Yeats & the Poet-Magician’s Agency

I remembered this (unpublished) seminar paper on Yeats and magic I wrote years ago, before I returned to magic proper myself, and it’s very much a product of its time. However, I can also see many ideas that have survived. I also see the stylistic quirks I had at the time. I’m also feeling much better after my time in the Lacanian wilderness. I offer it mostly in the form I wrote it. Don’t @ me about the Solomonic or GD inaccuracies (or simplifications), and in many ways, my descriptions are still perhaps accurate for how Yeats may have conceived of the Solomonic method. I offer this essay primarily because I still find it an interesting exploration of Yeats and his relationship to the imaginal, and I think there’s something to be learned from him.

Truth be told, I almost went Yeats instead of Shakespeare, and I had at one point would’ve gone Keats, too, but my program had insufficient faculty to support being a Romanticist. I probably would have hated going Yeats in the end, too.

* * *


In 1903 the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s membership included W. B. Yeats as well as the much more infamous occultists Samuel Liddell “Macgregor” Mathers and Aleister “The Beast” Crowley. Amongst the various rituals these men practiced, the evocation of spirits enjoyed particular popularity. The so-called Lesser Key of Solomon (c. 1899) served as one of various sources for these rituals, and evidence suggests Mathers translated the purportedly “ancient work” into English in the first years of the twentieth century. In The Goetia—a section of the Lesser Key devoted to lesser “Goetic” spirits, otherwise called demons or daemons—the magician conjures a specific supernatural entity possessing influence over various aspects of existence.[1] Performing such a ritual required several steps before and after the summoning of the spirit, but the purpose for doing so is straightforward. The magician commands a spirit to appear in order to perform a service under the direction of the magician’s will. Such a conjuration emphasizes the agency of the human over the subjection of the spirit. In “The Tower” (1926), Yeats’s autobiographical persona engages in a similar conjuration as he calls forth “Images and memories” to the top of his tower in a time of personal crisis.[2] For both the Golden Dawn magicians using The Goetia and Yeats using his poetry, the act of conjuration is the act of a subject expressing agency in order to fulfill a desire. For my purposes, I treat the images Yeats summons as poetic, rather than Goetic, entities. However, the nature of both kinds of “spellcasting,” while perhaps enabling, is problematic. In summoning an entity or “image,” the magician and poet enact agency by calling and commanding entities to do something. However, in doing so, the human agent acts upon the entity to act upon the magician or poet. In “The Tower,” the poet-magician summons various entities to aid him in fulfilling his subjectivity, but the procedure ultimately results in the surrender of agency to others and to the supernatural.

Critics have generally been reticent in examining Yeats’s poetry within the context of occult practices he may have known of during his time with the Golden Dawn. James Olney examines the concept of daimones in Yeats’s works and philosophy, but he avoids examining the subject from an outright magical perspective, suggesting that to do so would be “mere supererogation” and “more obscurantist than anything else,” focusing instead on classical and Jungian perspectives.[3] Laurence W Fennelly acknowledges Mathers’ influence over Yeats in occult matters while noting Yeats’s thirty year association with the Golden Dawn, and its splinter organizations, stemmed from his appreciation for Mathers. Fennelly’s account also makes plain the occult “use of symbols to induce visions” Mathers taught to Yeats, but Fennelly focuses on the two magicians’ biographical association.[4] Many other critics have adopted an anecdotal and biographical approach to Yeats’s involvement with the occult: explications for Yeats’s and others’ esoteric beliefs, cultural contexts, and so forth.[5] In regards to “The Tower,” critics have only rarely examined the poem within the context of Yeats’s occult practices and how these intersect with his poetic techniques, with most scholars advancing the reading that “The Tower” persona desires unity of being.[6] In terms of Lacanian subjectivity, the poet-persona of “The Tower” obsesses, Stan Smith argues while drawing upon Bakhtin, over his agency and the control he actually exerts over his creations.[7] To the best of my knowledge, no critic has specifically examined agency in “The Tower” in relation to the persona’s summoning of imaginative figures within the shared occult context of calling spirits.

