A review by mikifoo
Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890's: An Anthology of British Poetry and Prose, by Lionel Pigot Johnson, Karl E. Beckson, Robert Smythe Hichens, John Barlas, W.B. Yeats, Mostyn Piggot, Oscar Wilde, Olive Custance, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Ernest Dowson, Arthur Symons, Walter Pater, Richard Le Gallienne, Aubrey Beardsley, Max Beerbohm, Michael Field, Alfred Bruce Douglas, John Gray, Theodore Wratislaw


This is part of the regional reading I'm doing because I'm staying in county Roscommon at the moment. County Roscommon is next to (south of) county Sligo: Yeats' country. It's beautiful in Roscommon, and Sligo is the nearest bustling town to where I'm hiding.

This collection was very enjoyable to read. You get faeries, nature, history, love poems, and politics. These poems evoke a whole range of emotions. If you don't know of his history with Maud Gonne, then be warned that there are quite a few poems dedicated to her and his love for her. Yeats's rhythm and meter aren't always consistent in one poem:

"O little did they care who danced between,
And little she by whom her dance was seen
So she danced. No thought,
Body perfection brought."
('The Double Vision of Michael Robartes', 180)

Nor are the rhymes:

"Whereby the haystack - and roof-leveling wind,
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind."
('A Prayer for my Daughter', 198)

What bothered me most was that a lot of poems focus on beauty, especially those poems that include women. I realize that he discusses beauty as he references art, but beauty is relevant in about two thirds of the compilation ('When You are Old', 37, 'The Old Age of Queen Maeve' 72, 'The Arrow', 85 'Adam's Curse', 86, 'Under the Moon', 89, 'Michael Robartes and the Dancer', 182, 'Prayer for My Daughter', 198, etc...). There must be other ways to discuss art and women. Yeats is creative, so I find it difficult to believe that he couldn't have come up with more interesting and unique ways to discuss art and women.

That being said, what I love are his own hyphenated adjectives and the way that he repeats phrases at the ends of stanzas of the incredible tales he tells, such as 'The Stolen Child' (23), 'September 1913' (122) and 'The Curse of Cromwell' (206). Some fantastic hyphenated adjectives that he has created are cloud-pale eyelids and dream-dimmed eyes (66), lute-thronged angelic door and death-pale hope (70), fool-driven land (108), war-wasted men (114) and the cut-throat north (143).

It's very easy to get lost in Yeats's poems. They are lyrical, engrossing, and emotionally-charged. I would highly recommend his poetry to all readers-especially those who don't "get" poetry. Yeats is accessible.

Some of my favourite poems are, 'The Cloak, the Boat, and the Shoes' (13), 'Ephemera' (19), 'The Madness of King Goll' (20), 'Never Give All the Heart' (92), 'Words' (94), 'Reconciliation' (96), 'King and No King' (97), 'Brown Penny' (109), 'To a Child Dancing in the Wind' (142), 'That the Night Come' (148), 'The Magi' (149), 'A Coat' (150), 'The Wild Swans at Coole' (151), 'An Irishman Foresees his Death' (153), 'The Cat and the Moon' (174), 'Michael Robartes and the Dancer' (182) and 'Are you Content?' (218).

My partner bought me this book for Christmas. He purchased it from Libre in Sligo.