Yeats Now

Echoing Into Life

By: Joseph M. Hassett


‘Joseph Hassett has written two powerful and insightful books on W.B. Yeats but this is something new. In a personal, quizzical, imaginative testament he ranges through Yeats’s thought and writings, showcasing and discussing a series of ringing statements, suggestions and aphorisms that evolve into a kind of vade mecum or guide to life. The subjects cover love, anger, friendship, politics, violence and the competing claims of perfecting the life, or the work. The result reminds us that though Yeats claimed the only subjects of interest to an enquiring mind were sex and the dead, his own capacious and enquiring intelligence continued – to adapt his own words – ‘ravening, raging and uprooting that he may come/Into the desolation of reality’. Hassett’s commentary on Yeats’s life and thought is sharply perceptive throughout: empathetic, humorous, and reflecting his own deep immersion in the extraordinary and enduring canon of Yeats’s work. Yeats believed that ‘a poet’s life is an experiment in living’, and Hassett’s book extracts and distils the rich outcome of that experiment. It is a work of personal engagement that will strike a chord with everyone who cares for Yeats, and anyone who loves poetry.’–ROY FOSTER


W.B. YEATS believed that lyrics can ‘take on a second beauty, passing as it were out of literature and becoming life’. By focusing on Yeats’s most memorable lines of poetry, Joseph Hassett reveals new ways of enjoying a body of work that speaks to the twenty-first century.


For example, ‘The Stare’s Nest by my Window’ is informed by the circumstances in which it was written. Locked in his tower amid the violence and uncertainty of civil war, Yeats felt ‘an overmastering desire not to grow unhappy or embittered, not to lose all sense of the beauty of nature’. Finding the perfect metaphor for a necessary balm, he spotted an empty bird’s nest and ‘began to smell honey in places where honey could not be’. The poem’s plea – ‘O honey-bees, / Come build in the empty house of the stare’ – addresses readers in any state of physical or emotional isolation.


This book is an enriching companion to the work of one of the world’s great poets. Its iconography – portraits, photographs, book designs, manuscript letters – illuminates the poems and the life. Its continuing dialogue with writers past and present, from Joyce to Beckett, Heaney and others, offers up an enduring harvest of wisdom for our age.

Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 216 × 136 mm
Publication Date

September 2020