The spirits and summoning rituals of The Goetia mirror Yeats’s preferred metaphor and use of the “image” in that the rites to summon Goetic spirits rely upon imagistic cues. Each Goetic demon (or daemon) possesses a “seal” associated with it. For example, the spirit of Furfur’s seal is a circular diagram bounded by its name (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Furfur’s Seal

The magician uses this seal as an aid during the ritual wherein Furfur, ideally, appears before the magician within a special ritual space:

He is a Great and Mighty Earl, appearing in the Form of an Hart with a Fiery Tail. He never speaketh truth unless he be compelled, or brought up within a triangle,[triangle]. Being therein, he will take upon himself the Form of an Angel. Being bidden, he speaketh with a hoarse voice.[8]

Such a description serves several purposes. The description allows magicians to double check their work, ensuring that the entity that appears is indeed the one sought. Secondly, the description aids magicians in visualizing the desired result—in this case, the appearance (both in terms of “arrival” and visual appearance) of the desired entity. The edition of The Goetia Crowley helped to edit includes several illustrations for the Goetic spirits, emphasizing the importance of the image of the spirit in the magical operation while also offering aspiring magicians a suggestive focus for their imaginations. Crowley, in offering “a rational explanation” of the spells of The Goetia, echoes this analysis while situating the use of these entities in psychological terms. These spirits, Crowley writes, “are portions of the human brain” while the seals serve as “methods of stimulating or regulating those particular spots” through visual stimuli.[9] The daemons of The Goetia become both external forces—entities summoned from beyond—and representations of the magician’s own interiority and subconscious. The supernatural exists within and without the magician, in a manner akin to Yeats’s theory of the collective memory—“Great Memory” (85), as he calls it in “The Tower”—of humanity.

Yeats learns this occult lesson directly from Mathers and applies the use of images to his conception of literature. In his essay “Magic” (1901), Yeats admits his belief in what “[he] must call the evocation of spirits.”[10] Yeats goes on to describe a ritual performed by an “evoker of spirits,” Mathers, and his wife:

He held a wooden mace in his hand, and turning to a tablet of many-coloured squares, with a number on each of the squares, that stood near him on a chair, he repeated a form of words. Almost at once my imagination began to move of itself and to bring before me vivid images that, though never too vivid to be imagination, as I had always understood it, had yet a motion of their own, a life I could not change or shape.[11]

Although the result of the evocation are “vivid images,” Yeats’s context makes it clear that he considers these images to be “spirits” Mathers has conjured, especially given their “motion” and “life” Yeats identifies as separate from his own will. Notably, Mathers’ ritual functions by stimulating Yeats’s “imagination” through two specific stimuli: the “tablet of many-coloured squares,” itself a specific image, and Mathers’ use of words. Mathers uses this pseudo-poetic and theatrical performance to manipulate his audience’s creative faculties into summoning the images or spirits in question. Later, Yeats links the “evocation” of images—spirits—with literature, pointing to Goethe and noting how poets “[call] them up by their association with traditional forms and sounds.”[12] For Yeats, images and their use in poetry and drama serve an inherently magical function based on visual and verbal cues.

The Goetic rituals stress the agency of the magician as a necessary factor for success, yet the need for mediation to achieve that agency problematizes these kinds of magical operations. In a section of The Goetia outlining the invocation the magician must use “to call forth any of the aforesaid spirits,” Mathers begins with the following invocation:

I do invocate and conjure thee, O Spirit…and being with power armed from the Supreme Majesty, I do strongly command thee…by the most Powerful Princes, Genii, Liachidæ, and Ministers of the Tartarean Abode…I do invoke thee, and by invocating conjure thee. And being armed with power from the Supreme Majesty, I do strongly command thee, by Him Who spake and it was done, and unto God, endued with power from God, and created according unto His will, do exorcise thee by that most mighty and powerful name of God…[13]

