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The Living Stream

Warwick Gould

Essays in Memory of A. Norman Jeffares 1920-2005

Yeats and the Colours of Poetry

Terence Brown

Texte intégral

  • 1 On 10 July, 1902 Dowden wrote to Professor Martin Sampson ‘It is a good and pleasant thing that yo (...)
  • 2 Edward Dowden, Essays Modern and Elizabethan (London: J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd; New York: E.P. Dutto (...)

1In 1910 the scholar and critic Edward Dowden, Professor of English Literature in the University of Dublin (a post W. B. Yeats cast eyes upon in that year when its holder became unwell) included an essay on Walter Pater in a collection of his essays entitled Essays Modern and Elizabethan (the essay itself probably dates from 1902).1 In this the critic who as a Shakespearian had endorsed Bolingbroke in contrast to the poetic King Richard (drawing Yeatsian disdain in his essay ‘At Stratford-on-Avon: see E&I 104-06), engaged in a rehabilitation of the Oxford aesthete which might equally have irritated the poet. The drift of Dowden’s essay was an attempt to rescue Pater from his reputation for decadence, from his critics and his admirers who thought the whole of Pater’s philosophy was encompassed in the famous conclusion to Studies in the History of the Renaissance, with its evocative call to achieve success in life by burning amid the flux like a ‘hard, gem-like flame’. Dowden, in his characteristically feline fashion, averred: ‘I cannot entirely go along with that enthusiastic admirer who declared—surely not without a smile of ironic intelligence—that the trumpet of doom ought to have sounded when the last page of Studies in the History of the Renaissance was complete’.2 Rather, Dowden explores Pater’s early and later work to insist, in a way one can imagine Yeats thinking was unduly moralistic,

  • 3 Ibid., 8-9.

Assuredly he never regarded that view of life which is expressed in the Conclusion to Studies in the History of the Renaissance as mere hedonism, as a mere abandonment to the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. No: looking back, he perceived that his aim was not pleasure, but fullness and vividness of life, a perfection of being, an intense and as far as may be, a complete experience; that this was not to be attained without a discipline, involving some severity...’3

2Later in the essay Dowden even has Pater as admirer of a Platonic austerity and astringency.

3Dowden’s essay is in fact a subtly argued defence of Pater as a kind of aesthetic moralist, for whom ways of seeing have ethical implications in as much they inform modes of being in the world. Dowden for all his subtlety (he admits he sometimes uses Pater’s words and he certainly echoes his subject’s elaborate stylistic mannerism in his essay; the text overall indeed reads like one of Pater’s Imaginary Portaits), may overstate his case. However his sense that seeing has ethical implications is a suggestive one, while his awareness that seeing and colour are crucial to understanding the trajectory of Pater’s career as a writer is very illuminating. He writes with real acuity of the aesthete as a child for whom the eye must have been a special organ, continuing

  • 4 Ibid., 2.

If Pater is a seeker for truth, he must seek it with the eye, and with the imagination penetrating its way through things visible; or if truth comes to him in any other way, he must project the truth into colour and form...4

4Or, as he repeats,

  • 5 Ibid., 7.

And remember that Pater’s special gift, his unique power, lay in the eye and in the imagination using the eye as its organ. He could not disdain the things of sense, for there is a spirit in sense, and mind communes with mind through colour and through form.5

  • 6 Ibid., 20-21.

5Indeed Dowden identifies the trajectory of Pater’s career as involving changing attitudes to colour, as he forsakes ‘the brilliantly-coloured, versatile, centrifugal Ionian temper of his earlier days towards the simpler, graver, more strictly ordered, more athletic Dorian spirit’.6

