‘Lapis Lazuli’ was written in July 1936, three years before the death of William Butler Yeats, and is included in his LastPoems(1936-1939). The work relates to a lapis lazuli piece, dating from Qianlong period (1731-1795) and offered to Yeats on his seventieth birthday, with the conviction that tragedy, both personal and public, must be faced with courage and joy.The author’s fascination with the Middle and Far East has been evident in the choice of the eternal city of Byzantium, as evidenced in ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ (1927) and ‘Byzantium’ (1930) and is also visible in these ‘Chinamen’ and the title ‘Lapis Lazuli’, with his reminiscences of Egyptian and Sumerian civilisations. Also in ‘Meditations in Time of Civil ‘War’ (1923), Yeats meditated on the permanence of art and the importance of tradition in eastern culture. For Yeats, history was comparable to a tragic play, where the dramas of such characters as Hamlet, Lear, Ophelia, Cordelia and also Chinese sages were transfigured into cathartic joy. The same stoic principle should prevail in fiction (dramatic parts of the play and the ‘Lapis Lazuli’ piece) and in reality (the war, the individual life, the life of civilisations). With a joyful impassivity, Chinese sages—paradigmatic characters— defy ever-changing Nature.In this poem, Yeats introduces the artist as a being that neither ignores the world nor delves deeply into it, thus illustrating the fundamental contradiction between the man and the poet. As a poet, the artist should distance himself from life and its transient details. However, he needs to draw from that same life, despite the immensity of the eternal and divine art, otherwise the poem is purely an exercise of aesthetics. ‘Lapis Lazuli’ is built on two key dichotomies: LifeversusArt and the Eternalversusthe Ephemeral.
|Journal||Review of Culture / Revista de Cultura – Edição Internacional / International Edition|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2013|