Mathers’ passage emphasizes the agency of the magician through the repeated use of a simple sentence construction following the form of I do V, where V represents a specific verb. Such a construction serves as an illocutionary act: the magician’s utterances are the acts the magician performs. The use of the periphrastic do serves several other purposes, as well. Do acts as an intensifier, lending the utterances an emphatic quality. Similarly, do elevates the speech into the liturgical register, perhaps a consequence of the invocations of God or an attempt to lend the rite a veneer of Christian legitimacy. The magician also assumes the mask of the Creator, conjuring and coercing the entity into existence. Finally, the use of do represents an intentional archaism, reflecting the theatricality of occult rituals, which magicians often claim derive from ancient sources.[14] Invocate, another archaism (for invoke), works within the same liturgical register. The word can mean “to summon (a spirit) by charms or incantation” or “to call upon [someone]…to come or to do something,” emphasizing the action of an agent upon another being. However, invocate also carries with it associations of prayer and supplication, complicating the subjectivity of the magician. Ultimately, the magician appears to ride on God’s coattails, using God’s names while borrowing his authority and the authority of a host of other supernatural beings.

Mathers’ Goetia further complicates the subjectivity of the magician by placing the true power to effect change or action with the spirits one summons. Contemporary representations of the occult in popular fiction tend to bestow upon the magician fantastic powers originating within the occultist, such as the Jedi of the Star Wars franchise or the wizards of the Harry Potter series. In Mathers’ system, this is not the case. The Goetia lists several talents for the spirits it catalogues. Furfur, for example, can create love between men and women, and it possesses the power to “raise Lightning and Thunders, Blasts, and Great Tempestuous Storms.” One could also ask Furfur questions on “Things Secret and Divine” to which it would give “True Answers.”[15] The ceremonial magician must persuade or command entities capable of fantastic phenomena to act in his or her stead.

Yeats’s poetry often echoes this concern over poetic (and magical) subjectivity. The speaker-persona of “The Hosting of the Sidhe,” for instance, succeeds in invoking Niamh and her host of supernatural beings, but she immediately takes over the poem, luring reader and persona into her other world.[16] Vicki Mahaffey has argued for a similar anxiety over subjectivity for Yeats that I have argued within the context of the occult. The early Yeats of The Wind Among the Reeds, she claims, sees himself conflicted in his relationship with the Muse, identified as female, supernatural, alluring, and powerful. Although Yeats expresses his desire through poetry, that expression stems from the Muse using him as an instrument—she is the wind through his reed, producing music. Whatever desires Yeats seeks to fulfill as an agent, he must do so in competition with an external agent seeking to fulfill her own desires. The supernatural power of the Muse becomes a force that the early Yeats cannot overcome, contributing to his concern that his early poetry is too passive and feminine and, by extension, the same could be said of himself.[17] Similar concerns for human agency appear in later works. In the first strophe of “The Second Coming,” the human world is subjected to the strange supernatural forces active in the second strophe:

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; (4-6)

Yeats’s use of the passive voice is instrumental in the assignation of agency in this passage. The supernatural subjects loose anarchy and the “blood-dimmed tide” upon the world even as they drown out the “ceremony of innocence.” In comparison, the supernatural “Troubles” Yeats’s persona’s sight and “Is moving” on its way to Bethlehem “to be born” (13-22). Similarly, the supernatural dominates in “Leda and the Swan” as Zeus-the-Swan “stagger[s],” “caresse[s],” and catches the “helpless” Leda (2-4). In these poems, the desires of supernatural agents trump whatever desires the mortals in question have. Yeats’s “The Tower,” though, brings the personal subjectivity of the poet-magician into focus in a manner that Mathers’ occultism helps illuminate.


