An examination of the influence of the French symbolists upon the early poetry and aesthetics of W.B. Yeats

This thesis examines the direct influence of the French Symbolists upon the poetry and aesthetics of W.B. Yeats. The first part defines French SYmbolist theory and includes a discussion of the major poets and words of the movement, from Baudelaire to Mallarme. The second part if the thesis describe Yeats' relationship to the Symbolists and the effect of Symbolist thought upon his aesthetics. Yeats's interest in French thought and art began early in life. It was strengthened by his involvement with the Rhymers' club and his friendship with Arthur Symons, and eventually led him to Paris and direct contact with influential Symbolist figures. The outgrowth of this interest emerged as Yeats's first aesthetic philosophy in Ideas of Good and Evil, a thinly veiled translation of Symbolist thought and the poetry volume, The Wind Among the Reeds. The third part of this thesis examines the direct influence of the Symbolists upon both content and structure of the Wind volume. The Symbolists's disavowal of the material world and their desire to reach a supernatural ideal is both a central theme of Yeats Wind volume and a determinant of its structure. The aim of the Symbolists was to evoke, to intimate, and to avoid direct expression in order to convey a sense of ideal reality directly to the reader. The Wind volume's aim is the same; the language sharply diverges from Yeats's early work in its new technical prowess, a potency directly attributable to Symbolist method.