Technique in the Earlier Poems of Yeats

In memory of Richard Eilmann, sponsor, exemplar and friend
  • Helen Vendler
Part of the Yeats Annual book series (YA)


The Yeats most of us know, reread, and quote is the Yeats of the accomplished years following Responsibilities (1914). But the groundwork of the adult triumph was laid in Yeats’s twenties, thirties, and forties, in a series of technical investigations into the possibilities of rhyme, metre, stanza form, and lexical resemblance. Though a good deal has been written about Yeats’s early themes, there has been little systematic or even anecdotal investigation of his technical work in the first half of his publishing life. I can give here only a few instances of his most interesting technical forays, suggesting how important such forms were to him, early and late, but the poems I take up will I hope draw attention to the inventiveness he insisted on for himself.


Extra Line Level Shore Hilly Land Rhyme Word Syntactic Unit 
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  1. 1.
    Marjorie Perloff, Rhyme and Meaning in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats (The Hague: Mouton, 1970) passim.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Epitaph”, Poems (London: Oxford University Press, 1961) pp. 491–2.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, ed. H. J. Oliver (London: Methuen, 1959); see the note on p. 140. The fact that Plutarch says that the last portion of the epitaph was written by Callimachus would also have recommended it to Yeats’s attention.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1991

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  • Helen Vendler

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