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Three charismatic figures--Yeats, Graves, Muir--working their varying ways out of pre-Raphaelite thinness, first through the earthy channels of folk balladry, then onwards into the personal manipulation of myth and archetypal patterns. Professor Hoffman, both a poet of some note and an able cultural historian, treats his interesting subject with a good deal of grace and intelligence, as well as a marked appreciation for thematic subtleties. The giant, of course, is Yeats, and it is surely an indication of the author's acumen that he has managed to say something fresh about this critically ransacked behemoth: the chapters concerning the Irishman's attachment to peasant lore and Celtic arcana are brilliantly juxtaposed against the driving intellectual syntheses of The Tower and the epic unfolding of the Cuchulain legend. The self-defensive individualism of Graves, the trauma of the trenches and the later invocation of the Muse, along with a close reading of his little known theoretical writings, bring the strange, and not always appealing, expatriate, into judicious, sympathetic focus. While Muir's self-effacing journey of the soul without evangelical belief is well summed-up: ""Muir's fable resembles the Christian story--without the Redeemer... Each man is his own Adam, and Second Adam."" Throughout rewarding attention is paid to the differing techniques; re Yeats' ""Whatever I alter must seem traditional. "" A bright achievement.

Publisher: Oxford