The Artist and the Antithetical

In an anecdote Yeats recounts about the painter Audrey Beardsley and himself in The Tragic Generation, Yeats asks the painter if all that he draws is inspired by rage against antiquity, and Beardsley replies, “If it were so inspired, the work would be in no way different.” Yeats believes that what Beardsley meant is that Beardsley drew with such sincerity that no change in motive could have changed the image he produced. Elsewhere, in The Stirring of the Bones, Yeats explains a concept called Daimon, which he defines as ones own buried self speaking through ones friends. I believe the idea of Daimon is a term Yeats applied to the common occurrence of one hearing in someone else’s statement a sentiment deeply true of oneself, and I believe Yeats’ anecdote about Beardsley recounts just such an occurrence. That is, when Yeats heard Beardsley express the concept that art should be true to the image it is exploring, unaltered by the artists’ motivations for exploring it, he heard the underlying power of his own poetry expressed by his friend. The most exciting moments in Yeats’ poetry are when he writes about his images so sincerely that he takes us to unexpected, often seemingly contradictory, conclusions. In this essay, I will explore just such moments that apply to Yeats’ growing ideas about the relationship of the primary to the antithetical, in the poems: “The Stolen Child,” “Easter, 1916,” and “Lapis Lazuli,” while referencing some of Yeats’ other works along the way.

The Stolen Child

“The Stolen Child,” is based on the culturally familiar folklore story of faeries enticing a living child away to faeryland. However, Yeats does not explore the plot of the story, in fact he does not even deliver his own variation on what is typically the punch-line thereof: the death of the child, its replacement with a changeling, or its return the “next day” as an old man; instead, he focuses on the image of faeryland in relationship to that of our own world, the world of the stolen child. In the first stanza, Yeats presents us with his faeryland:

Where dips the rocky highland

Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,

There lies a leafy island

Where flapping herons wake

The drowsy water-rats;

There we’ve hid our faery vats,

Full of berries

And of reddest stolen cherries.

Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

As usual, Yeats paints his image beautifully. For a poet who proclaimed to be un-intrigued by scenes of nature, the nature scenes he writes are endlessly intriguing. His disinterest in them may actually be what forces him to render them so interestingly, for every time he writes a nature scene, he charges it with a myriad of imagination-inspiring elements. Here, the “rocky highland,” “Sleuth Wood,” and “leafy island” entice us. But there is also something disquieting about this image of faeryland, in the “flapping herons” that wake the “drowsy water-rats,” and “reddest stolen cherries.” But it is not clear whether it is this image itself, or the tone of the poem, that is disquieting, because the poem has given us no other image with which to contrast faeryland. But in the second stanza, Yeats delivers just such a contrast.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses

The dim grey sands with light,

Far off by furthest Rosses

We foot it all the night,

Weaving olden dances,

Mingling hands and mingling glances

Till the moon has taken flight;

To and fro we leap

And chase the frothy bubbles,

While the world is full of troubles

And is anxious in its sleep.

Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

The image of faeryland remains very still in this stanza, and it remains slightly off-putting, particularly in the image of a “wave of moonlight,” and “dim grey sands.” Both of these descriptions, especially because of their sublime beauty, make the reader feel uneasy and nervous, as if something bad is going to happen when motion does enter the poem.

However, in the image of the faeries themselves, “Weaving olden dances,/Mingling hands and mingling glances,” there is a clear sense of romanticism – we are clearly supposed to believe that the faeries are part of some other world, apart from the world “full of troubles,” and “anxious in its sleep,” the human world, our world, which is presented as a contrast to faeryland at the end of the stanza.

Though this is one of Yeats’ early poems, it is clear here that he has already begun contrasting his ideas of primary and antithetical. In Yeats’ later work, he often sets up the primary as a sort of thoughtless conformity, and the antithetical as imaginative, as the rediscovery of life beyond typical conceptions thereof.

In “The Stolen Child,” the world of the human child, “full of troubles,” in its “anxious sleep,” is set up as the primary, and faeryland, with its faeries “weaving olden dances” is set up as the antithetical. Yet the disquieting nature of this faeryland is undeniable in how it has been presented to us in the first stanza, and in the second stanza, the image of the faeries “mingling hands and mingling glances” feels full of a sort of sexual anxiety, and anxiety is exactly what is plaguing the sleep of the world of the human child. In fact, “anxious in its sleep” seems to be the perfect way to describe the stillness of the image of the faeryland Yeats has painted for us.