6All of which sets one thinking of Yeats: the Yeats who began his adult life at art college in Dublin, whose father, brother and daughter were painters (although his daughter Anne started her career as an artist after her father’s death, he did see her work as a theatre designer), who numbered artists and designers among his friends and acquaintances and who based a few key poems upon paintings and on the idea of painting; the Yeats whose early poetry is effulgent with colour and whose later work is strangely exiguous in colour terms. A telling poem in fact is ‘In Memory of Major Robert Gregory’ written in 1917, with its tributes to Lady Gregory’s artist/soldier son. Here Yeats links poetry and painting as a shared enterprise ‘our secret discipline’ in a poem entirely bereft of colour adjectives apart from its poignant question in the penultimate stanza ‘What made us dream that he could comb grey hair?’ (VP 326-27). The poem speaks of ‘cold Clare rock and Galway rock and thorn’ and refers to ‘that stern colour’ which, with a ‘delicate line’, constitute their shared secret discipline, but chooses not to mention any actual colours. And this in a poem that speaks of some ‘old picture-book’, that honours ‘all lovely intricacies of a house’, ‘All work in metal or in wood | In moulded plaster or in carven stone’ and exults in ‘the delighted eye’ (VP 325-27). And thinking of this curious self-denial in a poem so absorbed by the art of painting as well as design, we recall how in three late poems (‘Parnell’s Funeral’, ‘Three Songs to the One Burden’ and ‘The Circus Animals’ Desertion’) when Yeats refers to a ‘painted stage’ or a ‘painted scene’, it is without any colour references (VP 542, 630, 608). Stranger still, in ‘The Municipal Gallery Revisited’ Yeats manages to describe a series of canvases without suggesting that pictures in galleries involve colour. Indeed the reference in the poem’s second stanza to an Abbot or Archbishop ‘with an upraised hand | Blessing the Tricolour’ high-lights the visual parsimony in colour terms in respect of what the poet calls in stanza three ‘My permanent or impermanent images’ (VP 601-02).

7It was not always thus. In those editions which print Yeats’s poems in the volume arrangement he himself preferred, we find on the first pages of Yeats’s poetic oeuvre, the following lines, from the beginning of The Wanderings of Oisin, the long narrative poem which the poet presented to the public in his first collection in 1889:

And found on this dove-grey edge of the sea
A pearl-pale, high born lady, who rode
On a horse with bridle of findrinny;
And like a sunset were her lips,
A stormy sunset upon doomed ships;
A citron colour gloomed in her hair,
But down to her feet white vesture flowed,
And with the glimmering crimson glowed
Of many a figured embroidery;
And it was bound with a pearl-pale shell
That wavered like the summer streams,
As her soft bosom rose and fell. (VP 3-4)

8The colours here are obviously drawn from the Pre-Raphaelite palette with vivid ‘crimson’ and ‘citron’ contrasting in their exotic intensity with the pastel and white of the other effects. This becomes the basis of the poem’s iterated coloration: ‘purple’, ‘red’, ‘blue’, ‘green’, ‘silver’, ’gold’, ‘golden’, the repeated ‘crimson’, along with ‘saffron’ (orange yellow, etymologically deriving from the French and Arabic) contrast with mixed tints, while the ubiquitous ‘white’ and the idea of ‘whiteness’ suggest the Pre-Raphaelite technique of laying down a white base on the canvas so that the enamelled brightness of its coloured pigments will be the more intense. White indeed seems to be a kind of default setting in the poet’s visual awareness in this poem, reached for when the spectrum is transcended in moments of transport (‘O, had you seen beautiful Niamh grow white as the waters are white’ VP 54). White, too, manages to generate an erotic charge in The Wanderings of Oisin (the hero lies in Niamh’s ‘white’ arms) as somehow the source and consummation of all the colours that crowd its poetic canvas (anticipating Yeats’s ardent love poem, ‘The White Birds’, published three years later, with its ‘blue star’ and ‘white birds on the foam of the sea!’ VP 121-22).

9Colour in The Wandering of Oisin however risks seeming merely decorative as it often did in the kind of art the Pre-Raphaelite school and the Arts and Craft movement associated with William Morris (whose evening Yeats attended in his early London years when he was at work on the poem) made fashionable in Victorian England. One could imagine the poem inspiring a tapestry to be hung in some faux-medieval, celticised, Gothic revival hall. Within a few years of the publication of The Wanderings of Oisin, Yeats would become, by contrast, an adherent of doctrines in which colour played a more integral part.

10Yeats as a young poet became a symbolist through his readings in Shelley and Blake, through his study of ritual magic in the Order of the Golden Dawn (note ‘Golden’) and through his friendship with Arthur Symons, author of the The Symbolist Movement in Literature, who introduced him to the experiments of French poets such as Verlaine and Mallarmé. In Yeats’s essays on the subject we see how colour played its part in his espousal in the 1890s of a doctrinaire symbolist aesthetic.

11In ‘Symbolism in Painting’ the poet asserted:

All art that is not mere story-telling, or mere portraiture, is symbolic, and has the purpose of those symbolic talismans which medieval magicians made with complex colours and forms, and bade their patients ponder over daily, and guard with holy secrecy; for it entangles, in complex colours and forms, a part of the Divine Essence (E&I 148).

12And Yeats associates this medieval adeptship with such symbolists as Keats and de l’Isle-Adam, Verlaine and Maeterlinck and with such artists as Blake, Calvert, Rossetti, Whistler, even with the ‘black and white’ works of Beardsley and Ricketts. The admission of the latter two, Beardsley and Ricketts, to a putative symbolist collective indicates that while colour plays its significant part in the others’ achievement, form is salient as well. Be that as it may, it is pertinent that when Yeats two years later published a companion paper on ‘The Symbolism of Poetry’, it is colour, not form, that primarily intrigues him. We note that after two introductory paragraphs he begins his discussion of the topic by asserting:

There are no lines with more melancholy and beauty than these by Burns:−
The white moon is setting behind the white wave,
And Time is setting with me, O!
and these lines are perfectly symbolical. Take from them the whiteness of the moon and of the wave, whose relation to the setting of Time is too subtle for the intellect, and you take from them their beauty (E&I 155; see also CL2 297 & n).

  • 7 A footnote to the text of Essays and Introductions reads ‘Burns actually wrote:− “The wan moon is (...)

13We note once more the poet’s fascination for ‘whiteness’.7 Later in the essay, having affirmed as if reciting a symbolist creed that ‘All sounds, all colours, all forms either because of their preordained energies or because of long association, evoke indefinable and yet precise emotions’ (E&I 156-57), Yeats expatiated on how colours function as symbols in poetry. It is a fascinating passage worth quoting at length:

If I say ‘white’ or ‘purple’ in an ordinary line of poetry, they evoke emotions so exclusively that I cannot say why they move me; but if I bring them into the same sentence with such obvious intellectual symbols as a cross or a crown of thorns, I think of purity and sovereignty. Furthermore, enumerable meanings, which are held to ‘white’ or to ‘purple’ by bonds of subtle suggestion, and alike in the emotions and the intellect, move visibly through my mind, and move invisibly beyond the threshold of sleep, casting lights and shadows of an indefinable wisdom on what had seemed before, it may be, but sterility and violence (E&I 161).

  • 8 VP 117. In a BBC broadcast of 28 February 1935, Yeats conceded that this was an ‘obscurity’. ‘I mu (...)
  • 9 I base my ideas here on J. Hillis Miller’s remarks about colour in Yeats’s early poetry in his Poe (...)

14It seems apt that Yeats should have chosen ‘white’ here as one of the colours the symbolic import of which he wished to ponder, for it is ubiquitous in his early poetry. Beauty in these finely-wrought lyrics is ‘white beauty’ (‘He remembers Forgotten Beauty’, VP 156). Dawn comes on as ‘white moths were on the wing’ (VP 149) and dark begins to lighten in ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’; the ‘ger-eagle flies, | With heavy whitening wings’ (VP 146-775) in “The Unappeasable Host’. ‘To Some I have Talked with by the Fire’ ends with a ‘white hush’ and a ‘flash of... white feet’ (VP 137). Set against the recurrence of ‘white’ in these poems are such colours as ‘rose’ ‘red’, ‘ruby’, ‘silver’, ‘gold’,’ russet’, ’crimson’, ‘green’, ‘blue’, ’azure’, ‘violet’, ‘purple’ (noon is a ‘purple glow’ in perhaps the best-known of Yeats’s poems of this period, ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’).8 In the elaborate, carefully constructed stanzas deployed in these works these colours do not seem merely decorative in the way they had tended to do in The Wanderings of Oisin. Rather they seem present as properties expected to work their symbolic passage along with the poems’ contrived structures and their sounds (we recall that Yeats in ‘The Symbolism of Poetry’ had invoked ‘all sounds, all colours, all forms’ as the basis of symbolism). The effect is a kind of stately ritualizing of reality, in which the world becomes mediated in rhythm, colour and masterful formal contrivance: ‘Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days! | Come near me while I sing the ancient ways’ (VP 100). White, and the colours that so contrast with it in these poems seem modes of liturgical power, part of the magical energy they can release, when read or heard. White and fully realized colouration constitute, I suggest, a kind of static antithesis in the continuous present tense of so many of the poems, in the timeless zone of permanent being to which they seem to aspire. Between white and such a colour as ruby, or gold, however, there are also half-tints, pastels, such as ‘peal-pale’, ‘dove-grey’, ‘mouse-grey’, ‘cloud pale’. They seem the colour equivalent in the world of Yeats’s early poems of such repeated terms as ‘wandering’, ‘glimmering’, ‘glittering’, as if to suggest that the poised apposition of white and full colours in the Yeatsian cosmos has an excluded middle where process and change can operate, transformation (the theme of some key poems such as ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’) can occur; one thing become another, the world dissolve and become an essence, sound, colour, form vanish on an instant to become a transcendent white.9