Thoor Ballylee, the tower once owned by Yeats and likely the tower from, well, “The Tower” (photo by Jerzy Strzelecki, CC BY SA 3.0)

“The Tower” begins with a quandary—a desire, a lack that must be fulfilled—for the speaker-persona that he cannot himself act upon. “What shall I do with this absurdity,” Yeats’s persona asks, referring to his own aging person (1-4). Mahaffey interprets “The Tower” as the aging Yeats’s quandary in regards to “the impossibility of wisdom and the triumph of power among the living.” That is, the poet-speaker’s inability to attain true subjectivity while alive is embodied in Hanrahan, in pursuit of an ideal actualized “only in death.”[18] The poem’s speaker proceeds to note that what he expects is “the impossible,” an expectation spurred on by his “Excited, passionate, fantastical / Imagination” (5-8). The “impossible” in this instance requires other subjects to act:

And send imagination forth
Under the day’s declining beam, and call
Images and memories
From ruin or from ancient trees,
For I would ask a question of them all. (20-4)

“Images” refers to Yeats’s conception of both poetry and the evocation of spirits, as the essays “Magic” and “Per Amica Silentia Lunae” attest. The poet-speaker also makes this connection overt in “The Tower” when he speaks of the “men-at-arms” that once dwelled in the tower whose “images” have been “stored” “in the Great Memory” (84-5).[19] The speaker’s desire for an answer to “a question,” similarly, recalls the Goetic spirit Furfur’s capacity for “True Answers” to obscure queries.[20] Yeats also collapses the distinction between art and the occult—he “send[s] [his] imagination forth” to accomplish his supernatural summons.

Yeats highlights this collapse of art and the occult specifically as they intersect in poetry. In section I, the persona observes:

It seems that I must bid the Muse go pack,
Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend
Until imagination, ear and eye,
Can be content with argument and deal
In abstract things; or be derided by
A sort of battered kettle at the heel. (11-6)

The persona identifies his relationship with the otherworldly “Muse” in terms of subjection. He considers siding with a more transcendental philosophy, here associated with Plato and Plotinus, in an attempt to reign in and to control his own imagination and thus his subjection to the Muse.[21] The use of argument also suggests rhetoric and debate—the persona engaging in rationality and thus a means of asserting the dominance of reason over passion. The alternative for the speaker is to “be derided”—a passive construction—to be subjected to his imagination and the Muse while others belittle him for having such fantasies within the “battered kettle” of his old body. Section II presents a similar image of subjection to art and the Muse:

And certain men, being maddened by those rhymes,
Or else by toasting her a score of times,
Rose from the table and declared it right
To test their fancy by their sight;
But they mistook the brightness of the moon
For the prosaic light of day –
Music had driven their wits astray –
And one was drowned in the great bog of Cloone. (41-8)

These rhymes, written to commemorate a “peasant girl” by a blind balladeer (49), drive the girl’s admirers into madness. They seek to confirm “their fancy” by going to see the girl while drunk, but “the brightness of the moon”—the “subjective” force of Yeats’s sun-moon binary in A Vision that spurs the poetic imagination—overwhelms their minds. This force, localized in the blind man’s “Music,” results in one of the men drowning along the way. Yeats’s use of the passive “was drowned” and “being maddened,” in turn, emphasizes the subjection of these men (and the drowned man in particular) to the power of the Muse and art. Although the blind man or Yeats—as he observes, “if I triumph I must make men mad” (56)—could possibly be the agents who destroy the subjectivity of the others, Yeats’s diction indicates the choice is not his. He “must make men mad,” suggesting the poet’s own use as an instrument by the Muse just as the “mocking muses chose the country wench” that resulted in a man drowned (96). The role of the poet, it seems, is not to create independently but only to act as an intermediary, an instrument, for other, more supernatural agents.