In the first two stanzas, Yeats has already begun to blur the lines between his images of the primary and the antithetical, and he remains true to those images throughout the rest of the poem, where he explores why they are blurred here, achieving a realization deeper than the didactic categorization of simple primary and antithetical.

Where the wandering water gusher

From the hills above Glen-Car,

In pools among the rushes

That scarce could bathe a star,

We seek for slumbering trout

And whispering in their ears

Give them unquiet dreams;

Leaning softly out

From ferns that drop their tears

Over the young streams.

Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Here, where the faeries begin interacting with the human world, the poem gets really interesting. The image of the faeries whispering into the ears of trout, and giving them unquiet dreams, is simply wonderful, particularly when considered in the framework of the primary and antithetical images the poem has already established. Here, the antithetical subjects, the faeries, can be seen as giving the primary subjects, the trout, their unquiet dreams, and thus their weeping, especially when it is followed by a description of drops of dew falling off ferns as “ferns that drop their tears.”

However, that word “unquiet” keeps the relationship between the primary and the antithetical fundamentally ambiguous. It is not harsh enough of a word to fully accuse the faeries of delivering all weeping to the world of the human child, and so the relationships between the faeries and the child, between faeryland and our world, between the primary and antithetical, still remain unclear as we read on to the fourth and final stanza.

Away with us he’s going,

The solemn-eyed:

He’ll hear no more the lowing

Of the calves on the warm hillside

Or the kettle on the hob

Sing peace into his breast,

Or see the brown mice bob

Round and round the oatmeal-chest.

For he comes, the human child,

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

From a world more full of weeping than he can understand.

It is odd that just before the child leaves, we get our clearest image of his world, and it is even more odd that his world is rather romantically depicted, with “lowing/Of the calves on the warm hillside,” “the kettle on the hob” that “sings peace into his breast,” and even “brown mice” that “bob/Round and round the oatmeal-chest.”

There is nothing inherently disquieting about these details, just as there wasn’t about any of the details in faeryland. Indeed, mice bobbing around an oatmeal chest is actually reminiscent of water-rats scurrying away from flapping heron. And that is what bothers us about faeryland in the beginning of this poem – that it is all too natural, that it is all too much like the human world. Imagining water-rats scurrying around in faeryland is disquieting for us because rats are such a specific detail of the real world, and faeryland is typically considered to be entirely free of details from the human world, such as weeping.

But faeryland is not free of details from the human world in this poem. In this poem, faeryland, the antithetical, is rife with details of the human world, the primary, and that disquiets us. It disquiets us because the presence of details from the human world in faeryland open up the possibility that the weeping of the human world are also present in faeryland, just as “anxious in its sleep,” seems just as applicable to either world.

Indeed, the “you” of the refrain – “The world’s more full of weeping, than you can understand” – could be applied to the faeries just as easily as it could be applied to the human child, because the faeries seem just as unaware of the qualities of the image of faeryland as the human child is unaware of the qualities of the image of the human world. Most importantly, neither sees how similar the images are.

This lack of awareness in the details is key to the poem, as details are always key to Yeats. By remaining true to the image he created of faeryland, Yeats shows that if the antithetical is based on the primary, we will not be able to escape the sorrows of the primary by fleeing to the antithetical, but merely find them eternalized there. And that is the power of Yeats – to explore the images he has wrought with utmost sincerity, and explore contradictions therein. By doing so in this poem, he discovers an interesting nuance to the relationship of the primary to the antithetical, which he explores further in “Easter, 1916.”

Easter, 1916

Yeats’ sincerity to his central image in “Easter, 1916” is particularly impressive because the subject matter of the poem could easily inspire melodrama from a lesser artists. The Easter, 1916 rebellion, and the death of four subjects therein, demand great sympathy from an Irish poet, and Yeats is, in fact, sympathetic with the subjects of his poem, but he also writes about them with an astonishing objectivity, and when an image arises from the natural world that he feels represents them perfectly, he does not hesitate from thoroughly exploring that image for all its contradictions. Indeed, Yeats begins the poem utterly unimpressed with his subjects.

I have met them at close of day

Coming with vivid faces

From counter or desk among grey

Eighteenth-century houses.

I have passed with a nod of the head

Or polite meaningless words,

Or have lingered awhile and said

Polite meaningless words,

And thought before I had done

Of a mocking tale or a gibe

To please a companion

Around the fire at the club,

Being certain that they and I

But lived where motley is worn:

All changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

The first scene of the poem, of people leaving jobs at counters and desks and walking among “grey/Eighteenth-century houses,” at the “close of day,” casts his subjects in a very boring, monotonous light, much like the light implied by “close of day.” And indeed, Yeats’ wonderful repetition of the phrase, “polite meaningless words,” makes us feel further that there is nothing extraordinary about these people. Yeats’ even admits that upon seeing them, all that came to his mind were jokes he could make about them later that evening, attesting to the fact that both “they and I/But lived where motley is worn.” Only after all of this, does he give voice to the gravity of the situation at hand, that “All changed, changed utterly:/A terrible beauty is born.”

In the second stanza, Yeats begins to write about the subjects of his poem as one would expect an Irish poet to do, immortalizing them with his verse, but his tone does not change.

That woman’s days were spent

In ignorant good-will,

Her nights in argument

Until her voice grew shrill.

What voice more sweet than hers

When, young and beautiful,

She rode to harriers?

This man had kept a school

And rode our winged horse;

This other his helper and friend

Was coming into his force;

He might have won fame in the end,

So sensitive his nature seemed,

So daring and sweet his thought.

This other man I had dreamed

A drunken, vainglorious lout.

He had done most bitter wrong

To some who are near my heart,

Yet I number him in the song;

He, too, has resigned his part

In the casual comedy;

He, too, has been changed in his turn,

Transformed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

In his way, Yeats frames these common citizens more beautifully as heroes than any other poet could. Yeats immortalizes his first subject as a charitable, yet passionate woman. His second and third subjects, though keeping jobs at a school house, are made mythical in Yeats’ vision, one even riding the winged-horse Pegasus. And the fourth figure exemplifies just how much Yeats is willing to go in writing a eulogy for his subjects, as the last one is a man who, “had done most bitter wrong/To some who are near my heart,” yet Yeats will “number him in the song.”

The next phrase in the poem is crucial, firmly introducing Yeats’ ides of primary and antithetical. When Yeats’ admits that his subjects resigned their parts “in the casual comedy” he affirms that in their death, if not before, his subjects removed themselves from the world where motley was worn that Yeats was want to joke about in the first stanza, which quickly aligns “the casual comedy” with the primary, and his four subjects with the antithetical. Yeats spends the rest of the poem exploring this categorization of his figures, through an image he introduces in the next stanza.

Hearts with one purpose alone

Through summer and winter seem

Enchanted to a stone

To trouble the living stream.

The horse that comes from the road.

The rider, the birds that range

From cloud to tumbling cloud,

Minute by minute they change;

A shadow of cloud on the stream

Changes minute by minute;

A horse-hoof slides on the brim,

And a horse plashes within it;

The long-legged moor-hens dive,

And hens to moor-cocks call;

Minute by minute they live:

The stone’s in the midst of all.

Here, Yeats brilliantly departs from the political and specifically Irish context of this poem altogether, and further develops the theme of transformation through sacrifice that has run through his first two stanzas, particularly in the refrain. If we equate the enchanted stone with the hearts of Yeats’ four rebellious subjects, this metaphor seems to support the position of them as antithetical to the primary. Here they are troubling the living stream, troubling the primary, the “casual comedy” they relinquished. And while every other element introduced into the image – a horse, a rider, a cloud, its shadow, moor-hens, and moor-cocks – all change, the stone remains solid, “The stone’s in midst of all.”

But in the third stanza, Yeats explores another side of the image that so perfectly describes his subjects, which he applies to everything he has developed throughout the entire poem, and even in much of his earlier poetry.

Too long a sacrifice

Can make a stone of the heart.

O when may it suffice?