  • 10 From 1895 through to the 1924 reprinting of the seventh edition of Poems, the spelling ‘gray’ was (...)

15In the context of Yeats’s highly-coloured early books the reader notes with some surprise how frequently the word ‘grey’ occurs. Amid the whites, the reds and golds, the saffrons indeed of The Wanderings of Oisin, it can seem simply to take its place alongside the use of pastel and mixed tints, that I refer to above, neither the one thing nor the other, neither black nor white, in the dim light cast in the Celtic twilight atmospherics of the poems. But from early on ‘grey’ in Yeats’s verse is sometimes vested with the kind of full-blown symbolic presence that white and red, for example, are allowed to possess.10 ‘The grey wolf ’ (43) in ‘The Madness of King Goll’ is made kin, in the force-field of the poetry, of the Druid ‘grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed’ in ‘To The Rose Upon the Rood of Time’ who ‘cast round Fergus dreams and ruin untold’ (VP 84, 100-01). In ‘Fergus and the Druid’ he is a ‘thin grey man half lost in gathering night’ in a poem in which the imagined speaker comes to know ‘how great webs of sorrow | Lay hidden in [a] small slate-coloured thing!’ (VP 102-04). In ’The Man Who Dreamed of Faeryland’ a ‘lug-worm with its grey and muddy mouth’ sings of a transcendent dimension, while in the apocalyptic ‘The Valley of the Black Pig’ grey and the sunset are raised to talismanic heights:

We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,
The grey cairn on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,
Being weary of the world’s empires, bow down to you,
Master of the still stars and of the flaming door. (VP 127, 161)

  • 11 Dowden, Essays Modern and Elizabethan, 21.
  • 12 Padraic Colum, ‘Reminiscences of Yeats’, Tri-quarterly 4 (1965, 71-76 at 75; cf., I&R 2, 210).

