WB Yeats reads “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”
Listen to WB Yeats reading his own poetry. Yeats made these recordings for the wireless in 1932, 1934 and the last on 28 October 1937 when he was 72. He died on January 28 1939. The photograph shows him sitting before the microphone in 1937.
“The Song of Wandering Aengus” captures the essence of Yeats’s early poetry.
Two further influences were the occult and the languorous world of the Celtic twilight poets of the 1890s.
Yeats saw himself as writing for Ireland and out of an Irish poetic tradition. However, his Ireland is the shadowy world of Celtic legend, rather than a contemporary reality.
Yeats’s middle period poetry can be read in the volumes from The Green Helmet (1910) to Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921). Subject matter and attitude change. Love is dealt with in a more direct, questioning manner.
Yeats still writes about Ireland, but it has become a real Ireland aspects of which irritate or puzzle him by their complexity. He now writes about real events, such as the death of Robert Gregory; and real people (Lady Gregory) and real places (Coole Park). With these changes comes a noticeable change in style from the meditative rhythms of the earlier verse to the more muscular rhythms and tighter syntax of this middle period.
We can hear this new distinctive voice in the two poems, “No Second Troy” and “Easter 1916”.
The final phase of Yeats’s poetry begins with “The Tower” (1928). Yeats constructs himself as a very self-conscious bard in poems like “The Tower” and “Sailing to Byzantium”.
He publicly celebrates Ireland’s culture which he sees embodied in Coole Park and Lady Gregory and which for him become emblematic of a nostalgically remembered Anglo-Irish Ascendancy dispensation. He contemplates old age and its difficulties, and meditates on the function of art in life.
Yeats was also an Irish Senator, reflected in the poem, “Among School Children”, together with “Sailing to Byzantium”, can serve as exemplary verse from the last phase of Yeats’s poetry.
Yeats2015 Poetry Readings
For Yeats2015 many well-known poets, actors, writers, musicians, academics, politicians and journalists helped to create an archive of poetry readings that was shared as a world-first celebration of Yeats’ poetry. Listen to the Poetry Readings
Poem of the Week
Many thanks to Charika Swanepoel for choosing these poems.
Charika Swanepoel is a South African Yeats scholar and Doctoral student at the English Department of the University of Turku in Finland. Her research interests include Modernism, religious syncretism, and secular philosophy. Some of her creative work has been published by Rattle, Glass Poetry, Literator, the T.S. Eliot Society of the UK and others. You can follow her on Twitter @CharikaSW or Instagram @charikaswanepoel.
February 11th To an Isle in the Water
February 14th Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
February 18th A Poet to His Beloved
February 24th Beautiful Lofty Things
March 3rd Fergus and the Druid
March 10th The Song of Wandering Aengus
March 17th Into the Twilight
March 25th Adam’s Curse
March 31st A Deep-sworn Vow
April 6th The Dawn
April 14th Running to Paradise
April 22nd The White Birds
April 28th Lapis Lazuli
May 5th Sailing to Byzantium
May 12th Meru
May 19th An Acre of Grass
May 26th Beggar to Beggar cried
June 2nd He wishes his Beloved were Dead
June 9th The Fiddler of Dooney
June 16th The Lake Isle of Innisfree
June 23rd Red Hanrahan’s Song about Ireland
June 30th Those Dancing Days are Gone
July 7th Mohini Chatterjee
July 14th No Second Troy
July 21st September 1913
July 28th Solomon to Sheba
August 4th The Fisherman
August 11th The Rose of the World
August 18th To his Heart, bidding it have no Fear
August 24th To Ireland in the Coming Times
September 1st Towards Break of Day
September 8th What Then?
September 15th Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad?