J. B. Yeats

I’m reading a biography of William Butler Yeats, the visionary poet who lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His father (J.B. Yeats) had a powerful influence upon him and lived a skeptical life. I enjoyed this paragraph not because I fully agree with the sentiment, but because it expresses the difficulty of balancing creative life with religion.

“There are two kinds of belief; the poetical and the religious. That of the poet comes when the man within has found some method or manner of thinking or arrangement of fact (such as is only possibly in dreams) by which to express and embody an absolute freedom, such that his whole inner and outer-self can expand in full satisfaction. In religious belief there is absent the consciousness of liberty. Religion is the denial of liberty. An enforced peace is set up among the warring feelings. By the help of something quite external, as for instance the fear of hell, some feelings are chained up and thrust into dungeons that some other feelings may hold sway, and all the ethical systems yet invented are a similar denial of liberty, that is why the true poet is neither moral nor religious.”

Richard Ellman,1948, Yeats – The Man and the Masks, Dutton, 20.

About pearce

Michael Pearce is an artist, writer, and professor of art. He is the author of "Art in the Age of Emergence."
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