Fin-de-Siècle Yeats: Artistry and affect in “The Cap and Bells”

  • MacDonald P. Jackson English Department, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland Mail Centre
Keywords: W. B. Yeats, “The Cap and Bells”, narrative, pattern, parallelism, technique, emotional progression, revision, artistry, tone, poetic development


There have been various interpretations of W. B. Yeats’s “The Cap and Bells”, but little attention has been paid to those elements of its organization which make it effective as poetry. This article is concerned less with what the poem means than with how it means, through the choice and placement of words, phrases, and images in a sequence that not only tells a story but shapes it so as to engage our feelings. The essence of this verbal artefact lies in the emotional progression, conveyed with consummate skill, from frustrated longing to fulfilment. Comparison between the version that Yeats first published in The National Observer in 1894 and the revised version included in The Wind Among the Reeds (1899) reveals Yeats’s increased technical skill.


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