That is Heaven’s part, our part

To murmur name upon name,

As a mother names her child

When sleep at last has come

On limbs that had run wild.

What is it but nightfall?

No, no, not night but death;

Was it needless death after all?

For England may keep faith

For all that is done and said.

We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead;

And what if excess of love

Bewildered them till they died?

I write it out in a verse –

MacDonagh and MacBride

And Connolly and Pearse

Now and in time to be,

Wherever green is worn,

Are changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

The phrase, “Too long a sacrifice/Can make a stone of the heart,” somehow entirely changes the meaning that the same image had in the previous stanza. Here, it feels that the enchanted stone may be nothing more than a dead weight, unaffected, and possibly even unaware of, the change that has just happened, and is always happening, in the natural world. This lack of awareness in the details of the sacrifices they have made, in the details of the antithetical, casts them in a similar light to the faeries of “The Stolen Child” in that they are a part of the antithetical, but almost accidentally, because they lack a thorough consciousness of the very thing of which they are a part.

In a poem titled “Easter, 1916,” “too long a sacrifice” also hearkens to the endless sacrifice of Christ, thus introducing a whole new level of interpretation of the poem, its subject, and central image, a level – the Christian level – that is also re-interpreted by the poem, its subjects, and its central image. In this, it bears resemblance to one of Yeats’ earlier poems, “The Magi.”

Yeats likens the magi, the subjects of that poem, to stones, for similar reasons that he does so with the subjects of “Easter, 1916” – because he proclaims they they remain steadfast in the midst of change. In doing so, he enacts an amazing reversal between the eternal sacrifice of a savior and the mortal nature of those who seek saviors, by making it feel as if saviors are not eternal – that saviors come and go, one after another – while the nature of man to seek saviors remains forever.

Something quite similar is felt in “Easter, 1916” especially when Yeats rhetorically asks about sacrifice, “When may it suffice?” and answers, “That is heaven’s part, our part” like the magi, “To murmur name on top of name.” In the context of this poem, because Yeats has aligned his subjects with the antithetical, this stacking of name on top of name from the magi poem could be considered in a positive light – the names of Yeats’ four subjects could be what satisfies the magi, thus a beauty, like the Christ, is born from their death. But we know the magi will never be satisfied, and we know there is a terrible side to the birth of this beauty. And the personal action to which Yeats likens this spiritual action of stacking name on top of name, begins to explore the heart of that terrible beauty.

Yeats likens the spiritual action of stacking name on top of name to the personal action of mothers naming children as children pass away. This cold, callous, even stony image, makes that spiritual action of the magi feel similar, and thus pleasing with sacrifice, while clearly an antithetical action, could actually perpetuate a primary instinct for sacrifice. In ignoring this detail of the primary, the subjects of this poem may have eternalized it in the antithetical – the very danger Yeats warned against in “The Stolen Child.”

And indeed, Yeats next insists that death is not simply a metaphor, and most be considered independently of its meaning in the discussion of the primary and antithetical. So Yeats, in the middle of a eulogy for his subjects, asks of their death, “Was it needless death after all?” and goes on to explore just that possibility: “For England may keep faith/For all that is done and said.” By doing so, he is asking the same question of all sacrifices made for the unpleaseable magi, made for that instinct inside all of us that craves a savior.

For Yeats, in the end, it is “enough/To know that they dreamed and are dead/…What if excess of love/bewildered them till they died?” Yeats writes their names out in verse even if they died needlessly, because he sees the importance of knowing that they dreamed and are dead, that even if they were unaware of it, they played their role in the antithetical. Yeats sees this by turning all of life into drama, which is the only way to understand the terrible beauty of his refrain, as he says in Hodos Chameliontos: “It is only when the intellect has wrought the whole of life to drama, to crisis, that we may live for contemplation, and yet keep our intensity.”

In “Easter, 1916” Yeats wrought the whole of life into drama, allowing himself to be contemplative while remaining intense. Because of this, he discovered the terrible beauty in transforming oneself through a sacrifice one does not fully understand. And thus in writing a eulogy for his four subjects, Yeats also commented on the relationship of the primary and the antithetical, warned against the arbitrary aspects of faith, and also warned against the devaluation of life and its passions.