Yeats proceeds to conjure Hanrahan, but while the speaker acknowledges this “spirit’s” origin as one of Yeats’s own creations, Hanrahan also serves as a doppelganger for the Muse-addled Yeats. The poet-speaker begins by telling of Hanrahan’s origin:

And I myself created Hanrahan
And drove him drunk or sober through the dawn
From somewhere in the neighbouring cottages.
Caught by an old man’s juggleries
He stumbled, tumbled, fumbled to and fro
And had but broken knees for hire
And horrible splendor of desire; (57-63)

The speaker begins by emphasizing Hanrahan’s status as his creation, driving the image through misadventures while Hanrahan is “Caught” in this web of influence, subjected to another. Yeats’s use of alliteration and assonance in “stumbled, tumbled, fumbled” highlights Hanrahan’s lack of agency as they suggest the figure of a marionette whose strings are jostled by a controlling entity. They also suggest the passive voice—someone stumbles, tumbles, and fumbles Hanrahan—while projecting him into a clown-like register of mockery and derision. The fact that Hanrahan has only “broken knees” reinforces the marionette quality of this description: the man cannot stand or move on his own. All Hanrahan possesses is the “horrible splendor of desire,” the utter inability to satisfy what he longs for as a desiring subject. Most critics see in Hanrahan a double-image of Yeats. Both Yeats and Hanrahan, as Mahaffey argues, pursued phantoms of the imagination rather than the real or the transcendent, and Yeats instills within the Hanrahan poems a self-critique of his own poetic enterprise and how it obstructs his own subjectivity.[22] In conjuring Hanrahan in “The Tower” and in invoking the figure through image and description, Yeats ultimately describes and invokes himself. The poet-speaker has “stumbled, tumbled, fumbled” just as much as Hanrahan has while driven by desires unfulfilled and out of reach.

However, Hanrahan is not merely a poetic projection of Yeats’s inadequacies, for Hanrahan possesses an independence from his supposed creator. After the poet-speaker asks whether the assembled spirits “rage / As [he] do[es] now against old age,” he notes these images and memories “are impatient to be gone” (99-102, emphases added). This impatience may suggest that, yes, they did rage as the speaker rages, but impatience also suggests willfulness on the part of the summoned entities. Were they merely images, one imagines they would wait impassively, and were they merely images, they would likely react as their imaginer thought they should react. Impatience, in fact, implies “restlessness of desire or expectation” or a “restless longing or eagerness”—that is, a level of subjectivity mere memories or images would not possess.[23] Even Hanrahan appears to register such impatience since Yeats does not distinguish a separate response for him. The speaker releases the others to return whence they came save for Hanrahan because the speaker “need[s] all [Hanrahan’s] mighty memories” (103-4). Hanrahan is not Yeats’s anti-self or an aspect of his unconscious anymore, a mask, but instead Hanrahan is something separate:

Bring up out of that deep considering mind
All that you have discovered in the grave,
For it is certain that you have
Reckoned up every unforeknown, unseeing
Into the labyrinth of another’s being; (106-12)

Some critics, like Mahaffey, have argued Hanrahan—like Yeats—never reconciled the real with the imaginary; Hanrahan, pursuing phantoms of his own imagination, never discovered truths about “another’s being.”[24] However, this passage indicates that, for the poet-speaker, Hanrahan has done so. Having left his creation alone for several years, the speaker suggests Hanrahan has experienced an existence unfettered to his creator, “discover[ing]” secrets “in the grave.” The speaker is “certain” Hanrahan has attained knowledge of “the labyrinth[s]” of others’ “being” that are otherwise “unforeknown” and “unsee[n]” by the creator. Like Furfur, Hanrahan has come to possess occulted knowledge that his summoner now desires to discover. The magus asks his question of Hanrahan, but Yeats does not include the answer, if any. At this point, though, Yeats has surrendered his own capacity for the pursuit of self-knowledge to the conjured Hanrahan.


