critics, they have usually given it only perfunctory attention, invoking it frequently but loosely, and chiefly as a slogan whenever Yeats's poetry seems to join or reconcile opposites. Most often, probably, they have used it in accounts of the ending of "Among School Children," especially its final image: "0 body swayed to music, 0 brightening glance, / How can we know the dancer from the dance?"3 These...

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