Friday, November 03, 2006

A Top Ten of Yeats Poems

The Mountain Ben Bulben in County Sligo

Recently, after some discussion of highly touted lists of the most important novels in America over the last twenty-five years or the most important Irish writers over the last one hundred years, I posed a challenge to the Yeats discussion group to see what they felt were the ten most important (a difficult distinction) poems of Yeats. Their answers were excellent and demonstrated both the depth of their knowledge and the eclecticism of their approaches. So, here is my take on Yeats' ten most important poems. My list is more biographical than some, and certainly leaves out some very important and very good poems. But it was an interesting exercise.

“The Stolen Child” – for its tour of the magical places of Sligo that inspired him
“Cuchulain’s Fight with the Sea” – for the Cuchulain theme
“Adam’s Curse” – for Maude Gonne and his view on art
“The Wild Swans at Coole” – for his relationship to Coole and to beauty
“Easter, 1916” – for his relationship to politics
“The Tower” – for his thoughts on aging, legacy, and connection for place
“Words for Music Perhaps” – for its use of oppositional forces
“The Municipal Gallery Re-visited” – for his nostalgia
“Cuchulain Comforted” – for his return to the theme
“The Circus Animals Desertion” – for some of his last words on art


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