Yeats in 1933, a few years after “The Tower” (photo by Pirie MacDonald)

In the third section of “The Tower,” the poet-speaker’s subjectivity as magician becomes most discernible through ritualized, illocutionary acts. Much as in the periphrastic use of do in Mathers’ Goetia, Yeats presents several similar constructions:

I choose upstanding men… (122)
…I declare
They shall inherit my pride (126-7)
And I declare my faith:
I mock Plotinus’ thought (145-6)
I have prepared my peace (157)
I leave both faith and pride
To young upstanding men (173-4)
Now shall I make my soul, (181)

Yeats frames these illocutionary acts as the poet-speaker’s “will.” The obvious meaning of this act is the preparation of a last will and testament (a legal document), but for a poet-magician who writes, “It is time that I wrote my will” (121), the act is also an expression of the personal will, the subjectivity of the self. Just as the magician strives to use words to cause effects, the speaker in “The Tower” does so by writing them. However, the expressions of subjectivity in this, the final section of the poem, almost all involve a surrendering of agency. The speaker may choose “upstanding men,” but he does so to give his “pride” to them. Even in the declaration of his faith—

That, being dead, we rise,
Dream and so create
Translunar Paradise (154-6)

—a faith in which the dead possess true power and agency in creating their own idealized afterlives, the poet-speaker leaves this as well “To young upstanding men” (173-4). The only action the speaker chooses to pursue is to “make [his] soul,” but in doing so, the speaker is “Compelling it to study / In a learned school” until death claims him (181-3). These lines echo the description of the “peace” the poet-speaker has “prepared”:

I have prepared my peace
With learned Italian things
And the proud stones of Greece,
Poet’s imaginings
And memories of love,
Memories of the words of women,
All those things whereof
Man makes a superhuman
Mirror-resembling dream. (157-65)

What the speaker describes as peace is in reality a complete loss of subjectivity. The “Poet’s imaginings”—images again—and various “memories” slip out of the poet-magician’s control. The distinction Yeats offers between “Man” and “superhuman” (emphasis added) implies that spirits and even poetic images are things beyond the humans that apprehend them. Ultimately, the poet in death, in peace, becomes part of this “dream,” attaining the idealized desires that subjects like Hanrahan could only achieve in death, as Mahaffey has noted. However, this state does not equate to Yeats’s “supernatural incarnation” of “complete objectivity” (Phase One) from A Vision. In that state, “mind and body take whatever shape, accept whatever image is imprinted upon them,” becoming entities of utter subjection and thus incapable of attaining idealized desire as Lacanian subjects.[25] “The Tower” concludes not with a concrete assertion of personal subjectivity or even Yeatsian objectivity, but it concludes with a willing subjection and relinquishing of agency in “Translunar Paradise,” a dream created from and by spirits beyond the self.

“The Tower” is not Yeats’s last word on subjectivity in the volume of the same name, but it encapsulates many of that volume’s existential anxieties. Where collections of verse like The Wind Among the Weeds presented Yeats’s quandary of subjection to the Muse in sexualized, fairy-related contexts, “The Tower” does so more within the context of ceremonial magic. The magician, ostensibly a figure of ultimate will and thus ultimate subjectivity, serves as a parallel for Yeats’s construction of the poet and playwright. However, even the occult practices of Mathers and The Goetia present a problematic view of magical agency. The magician cannot act on his or her own; the magician must rely on more capable supernatural forces. While aspiring to be like God, the magician is, at the same time, never God. Similarly, the poet is less God-the-Creator than an instrument used by other forces—the Muse, the wind that blows through the reeds. In the end, the only peace the poet or magician can hope for is to join the spirits as part of their dream.

Featured Image: Portrait of W. B. Yeats by John Butler Yeats (1900)

[1] Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, trans., The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the King; Lemegeton, Book I Clavicula Salomonis Regis, edited by Hymenaeus Beta and Aleister Crowley, 2nd ed (San Francisco/Newburyport, MA: Weiser, 1997). This modern edition of The Goetia comes via the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), an occult society derived from the Golden Dawn and more specifically Aleister Crowley’s own practices. The name of the editor of the most recent edition, “Hymenaeus Beta,” is likely an occult pseudonym. This edition is particularly noteworthy as a cultural artifact for its inclusion of the individual “seals” of the Goetic spirits, as well as illustrations (credited to Louis Breton from Dictionnaire Infernal, Collin de Plancy, 6th edition, 1863) generally matching the descriptions of the entities in question. In regards to the chronology of the grimoire’s use by the Golden Dawn, the editorial anecdote of Crowley’s own use of The Goetia dates to 1899, and Crowley’s own prefatory epistles date to 1903.

