The Platonic Year
The Platonic Year
The Platonic Year, or the Great Year, is a traditional name for the period in which all the planets and fixed stars complete a cycle and return to a configuration they have occupied before, some 26,000 years according to the calculation Yeats is using — his instructors, he said, meaning the spirits who spoke to him through his wife, ‘have … adopted the twenty-six thousand years of modern astronomy instead of the thirty-six thousand years Spenser [in The Faerie Queene] took from the Platonic Year’. This Year could be divided into twelve ‘months’ that became for Yeats the spells of two thousand plus years between catastrophic historical incarnations. Such a month would in turn have its months, and every division, including what we ordinarily call a calendar year, would have its seasons and phases of the moon, and would allow us to think, at the most immediate level, of what Yeats calls a ‘symbolical or ideal year’, incredibly long or reasonably short, ‘each month a brightening and a darkening fortnight, and at the same time perhaps a year with its four seasons’. The pattern runs all the way through the different levels and dimensions, and it's easy to see how the Platonic Year could become for Yeats an emblem of remote but undeniable regularity, and a figure for whatever there is that ultimately, however belatedly and at whatever cost, refutes randomness and asserts the enduring principle of order, or perhaps simply of the possibility of such a principle.
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