And again, he did so by embracing the contradiction inherent in his central image. The enchanted stone is at once, by troubling the living stream, an antithetical to the primary “causal comedy of life,” but also a needless sacrifice. Ultimately, Yeats thought his subjects were mislead, but he also saw that the part they played in human history was meaningful. This further defines the relationship of the primary to the antithetical, but still does not give us an image of the antithetical that is not corrupted by the primary in some way, that transcends the primary. But the central image of “Lapis Lazuli” is just such an image.

Lapis Lazuli

“Lapis Lazuli” opens with a rendering of an argument of “hysterical women” against those who create art in those moments of history, like the one Yeats’ was writing this poem in, in which war seemed inevitable.

I have heard that hysterical women say

They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow.

Of poets that are always gay,

For everybody knows or else should know

That if nothing drastic is done

Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out.

Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in

Until the town lie beaten flat.

Yeats qualifies this argument from the beginning, by pinning it down as that of “hysterical women.” It seems he even assumes the voice of these women, giving us a sort of reported speech, particularly in words and phrases like these italicized: “They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow,” “Of poets that are always gay,” and “For everybody knows or else should know,” and others through the whole stanza. Yet despite this, he is apparently giving great thought to their complaints, as is evident by the mere fact that he is putting their words into his great verse, and addressing their argument with an entire poem, and a great poem, at that.

Indeed, this is one of Yeats’ greatest poems, and that is because in it, he is writing about one of his greatest concerns – what a poet can write about in Yeats era specifically, and through this, how a poet, any poet, should relate to his own era. The reason Yeats begins such a poem, on a theme so important to him, with a complaint he clearly does not respect, is because he has found something in the language of the complaint that he can use to wonderfully defend his own stance on the subject, and his opinions on the subject itself – the importance of art, and specifically, poetry.

All perform their tragic play,

There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,

That’s Ophelia, that Cordelia;

Yet they, should the last scene be there,

The great stage curtain about to drop,

If worthy their prominent part in the play,

Do not break up their lines to weep.

They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;

Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.

All men have aimed at, found and lost;

Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:

Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.

Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,

And all the drop-scenes drop at once

Upon a hundred thousand stages,

It cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.

In this stanza, he picks up on the word “gay” of the hysterical women, and redefines it, while at the same time delivering a solid interpretation of art and the impulses that create it. First he asserts that, “All perform their tragic play,” and then equates all people, by being human, with the great tragic heroes of Shakespeare, and he states that if portrayed correctly, these heroes, who understand the tragedy of life better than any of the rest of us, will not weep, but be gay – not gay, like the faeries of “The Stolen Child” who are unaware of the sorrowful details in the world, but gay despite the sorrowful details, which they are more aware of than any of us.

This removes the word gay from the simple bounds normally applied to it of ignorant happiness. Instead, to Yeats, “gay” implies the ability to “transfigure all that dread.” He reasserts that we have all felt what they have, “All men have aimed at, found, and lost,” which is “Tragedy wrought to its uttermost,” that “cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.” In other words, all the tragedy of Yeats’ era is inherent in human life, so to argue against creating poetry in his era, is to argue against creating poetry throughout all eras, including that of Shakespeare, which would have prohibited the creation of his tragic heroes, who go so far in helping everyone understand their own tragedies. And this is clearly an unacceptable conclusion to Yeats, so he goes on to explain what he feels is an acceptable reaction to destruction.

On their own feet they came, or on shipboard,

Camel-back; horse-back, ass-back, mule-back,

Old civilisations put to the sword.

Then they and their wisdom went to rack:

No handiwork of Callimachus,

Who handled marble as if it were bronze,

Made draperies that seemed to rise

When sea-wind swept the corner, stands;

His long lamp-chimney shaped like the stem

Of a slender palm, stood but a day;

All things fall and are built again,

And those that build them again are gay.

To Yeats, the only acceptable reaction to destruction is creation. Though civilization falls all around the subjects of this third stanza, those who rebuild can be gay, expanding on that word that could make Shakespeare’s tragic heroes gay, so that not only can gaiety transfigure all that dread of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes – the dread of all eras, as we’ve seen – but also the dread of the tragic heroes of history, who have lived through its greatest wars, its most destructive eras, and still been made gay in the act of rebuilding, or even in knowing that the act of rebuilding, of creating, will live on in others long after they and their civilizations are gone, in others who will continue their work, who will continue creating.