[2] W. B. Yeats, “The Tower,” The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, edited by Richard J Finneran, rev. 2nd ed (New York: Scribner, 1996), 21-2. All further references to Yeats’s poetry refer to this edition and use parenthetical citation.

[3] James Olney, “Sex and the Dead: Daimones of Yeats and Jung,” in Critical Essays on W. B. Yeats, ed. Richard J Finneran (Boston: GK Hall, 1986), 211.

[4] Laurence W Fennelly, “W. B. Yeats and S. L. MacGregor Mathers,” in Yeats and the Occult, ed. George Mills Harper, Yeats Studies Series (n.p.: Macmillan of Canada, 1975), 285-306.

[5] See, for example: Graham Hough, The Mystery Religion of W. B. Yeats (New Jersey: Barnes & Noble Books, 1984); Brenda Maddox, Yeats’s Ghosts: The Secret Life of W. B. Yeats (New York: HarperCollins, 1999); and Leon Surette, The Birth of Modernism: Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, and the Occult (Buffalo: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1993).

[6] For example, see: Anca Vlasopolos, “The Quest for Unity of Being,” in The Symbolic Method of Coleridge, Baudelaire, and Yeats (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1983), 185; Kathleen Raine, “Hades Wrapped in Cloud,” in Yeats the Initiate: Essays on Certain Themes in the Work of W. B. Yeats (Savage, MD: Barnes and Noble, 1990), 14; and “Yeats, the Tarot and the Golden Dawn,” 201; Gale C Schricker, “‘Whither?’: The Quest for a Unified Identity,” in A New Species of Man: The Poetic Persona of W. B. Yeats (Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 1982), 165-6; and Virginia Pruitt, “Return from Byzantium: W. B. Yeats and ‘The Tower’,” ELH 47, no. 1 (Spring 1980): 149-57. Vlasopolos reads the poem as a continuation of “Sailing to Byzantium,” in which the poet’s imagination raises “images and memories” that ultimately defeat “temporal decay.” Kathleen Raine argues “The Tower” reflects Yeats’s Blakean belief in the reality of “mental things” while also incorporating aspects of the Cabalistic Tree of Life and the Tarot. Schricker claims Yeats’s persona in “The Tower” comes to accept his duality as an aged body with a “fantastical imagination” in order to access “an ideal reality” inhabited by fictional beings “with internal values.” Pruitt, in turn, posits that, where the speaker in “Sailing to Byzantium” sought to subordinate himself to other forces in order to escape the frailties of old age, the persona of “The Tower” seeks to create his own transcendence through imaginative artifice.

[7] Stan Smith, “Writing a will: Yeats’s ancestral voices,” in The Origins of Modernism: Eliot, Pound, Yeats and the Rhetorics of Renewal (New York: Harvester-Wheatsheaf, 1994), 168-76; and “Porphyry’s cup: Yeats, forgetfulness and the narrative order,” 177-9.

[8] Mathers, 45.

[9] Aleister Crowley, “The Initiated Interpretation of Ceremonial Magic,” in The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the King; Lemegeton, Book I Clavicula Salomonis Regis, ed. Hymenaeus Beta, 2nd ed (San Francisco/Newburyport, MA: Weiser, 1997), 17.

[10] W. B. Yeats, “Magic,” in Essays and Introductions (London: Macmillan, 1961), 28. The W. B. Yeats Collection, University of North Texas, Willis Library (accessed 22 Apr 2008).

