THE other day my attention was arrested by a statement from one of our younger critics. “Mr. Auden,” he said, “makes Mr. Yeats's isolation guilty as a trance.” Not a particularly earth‐shaking statement, perhaps; but, when one thinks of it, a startling and significant one. I had not thought to live to see Mr. Yeats receiving the public sneer. Only a year or two ago Mr. Yeats was the doyen, the inerrable loadstar, of the young poets. Of all the older school of living poets, him alone they delighted to honour. They guffawed at Sir William Watson; spoke with amused irony of Laurence Binyon's epics; and the very mention of Alfred Noyes's name was enough to send them off into explosions of fierce anger. But Mr. Yeats was—Mr. Yeats. They found in him profundity, marvellous technical skill, flexibility of outlook, nobleness of aspiration. His reputation appeared to be solid and deep‐founded. And then came his anthology of modern verse, in which Mr. Yeats, with more enthusiasm than discretion, admitted a host of the young poets to the O.U.P.'s pantheon of fame. The book was a bad one—inexplicably bad for a man of Mr. Yeats's eminence. Even his reputation could not stand the strain of such a performance. “If,” argued the young, “Mr. Yeats's judgment is so ludicrously bad, how can it be that he is a good poet?” A strange dualism, they remarked: fine creativeness, weak critical sense. Then there were whispers. Was Mr. Yeats really so—? Could it be possible that—? The doubts grew. The young critics took courage from each other. The loadstar was dimming a little. And now Mr. Dylan Thomas has come into the open. Mr. Yeats's isolation is as guilty as a trance. The meaning is not very clear, but the implication is. “Isolation” is a bogey to the younger school. Once let Mr. Yeats be labelled with that dreadful word and he is as good as damned. Mr. Thomas will be listened to, for the intestinal raptures of his poetry are much admired. I foresee that in a year or so Mr. Yeats's prestige among the young will lose much of its impressiveness.
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