Tags: yeats | poems | christianity

Yeats' Work: Influence of Religion On Irish Poet's Writing

By    |   Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014 06:35 PM

William Butler Yeats had a unique religious belief system that had a major influence on his writing.

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Yeats' poems were believed to give voice to the tumultuous time in history in which he lived. When he won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1923, the committee said it was given, “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.”

Yeats often used Christian themes in his poetry, but that was not the only religion that influenced his work. In the famous poem "The Second Coming," Yeats clearly references the Christian ideas of the second coming of Jesus Christ. The language of this poem could be interpreted as a reference to the Christian Armageddon. However, Yeats personal beliefs extended well beyond Christianity.

He held to a complicated view of history and religion’s place within it. As an Irish native, he was fond of the folklore and mysticism of his Celtic heritage. Religious references in "The Second Coming" have to do with Yeats' idea that the time of a Christian domination of history in Europe was coming to an end. Yeats was living in the aftermath of World War I and the Irish War of Independence. Both reflected Yeats' impressions of the world coming to an end.

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The influence of the religious culture in which he lived is also evident in Yeats' work. In the poem "Vacillation," Yeats shows he honors some of the more mystical Christian experiences. The poem speaks of “The body of Saint Teresa (which ) lies undecayed in tomb.” According to Catholic tradition, St. Teresa’s body has never decayed. She is considered one of the incorruptible saints of the church.

Yeats held such things in awe, and yet when speaking about his own religious views, he did not believe religion and state should mix. When Yeats was appointed to the first Irish senate, he spoke out against what he called "Roman Catholic ideas" becoming part of the political agenda of the new nation. In the debate about divorce, he warned that a government which enacted religious ideals as law would, “put a wedge in the midst of this nation.”

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William Butler Yeats had a unique religious belief system that had a major influence on his writing.
yeats, poems, christianity
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2014-35-29
Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014 06:35 PM
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