Yeats poetry began by echoing Shelly and Spenser and the pre-Raphaelites and Black remained a dominant influence throughout his poetic career. All the characteristic features and flavor of romantic poetry are present in most of Yeats early poems. The tendency to escape to far-off lands of romance or to nature is present in Yeats poetry. Characters from folklore, imagined wanderings with lovely phantoms and occasionally a Keatsian richness of the sensuous are all there in his early poems. This essay examines the romantic elements in W.B. Yeats’ poetry.
A very important ingredient of Yeats romanticism is his use of symbols. He has sometimes been hailed as the English-speaking representative of the French symbolist school. The Irish mythology is almost as rich in great stories and figures as the mythology. It was upon this store that he drew for symbols. The symbols of Yeats early poetry are occult in character. He makes use of the occult symbols of rose, cross, lily, bird, water, tree, moon, and sun. In the light of the poems “Sailing to Byzantium” and “The Second Coming” symbolism is the elemental vehicle Yeats employs to enhance those poems.
Self-revelation is yet another romantic element in Yeats poetry. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelly and Keats all wrote poetry that was deeply personal and that revealed their temperaments, their moods, their inmost thoughts, their feelings and so on. A large bulk of Yeats poetry relates to Yeats own personality.
There is no doubt that like a typical romantic poet, Yeats sought to formulate a general philosophy of life and history from personal problems and conflicts. “Sailing to Byzantium” is a specimen of personal touch. Here the poet bursts out in a vehement rage against the old age. The problems of old age haunted the poets mind and he felt miserable thinking about the sensual unfitness of an aged being. He sought can escape a refuge in the city Byzantium which stands for the world of art timeless and eternal. In fact, the sensual aspect of life used to attract him so much that he became restless.