In this vain, Yeats finds the image that will turn his poem.

Two Chinamen, behind them a third,

Are carved in Lapis Lazuli,

Over them flies a long-legged bird,

A symbol of longevity;

The third, doubtless a serving-man,

Carries a musical instrument.

At first, this image seems to be the very escape from the troubles of the poets’ age to which the hysterical women of the first stanza object. It is the image of a piece of art, that seems tranquil and symbolic, but by examining this image from another angle, Yeats manages to show that it is also a brilliant reply to the hysterical womens’ complaints, that not only defends the artists’ work, but shows how the tranquility of his own image is utterly necessary in the midst of worldly chaos.

Every discoloration of the stone,

Every accidental crack or dent,

Seems a water-course or an avalanche,

Or lofty slope where it still snows

Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch

Sweetens the little half-way house

Those Chinamen climb towards, and I

Delight to imagine them seated there;

There, on the mountain and the sky,

On all the tragic scene they stare.

One asks for mournful melodies;

Accomplished fingers begin to play.

Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,

Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.

In this stanza, we see that the Chinamen are climbing to a “little half-way house” and between them and it, there are numberless accidental cracks and dents, each of which “seems a water-course or an avalanche,/Or lofty slope where it still snows.”

Yeats then imagines them sitting at the half-way house, starring “on the mountain and the sky,/on all the tragic scene,” where they begin to play music. This image would undoubtedly be construed as emblematic of the artists avoiding the “tragic scene” of the world by those hysterical women of the first stanza, but these Chinamen are not avoiding the “tragic scene,” at all.

These Chinamen must traverse all of the water-courses and avalanches to reach their half-way house. The only difference between those who proclaim that “everyone knows or at least should know” and these Chinamen, is that these Chinamen are doing something beyond complaining – they are staring out over the “tragic scene” and creating something, in the ancient tradition their eyes imply, with the gayness of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, who thoroughly understand the sorrows of the world, and of the subjects of the second stanza, who aim to re-build civilization.

In this poem, Yeats’ central image of the antithetical is art and artists themselves, and their importance in looking out over “all the tragic scene” and creating is clear: they understand the destructive forces better than anyone else, like Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, and can thus retain the ability to create, to rebuild, like the historical subjects of the second stanza. And this image of the antithetical, the artist and art, proves more complete than that of “The Stolen Child,” or “Easter,1916,” because artists are not ignorant of the world’s weeping, like the faeries of “The Stolen Child,” and they do not needlessly sacrifice themselves like the subjects of “Easter, 1916,” but in the act of re-building, and creating, they transcend the “casual comedy” of life more thoroughly than either, by avoiding all details of the primary – the details “hysterical women” are obsessed with.

Artists wholly understand the sorrows of the world and do not needlessly sacrifice themselves do so because they understand the details Yeats has examined in these three poems. They understand that they cannot use the complaints of the “hysterical women,” the primary of this poem, to create the antithetical, or they will only eternalize the sorrows of the primary in the antithetical, as did the subjects of “Easter, 1916.” They realize they must remain detached from the sorrows of the primary just enough to continue creating in the midst of chaos, because by continuing to create in those circumstances, by rebuilding in their art what civilization loses in destructive eras, and passing it on to future eras, artists  preserve civilization and fend off chaos in the most important way – by passing on this message that the Lapis Lazuli passed on to Yeats, and now Yeats passes on to us.

The power of Yeats is always in contradictions. And he discovers those contradictions by examining his images with the utmost sincerity, ignoring not a single detail. Like in the image of faeryland of “The Stolen Child,” and the enchanted  stone of “Easter, 1916,” this poem turns on the seeming contradictions of its central image, the Lapis Lazuli. And as Yeats’ exploration of those two former contradictions showed us the dangers of avoiding the details of the images we use to imagine the antithetical, and not considering all the possibilities of sacrifice for the antithetical, the exploration of this image shows us the importance of preserving the antithetical in the midst of destruction – so that we may continue to create, with the awareness of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, in the midst of worldly chaos, as Yeats did.

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