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Metaphor & Reality Through British Literature; Focusing on the Works of William B. Yeats

Metaphor & Reality Through British Literature; Focusing on the Works of William B. Yeats

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Published by HeatherDelancett
Metaphor through [British] literature, especially poetry, is man’s aspiration to illustrate and contrive his own reality by conveying his perceptions of “That Which IS” (reality) to another being.

Metaphor through [British] literature, especially poetry, is man’s aspiration to illustrate and contrive his own reality by conveying his perceptions of “That Which IS” (reality) to another being.

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Published by: HeatherDelancett on May 08, 2012
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Metaphor & Reality Through British Literature; Focusing on the Works of William B.



Metaphor through [British] literature, especially poetry, is man’s aspiration to illustrate and contrive his own reality by conveying his perceptions of “That Which IS” (reality) to another being.

I. II.


Language & Consciousness (semantic relationships) Literature as an Expression of Reality A. The Nature of Reality? B. Reality described by Metaphor Focus on William B. Yeats A. Metaphor Through Yeats’s Poetry B. His Reality Through Metaphor

“Man, the user of language, is alive, and according as he lives more intensely his thoughts and utterances require language that can express their living form.” (Wheelwright, 5)
For many readers, to live intensely means little more than neurotic excitement, automatically dismissing spiritual extensions. However, when the mind is sensitized for new awareness, the problem of discerning subjective and objective perspectives can be explored. As man goes through life as a symbolizing animal, he not only performs, but also means and intends and seeks to know. Awareness as a subjective experience is outreaching, always somewhat selfexpressing, and in some confidence and wonder about the world that extends beyond itself. Enlivened writers probe the capacities, limits, experiences, and mysteries of the mind. Ontology; the nature and relationships of being, is inseparable with Semantics, as language and conception are eternal attempts to grasp What Is, which is meaningless without the first. As language, and therefore perception, becomes stereotyped [steno-language, it loses its fluidity, ceases to be alive and fails to convey awareness. As consciousness heightens and enlightens, the failings of our language become increasingly apparent, from which it moves to the forefront of philosophical inquiry. As the Romantic writers questioned in bright new ways just what human beings could know, be and do, their investigations challenged particular theories of modern science and human development. These revolutionary thinkers sought to abandon old ideas about language and to cast new forms as they quested to rejuvenate the senses of human possibility and perversity in all shapes in both literature and life. What emerged may be called metapoetics, which is directing to an ontology not as much of concepts as of poetic sensitivity.


Language and Consciousness

As the limitations of Western linguistic perspective began to become more evident, two factors, a negative and a positive, were principally significant. This connotative distinction line may have been constructed from modes of language such as the division of noun, verb, and adjectivefunctioning grammatical parts speech, which is virtually absent and undefined in Ancient Eastern thought, where judgement must be based on context. Eastern philosophy was increasingly attempted in translation, fueled by Friedrich Max Muller‟s arranging of the major literary and religious treasures of the East in English translation. Due to this breakthrough achievement, the primarily Latin-centered semantic considerations of the 17th and 18th centuries were envisaged in a new way. The significance of these fresh semantic perspectives, however, have mainly received clear definition in the 20th century. Through careful contextualization, logical discussion is a strive for all participants in the conversation to use every word in a single and understood sense and where the norm of shared exactitude is applied in judging the intelligible caliber of the discussion in which they enter. The fullness of expression and the vast range of public intelligibility are, nevertheless, contrary aims,

which are generally found to be in conflict. Being that one motive of communication is social range; the same words are repeated without examination or critical integrity, becoming static and habit by prescription. From this stems scientific and logical language which is closed by stipulation, or strict adherence to the law of identify (“where rigid Reason reigns alone” – Freneau). However convenient it is to try to simplify in an effort to be widely understood, its powers of reference are limited by just how far and by what devices it is possible to give fluid uncaptured meanings definition. A greater quest for knowledge and yearnings of the mind toward what lies beyond the grasp of words as already used, or prescriptively defined, cannot be satisfied either by public agreement or secure, controlled precision or position.


