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Language in Yeats, Eliot and Auden

Language in Yeats, Eliot and Auden

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Published by CeciliaMarchetto

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Published by: CeciliaMarchetto on May 30, 2012
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As stated in the previous section, both Yeats and Auden relied on elaborate linguistic artifice to create certain tropes

. There are two outstanding details that might point to similitudes between Yeats’s and Auden’s language. First of all the rhymes and alliterations mentioned (“count”/”mount” or the alliteration of /w/ sounds) have their parallels in Auden. In “As I Walked Out One Evening”, the alliteration and rhythm mimic the clocks. Second, in the same poem the contrast between delusion and reality is highlighted by the interruption of death in the lovers’ bliss: “Time watches from the shadow / And coughs when you would kiss”. Although in a negative, fatalistic fashion it may have been influenced by the interruption of the swans in Yeats’s “The Wild Swans At Coole”. The swans, by mounting, interrupt the poet while he is counting. “Counting” as a metaphor for the scientific way of knowledge, also stands for some kind of self-deception, whereas the flight of the swans implies the irruption of reality in it. Both images might be seen as sharing a similar meaning, in their different themes, in Auden self-deception is in the belief in eternal love; in Yeats it lies in trying to understand beauty in a rational way. The three authors we are treating draw their vocabulary from different sources. Yeats employs a plethora of words and proper names related to Irish folklore, the supernatural and some terms with esoteric associations, e.g. the symbolic “Rose” of the Rosicrucians, or the “Tree” in which Qabbalists encoded the cosmos. Although he writes with some scepticism about many things, his rhetoric is quite elevated, whereas Eliot’s shows a greater tendency towards irony. As regards Auden, his use of psychoanalytic vocabulary might slightly bind his language to Yeats’s and Eliot by the use of capitalized, personified abstract nouns, but in general it results much more objective and direct. In general both share some attitudes towards the use of language. Eliot was also deeply interested in myth and in integrating it into his poems. Although he chose to reflect this more in the structure than in particular passages, there are many mentions to characters like the Cumaean Sybil (from the excerpt of the Satyricon quoted in “The Waste Land”), allusios to the Fisher King, the Grail (“The Waste Land”) or the Magi (“The Hollow Men”). He feels more attracted towards ordinary experience, and he reflects it on his vocabulary. His choice is that of common, even conversational speech sometimes. Yeats still preserves a hope to see in those ordinary things, “in those poor foolish things that live a day, / eternal beauty wandering on her way”. He often takes as subject of his poetry common elements, but confers them a symbolic identity. He won’t pay attention to the corruption, dirt and sordidity of the urban setting, the meaningless, mechanized temporality of the “burnt-out days of smokey days” that Eliot wrote about. The whirling wind in Ireland brings, for some old country people at least (and for the poet if he has the fortune of attaining Vision) the hosting of the Sidhe, whereas in London it brings dirt and newspaper bits. Both often use similar devices, taking in account that, even though Eliot sought to avoid Romantic rhetoric, he tried to use his everyday images in a defamiliarised mode. The lines we quoted previously from “Coole Park and Ballylee” are comparable to Eliot’s “Prelude I”, and the sudden pause that introduces “And then, the lightning of the lamps”. They both attempt the same linguistic trick to access the reader’s consciousness. The

This ambivalence in meaning appears sometimes but less insistently in Auden. absent in Yeats. However. . that we can see in the cab horse that “steams and stamps”. this image represents his usage of everyday detail in poetry. Even though the three poets differ substantially in their choice of vocabulary. the “cigarette smouldering on a border” might be referring to the border of the garden. but also to a political border. we can still maintain that due to their formal manipulation of meaning they developed analogue figurative devices. which differs substantially from Yeats. At the beginning of “Consider”.difference consists also in Eliot’s merging of nature and mechanization.

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