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Louis MacNeice and the Irish Poetry of his Time$
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Tom Walker

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198745150

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198745150.001.0001

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MacNeice’s Byzantium

MacNeice’s Byzantium

Chapter:
(p.158) 6 MacNeice’s Byzantium
Source:
Louis MacNeice and the Irish Poetry of his Time
Author(s):

Tom Walker

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198745150.003.0007

This chapter returns to MacNeice’s reception of the work of Yeats, extending previous accounts of the presence of Yeats’s poetry in MacNeice’s later collections. It shows how MacNeice’s late poetry moves beyond Yeats’s Irish identity and instead engages with Yeats’s thought, inhabiting through a tissue of allusions and echoes a particular Yeatsian terrain: Byzantium. MacNeice’s work interrogates the consolations that Yeats found for art through his cyclical theories of history and Neoplatonic idealism, by exposing them to the chastening implications of the nuclear age—a pervasive anxiety throughout MacNeice’s later work. Yet this critique runs alongside the use MacNeice’s poetry continues to find for the formal resources of Yeats’s poetry. Through devices such as refrain, MacNeice’s work dialectically develops Yeats’s legacy to Irish poetry as one of thought and song. Poetic form not only provides a forum for thought, but also a means for his poetry to keep on thinking.

Keywords:   intertextuality, Yeats, Byzantium, history, idealism, Neoplatonism, nuclear age, poetic form

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