Reviews of A Vision B

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The Saturday Review

12 March 1938

p. 19

William Rose Benét


Speculations of a Poet

A VISION. By W. B. Yeats. New York: The Macmillan Company. 1938. $3


SOME twenty years ago, through his wife’s experiments in automatic writing, the greatest poet of our time believes that he received communications from the other world at first purporting “to give you metaphors for poetry.” The communications finally built themselves into an entire geometrical system of symbolism, including “cones” and “gyres,” aided by exposition in sleep, and thwarted by those the communicators referred to as the Frustrators. It will all seem as bewilderingly esoteric to the layman as the prophetic books of Blake or the Swedenborgianism of Coleridge. The poet Yeats, of course, has always possessed a metaphysical mind of great subtlety, and the fabulous, from childhood, has been his meat and drink. He is the most psychic of Celts. But what surpasses all this in importance is that he is a great poet, a magician with language. His conjurations with words are the most extraordinary in our time. And whatever you may make of his Michael Robartes and Owen Aherne—in both the stories and the poem “The Phases of the Moon” that here concern them, there is magical writing. Perhaps it is a limitation of my mind that it can consign the diagram of the Historical Cones to limbo since, on the facing page stands that superb poem concerning Leda —and I had rather read “All Souls’ Night” at the end of the book than the thorough-going explication of the symbolism of the “Vision.”

    Yeats is a poet of imagination all compact, but also an artist whose hand has never swerved or botched. There is a decided kinship with Blake, for these reasons despite the differences of nationality.

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