Chapter

<i>Yeats and Remorse</i>

PETER McDONALD

in Serious Poetry

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780199235803
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191714542 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199235803.003.0002
 Yeats and Remorse

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The registers of regretful memory, or retrospective doubt and qualm, are central to William Butler Yeats's best poetry. These registers find their focus in his poetic vocabulary with the word ‘remorse’, a term which denotes something more than regret, though also one which suggests significance other than the purely occasional or personal for that regret. For Yeats, remorse exists in the most intimate relation to the poetic impulse, and happens even in the textures of the poetry itself. At the same time, remorse is a force against which the poetry exerts its own rhetorical counter-pressures. This chapter examines how Yeats expresses remorse in his poems, John Quinn's criticism of Yeats's alleged failure to ‘make himself over’ in relation to World War I, and Yeats's rejection of Sean O'Casey's play The Silver Tassie for the Abbey Theatre. Yeats's poem Reprisals, which follows a remorseless rhetorical course, is also discussed.

Keywords: William Butler Yeats; poetry; remorse; regret; British literature; John Quinn; Sean O'Casey

Chapter.  14913 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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