Literature as an Expression of Reality

A. The Nature of Reality The term consciousness is used here freely in its most casual signification of awareness. The interrelations of sense-awareness, mental judgement, use of language, myth, and art have caused language to become increasingly regarded not only as a necessary means by which philosophical thought may be developed and communicated, but also a basic ingredient of such thought. The traditional dualism of mind vs. matter or subjective vs. objective, has tended to mold and direct much of the philosophical thought since the 17th century. Emerging from this dualism is a 3-fold thought structure, in which subject, object, and linguistic medium act as inter-causative and irreducible roles in the formation of what, for desire of a better name, we may call reality. Letting S stand for the knowing subject, L for the language (in the broadest possible sense) by which S undertakes symbolic expression, and O for the meant or sought-for object, the basic structure of any situation (as we, as humans, can inquire about it), may be schematically represented as an equilateral triangle where S flows to the other base O, and also to the peak of L, which in turn flows into the base of O. None of the components can be conceived as existing alone, apart from interplay with both of the other factors. The human need to define, (and consequently confine), „an existing thing‟ by purely objective means and measuring techniques, limits the instruments that he uses, sets the limits to the kinds of questions he can ask, the kinds of reality he can conceive, and ways in which he can conceive it. When it becomes clear that the essential property to an object or a situation can not consist of words alone, it is given a place in living experience, in which S, L, and O serve as mutually conditioning elements. This makes the desire to define neither subjectively nor linguistically admitted as having any relevance unless they can be shared in exactly the same way (stenomeanings) by a very large number of persons using the same language or group of intertranslatable languages – this digital method functions by pointing to examples, which may induce sharable abstractions, and in these they have a perfection that is never achieved in actual experience, due to individual‟s maps and varying connotations.

Semantic Positivism, (language employed for the purpose of either emoting of persuading), or open language, is necessarily inexact and vague, as over-precision detracts a seeker from apprehending the object or situation in its full nature. The soft focus of „indirect allusion may, with reference to a problematic situation, be more relevantly precise than a more logical technique would be”; “for the type of exactitude demanded is impossible to a situation that is not analyzable into identical units” (Wheelwright, 5). As the living truths of human experience are always somewhat dark, kaleidoscopic and elusive, language must adapt itself to the vague, shifting, often paradoxical phenomena that are an essential part of the World. Language striving towards adequacy will bear unconscious or at most, partially conscious traces of the tensions and character of the experience that gave it birth.

B. Reality as Described by Metaphor

The basis of poetry, when conscious, is of finding suitable word-combinations to represent some aspect or another of the pervasive and evasive living tensions which shape our perspectives of reality. Paradox, plurisignation, and wit-writing represent sophisticated developments of poetry, but not its essence. Poetic language seeks to refer to something beyond itself, the words eliciting a more specific power of perspectival individuality, partly creating and partly revealing certain unguessed aspects of What Is capable of invoking a fresh response and bright insight on the part of every qualified attentive hearer or reader. “Affective connotation of a word,”is “the aura of personal feelings it arouses” (Hayakawa, 2). This perspective will be partly its own and partly drawn from the reality of which it is a part, hence the difference between mimesis and logical abstraction, which relies its possibility of truth upon the fact that readers will know of it, stating a probable connection between ideas that are already understood adequately; Mimesis represents by participating, words engaged in ritual combat with that What Is, finding varied expression through rhythm and imagery and their attendant shifts in mood. What I call the „auditory imagination‟ is the feeling for syllable and rhythm, penetrating far below the conscious levels of thought and feeling, invigorating every word; sinking to the most primitive and forgotten, returning to the origin and bringing back, seeking the beginning and the end. It works through meanings, certainly, or not without meaning in the ordinary sense, and fuses the old and obliterated and the trite, the current and the new and surprising, the most ancient and the most civilized mentality. (T.S. Elliot) Metaphor, by its root meanings, implies change (meta) and motion (phora), the reference being toward semantic motion and change. The essential test of metaphor is not a rule of grammatical form, but the quality of semantic transformation that is brought about, the purpose of such metamorphosis to intensify one‟s reality. Metaphor‟s scale “is the psychic depth at which the things of the world, whether actual or fancied, are transmuted by the cool heat of

imagination” (Wheelwright, 5). There are two main elements of metaphoric activity, the outreaching and the combining, which appear most effectually in alliance. Epiphor, standing for the outreach and extension of meaning through comparison, was derived from Aristotle‟s Poetics, in which he describes metaphor as the transference (epiphora) of a name [from that which it usually denotes] to some other object. The comparison of that which is a readily more graspable image acts as a semantic vehicle that moves “over on to” (epi) what is the vague, strange, problematic, and obscurely known tenor. „Literal meaning‟ is that which from comparisons are drawn, its central activity. Already discovered and obvious comparisons do not provide the energy-tension and ceases to be “an intuitive perception of the similarity of dissimilars” (Aristotle). To be vibrant, the connections must come as a shock of recognition within the reader of inner human truth. Diaphor, standing for the creation of new meaning by juxtaposition and synthesis, is movement “through” (dia) certain particulars of actual or imagined experience. The association of ideas through juxtaposition is not based on similarity, but on emotional congruity to the before unapprehended relations of things. When a poet‟s mind is perfectly equipped for his work, it is consistently amalgamating disparate experiences; the ordinary man‟s experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The latter fall in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have nothing to do with the noise of the typewriter or the smell of cooking; in the mind of the poet these experiences are already forming new wholes. – T.S. Elliot “The Metaphysical Poets” The modes of combination between epiphor and diaphor are as various as the fertility of poetic imagination allows them to be, and in the greatest cases of metaphor they are indissolubly blended complementaries.


