William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, he helped to found the Abbey Theatre, and in his later years served as an Irish Senator for two terms. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923, Yeats—along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn and others—was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival.
“This study is a sequel to my W. B. Yeats And Tradition, and the Yeats scholar may like to take all my work in conjunction; but I have tried to make it possible for the two books to be read independently.
“The aim of this book is to interpret what Yeats meant by the symbolism of five of his plays, Four Plays for Dancers and The Cat and the Moon; also by that of a number of related lyrics. I should stress, once and for all, that I am concerned primarily with what the symbols meant for the poet himself; Yeats of course hoped that the ‘words on the page’ would work for him, and he also believed in a collective unconscious which would operate to suggest his archetypal meanings to all readers; but it can of course be maintained that communication fails. I myself doubt whether this ever happens; but I cannot prove this statement in a book not concerned with technique; and this is why I define my field as I have done. What Yeats believed his plays and poems to mean is a valid field for scholarship; and the meaning he attached is certainly the archetypal meaning, which is therefore my main preoccupation.”—F. A. C. Wilson