W.B Yeats and T.S Eliot dominated the first half of the 20th century. In W.B. Yeats two generations of poetry met. He wrote his earlier poems under the influence of the romanticists, like Spenser, Shelley, Rossetti and particularly of the late Victorian romantic escapists. The second stage of Yeats’s poetry comprises his symbolic and mystical poems, like The Wandering of Oisin and The Wind among the Reeds.
Yeats realized that poetry had to be adjusted to the changes of his time, and this he achieved in and individual way. Through Blake and Siedenborg he found a metaphysical approach. Some of the sources he employed magic and the like seemed unworthy, but the poetic results were of profound beauty. Apart from this philosophical change much else was happening. He was profoundly moved by the ‘troubles’ in Ireland, which resulted in the Easter rebellion, as is seen in poems such as ‘Easter 1916’.
He stands out as the greatest poetical figure of the first half of the twentieth century, of a stature beyond controversy. Out of fables and strange beliefs he made images to hold beauty together in a world where so much conspired for its destruction. In his verses he showed a dominant, even arrogant control of his medium, using simple phrases with a mastery that equaled that of Wordsworth. His later verse is seen at its best in The Wild Swans at Coole, Michael Robertes and the Dancer; The Tower; and The Winding Stair.
T.S. Eliot was an American born British poet. He is essentially a modern poet who stands on a footing different from the Romantic and Victorian poets of the nineteenth century. T.S. Eliot both by verse and prose essays, made a revolution in the taste of his generation. His early poems in Prufrock were satiric, sometimes comic, always dramatic and impersonal, with an underlying disparagement of the so-called benefits of civilization. His first remarkable poem The love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock represents, indeed, a complete departure from the conventional poetry of the 19th century and even the poetry of the pre-war years of the twentieth and marks entirely a new beginning. The major influences in it were to be Donne, the later Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists, and Laforgue, with Dante also frequently present.
Eliot’s another celebrated work is The waste Land which is one of the significant poetic creations of modern times. It is a vivid expression of the poet’s nightmare vision of the hollow life of modern men and women. The poem represents symbolically the failure of modern civilization through the scenes of desolation and social emptiness. The influence of The Waste Land has been immense:no poet, in his own life-time, has seen erected such a verbal monument of criticism over his work. The meaning has complex references often half-concealed, which lead to commentary, yet the poem is best read without the notes for the effect made on the imagination. To sum up Eliot has a major influence on his generation and created a poetic revolution.