On "Lapis Lazuli" by Yeats
In the face of the approach of the second world war and with the first still in strong remembrance, Yeats attempts to answer society's fear of war's destruction and reassert the position he has presented all along: the immortality of art even in a changing or dying civilization. In the first stanza, he grips the fear of war firmly by its horns and overturns it by likening those who possess this fear as "hysterical women." These hysterics wish to set aside all attention to the arts to concentrate on preventing civilization's destruction in the coming war with Germany. He goes on to present a parade of fictional characters from English literature who met ill ends. He says that these characters played out their parts to the end without stopping to weep at their fates and that it is England's part to play out its present scene to the conclusion even if it joins other civilizations in destruction. In the conclusion, he presents a piece of timeworn Lapis Lazuli. This piece contains the figures of two climbing Chinese who present the assent of Chinese civilization. The wear time has placed on it has enhanced its beauty rather than detracting from it. The artist and civilization who created it live on in it and through it. Likewise, England will live on through artistic relics long after the England Yeats knew has ceased to be.