BL. W. B. Yeats

43. The Statues. London Mercury 39 (March 1939): 481.

    Reprinted in Last Poems and Plays.  

Oshima (124e) offers a persuasive analysis of the poem that traces its philosophical stance to Yeats’s acquaintance with Suzuki’s work about Zen. The reading finds that in stanzas 1 and 2 Yeats describes respectively the ‘adolescence’ and ‘prime’ of European civilisation, and that stanza 3 describes its ‘decrepitude’ and posits the need, ‘When gong and conch declare the hour to bless’ and ‘Grimalkin crawls to Buddha’s emptiness’, to turn to the ‘theory of Emptiness’ that Yeats would have known from his reading of Suzuki. Suzuki himself, in a letter to Bandô Shôjun quoted by Naitô (159), believed that Yeats’s reference here to ‘Buddha’s emptiness’ was ‘most likely’ a reference to the sunyata Suzuki discusses in Zen and Japanese Culture, which he had sent to Yeats at about the time he would have been at work on this poem. For notes about Suzuki’s work and Yeats’s response to it see D28, and see also 47b, 47d, 146, 159, and 224. Dated 9 April 1938. Reprinted in 44.





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