[11] Yeats, “Magic,” 29. Yeats does not identify the evoker in “Magic,” but John Kelly and Ronald Schuchard do in their edition of The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, vol. 3 (Oxford: Clarendon P, 2003), 146n6.

[12] W. B. Yeats, “Per Amica Silentia Lunae,” in Later Essays, ed. William H O’Donnell and Elizabeth Bergmann Loizeaux, The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats, vol. 5 (New York: Scribner, 1994), 17. The W. B. Yeats Collection, University of North Texas, Willis Library (accessed 22 Apr 2008).

[13] Mathers, 81.

[14] Dieter Kastovsky, introduction to Historical English Syntax (New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1991), 5-6; Matti Rissanen, “Spoken Language and the History of do-periphrasis,” in Historical English Syntax, ed. Dieter Kastovsky (New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1991),322-38. Surette addresses the notion in occult histories of a “secret history,” wherein occult knowledge originates in ancient times for modern occultists to rediscover, “Discovering the Past,” in The Birth of Modernism: Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, and the Occult (Buffalo: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1993), 37-95.

[15] Mathers, 45.

[16] Steven Putzel, Reconstructing Yeats: The Secret Rose and The Wind Among the Reeds (Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1986), 157-68.

[17] Vicki Mahaffey, “‘Horrible Splendour of Desire’: The Will of W. B. Yeats,” in States of Desire: Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, and the Irish Experiment (New York: Oxford UP, 1998), 87-141.

[18] Mahaffey, 91, 136. She also notes the tower image as representative of “the ruined male phallus” (102), evocative of the loss of male agency later in life as sexual vigor diminishes. See also Anthony Flinn, “The Archetype of Failure: Ego-centered Authority in ‘The Tower’,” in Approaching Authority: Transpersonal Gestures in the Poetry of Yeats, Eliot, and Williams (Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 1997), 72-3; Harold Bloom, “The Tower,” in Yeats (New York: Oxford UP, 1972), 349-50; and Hugh Underhill, “‘Myself must I remake’: W. B. Yeats,” in The Problem of Consciousness in Modern Poetry (New York: Cambridge UP, 1992), 131. Flinn reads “The Tower” as Yeats’s “quest to establish the authority of the mind’s imaginative faculties” especially as they seek to “speak from archetypal permanence.” He also argues for the necessity of failure in Yeats’s enterprise, noting that “[w]ithout the speaker’s failure to transform the actual world, he would have no cultural authority in the actual world.” Bloom, in turn, reads Yeats in terms of Blakean contraries, arguing that “Yeats aspires…to be [his] own [contrary], yet never attain[s] to the condition of the daimon.” Yeats, Bloom also argues, is like Shelley, recognizing that “the most poetic images are necessarily those of unfulfilled and unfulfillable desire.” Underhill, along similar lines, qualifies Yeats’s concern with agency in regards to the idea of the anti-self, buried within the poet’s Jungian subconscious, necessitating the poet’s “rituali[zation]” of these forces “by the imagination, wrought into poems.” (Underhill draws on Graham Hough’s argument on Yeats’s Anima Mundi. See Graham Hough, “The Beliefs of Yeats,” in The Last Romantics (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1949), 261-2.)

[19] See also Mahaffey, 102, where she argues Yeats’s poetry relies upon “super-natural images that double as fragments of spiritual and emotional truth” (102).

[20] Mathers, 45.

[21] David Holdeman, “Late Yeats,” in The Cambridge Introduction to W. B. Yeats (New York: Cambridge UP, 2006), 81-5. Holdeman goes on to argue that Yeats ultimately rejects such transcendental philosophies in favor of the continued action of the poetic imagination.

[22] Mahaffey, 95.

[23] “Impatient,” Oxford English Dictionary (1989).

[24] Mahaffey, 95.

[25] W. B. Yeats, 1937/1969, A Vision (New York: Collier), 183. No significant difference exists between the two editions of A Vision in regard to this passage.

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