Focus on William B. Yeats

A. Metaphor through Yeats’s Poetry

William Butler Yeats may be known as the most widely admired of modern poets and the most intensely effectual vehicle of all poets alike. His intrinsic gift of enchanting the ear give the musical quality and element of song present in all of his writings. His cultivation of style is lithe and muscular, serious and unruly, prophetic and worldly, conversational and yet formal; enabling him to write poetry which has matching impact on the reader as of its conception. The brilliant use of metaphor by Yeats is his attempt at preparation “to make the disparate interests of his life a unity through combining symbols” (Rosenthal, 4). His readings of special symbolism into all relationships led him to devote his adult life to the study of mystical symbolism. His audacity and boldness with literal experimentation concocted images to trouble a restful

imagination, as he wove symbolic effects in subtly, almost invisibly, for more effective transference that raises above mere technique. Yeats unfolds paradoxical insights by his approach of an experiencing of relationships and intuitions at many different levels. Like Wordsworth, he used folk sources, especially those of his Irish heritage (which is typified as aristocratic, disinterested, and aesthetic), to give a degree of ephemeral humanity, but to which he adds magical incantation as he presents glimpses into self-hypnotic realms of occultism. The equation is a mystical schematic message, with rationalistic dispatches defiant of the underlying theme, in an extremely personal tone. His mysteries were broached not only from a poet‟s point of view, but of one who has also crossed over the line into belief, despite his use of skeptical intelligence to balance himself. His outlet of expression was never (at least publicly) used as a private mirror, though he used much personal relationship to form his works. Though often written in first person about personal experience, Yeats rarely leaves himself nakedly exposed, assuming an impersonality that is removed from the feeling first motivating him.

B. His Reality Through Metaphor

I see my life go drifting like a river From change to change; I have been many things – A green drop in the surge, a gleam of light Upon a sword, a fir-tree on a hill, An old slave grinding at a heavy quern, A king sitting upon a chair of gold – And all of these things were wonderful and great‟ But now I have these grown nothing, knowing all. Ah! Druid, Druid, how great webs of sorrow Lay hidden in the small slate-coloured thing! (Fergus & the Druid, 1892)

Fear of bitter mystery and the ruthless reality which cannot be escaped is the prevailing theme to Yeats‟s writing. His disturbingly established belief that “no one can choose absolutely between two opposites,” laces his poetry with associations with others, and personal problems

and predicaments in living between realms. “The small slate-coloured thing” is a “little bag of dreams,” given to Fergus by a Druid to make him forget he was once a King. He has given up his power to learn the “dreaming vision,” both intoxicating and bitter, a poet‟s wisdom. This particular piece is quite revealing to Yeats‟s nature, as he revised it over many years, fueled with even more flame than his usual editing ardor. Some of Yeats‟s earliest and strongest influences were Blake, Spenser, Boehme, and his own father, John Yeats, who had studied in law and then pursued a path as an artist. John Yeats was a highly articulate man and skilled poet who‟s own separation from the church and common social view paved the way for his son, who by his late twenties had delved deep into arcane studies and become a member of The Hermetic Society of the Golden Dawn. The systems of belief of this organizations are rooted in theosophy, magick, and spiritualism, with pagan foundations. The acceptance of the existence of magick as a craft and the ever-present power among the elements, especially four; earth, water, air and fire, is somewhat subtly arranged within his use of these elements, and sometimes directly invoked. However, Yeats‟s interests and views were forever fluctuating, and he advanced in power and consciousness to the day of his death, the evidence of this clear in chronologically ordered poetry collections. Yeats became the great poetic spokesman of modern sensibility not because of his „system‟ and eccentric interests themselves, but in part because of the way they helped him encompass the many possibilities of the Self and therefore reach deeply into the soul of the century. – (Rosenthal, 4)

(Works Cited available on request to interested parties)

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