In a recent interview with the BBC the Irish Ambassador to Germany Daniel Mulhall outlined an encomiastic profile of the great Irish Bard, in the wake of a series of cultural and artistic events which will celebrate Yeats in Ireland and abroad throughout 2015, for the impending 150th anniversary of his birth.
Mulhall seems to reassert there a classic assumption of the (academic) Yeatsian critical reception, according to which Yeats’s early poetry would be usually appreciated by the common reader for its suggestive and evocative contours, typically Romantic, but it wouldn’t be so by the Academia, which, like Mulhall, seems to privilege the poet’s later production, seen as modern, more complex and refined, from the expressive and thematic point of view.
Thus Mulhall, aligning himself with most Yeatsian scholars’ position, clearly sets a distinction between Yeats’s early, juvenile, production, read as a minor expression of Yeats’s genius, and his later, mature production, so that it is possible to identify an evolution within the Irish poet’s œuvre.
According to this position, in the last decades of the 19th century, Yeats’s poetry, quintessentially represented by poems such as “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, would directly spring from the inherited tradition of Romantic poets (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley), being characterised by a certain vagueness of expression and representing a world of intimate introspective reflections, often hesitating and melancholy.
Besides, in those years Yeats matured an enchantment with Ireland, to which he gave voice through a lyrical poetic expression, as just seen: the poet, that is, started nourishing his idea of a cultural rebirth of his nation, whose identity could be forged anew by getting back its ancient, legendary traditions, lost in time, which would be the core of a new Irish literature – in English.
Such juvenile enchantment with the Irish question, however, would be replaced, according to Mulhall, by a disenchantment with his own nation, from the early 1900s on. Yeats became more and more engaged with the historical, social, political events of Ireland (he was appointed as Senator of the Irish Free State in 1922), but his engagement was altogether disappointed by the actual developments themselves. His longed-for cultural nationalism grew more and more into a political nationalism, often tinged by violence and manipulated by a hypocrite bourgeoisie.