16Dowden’s essay on Walter Pater, with which we began, argues that the shape of that writer’s career involved a transition in his sensibility from sensuous love of colours and dyes to something more like the austerity and astringency of Platonic idealism (Dowden depended for this thesis on the Pater’s late work Plato and Platonism) which for Pater, Dowden noted, ‘is distinguished less by colour than by a pervasive light’.11 Had he been reading Yeats carefully in the fifteen years since he had engaged in a notable controversy with him about the possibility of an Irish literature in the English language, then he might have noticed that a similar transition had taken place in the Irish poet’s verse. For, as is well-known, after about 1900 Yeats’s poetry underwent a striking stylistic revision to make it more syntactically energetic, less rhythmically liturgical and more dramatic. Some of this purging of his poetic involved the eschewal of the kind of colour effects that so distinguished his early work. Yeats himself thought this process had begun following the completion of ‘The Wanderings of Oisin’. He recalled how ‘dissatisfied with its yellow and its dull green, with all that overcharged colour inherited from the romantic movement’, he reshaped his style, ‘deliberately sought out an impression as of cold light and tumbling clouds’ (Au 74). By 1901 he was writing of how he had found his ‘verses too full of the reds and yellows Shelley had found in Italy’ (E&I 5). Padraic Colum recalled being told by Yeats how he was ‘trying to get out of his poems the reds and yellows that Shelley had brought back from Italy. Henceforth he was going to try to put into his poems the grays of the west of Ireland, the stones and clouds that belonged to Galway.’12 An indication of what this involved can be seen if we compare The Wanderings of Oisin with a subsequent narrative poem ‘Baile and Aillinn’, composed in 1901 and first published in 1902. The former poem, as we saw, is replete with colouration, the latter by contrast is almost bereft of colour, only allowing it to surface in proper names (such the ‘White Horn’ and the ‘Brown Bull’), in a reference to ‘long grass-coloured hair’ (VP 190: throughout his career Yeats’s retained his poetic fascination with hair colour), a ‘gold chain’, a ‘ruddy’ body, and ‘white wings’ (102) in its 207 lines (VP 190, 194, 195, 197). But there is a ‘grey rush when the wind is high’, a ‘grey rush under the wind’ echoed by ‘grey reeds’, and a ‘grey bird’ (VP 189-92). The result is that the latter poem, as compared with the former possesses greater narrative force, and that its most striking visual effects are those of light and shade, of luminosity (in one telling image the poem describes ‘birds lost in the one clear space | Of morning light in a dim sky’ VP 195), which anticipates later poems by Yeats which are irradiated by light, such as ‘The Cold Heaven’ and ‘Paudeen’.

17We know that as early as 1897, before the publication of his most opulent volume The Wind Among the Reeds (1899) Yeats had been interested in the concept of aesthetic austerity with respect to colouration. The writings of William Blake on art had stimulated him to reflect on this idea. In ‘William Blake and His Illustrations to the Divine Comedy’ he quoted favourably from Blake’s ‘Descriptive Catalogue’ to the effect that ‘“The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life, is this: that the more distinct, sharp and wiry the bounding line, the more perfect the work of art; and the less keen and sharp, the greater is the evidence of weak imagination, plagiarism, and bungling”’ (E&I 120). He quotes Blake with approval when the English poet/artist identifies ‘“the hard and wiry line of rectitude”’ and notes that ‘He even insisted that “colouring does not depend upon where the colours are put, but upon where the lights and dark are put, and all depends on form or outline”’ (E&I 120-21). Yeats concludes of Blake’s ‘Opinions Upon Art’: ‘His praise of a severe art had been beyond price had his age rested a moment to listen...’ (E&I 121). In 1897, The Wind Among the Reeds still to come, Yeats was not prepared fully to concede to Blake and to forsake art that ‘wraps the vision in lights and shadows, in iridescent or glowing colour, until form be half lost in pattern... (E&I 121). Yet one cannot but read in Yeats’s admiration for Blake’s commendation of the sharp and wiry bounding line the seeds of his own mature poetic, when form would not be ‘half lost in pattern’ and severity of vision would become a Yeatsian hallmark, expressed in a sinewy syntax, that highlights as it works across stanzaic structure, form rather than mere metrical pattern, in a poetry of markedly limited colouration. And in Yeats’s mature poetry although he does not forsake the symbolist convictions he acquired as a young man, it is form and sound that he largely depends upon from that trio of elements (‘all sounds, all colours, all forms’) he had identified in the ‘The Symbolism of Poetry’. We note in this regard that Yeats’s mature and late poetry exploits and experiments with many traditional forms and relishes complex poetic sound effects and cadences and is full of references to sound of all kinds, from the scream of a peacock to a great cathedral gong.

  • 13 George Bornstein, Yeats and Shelley (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 122.

18The colour ‘grey’, already deployed with symbolic valency in the early verse, is, nonetheless a crucial constituent of Yeats’s mature art, where its symbolic power is retained and augmented, in a way that is not the case with the many other colours that shine out, gleam, glow or glimmer in the early poetry. As George Bornstein has stated: ‘the powerful gray of Ireland overcame the pretty red and yellow of Italy’.13 So one can point to its association with a moment of occult revelation in ‘The Double Vision of Michael Robartes’ with its setting ‘On the grey rock of Cashel’ (VP 382) or with spiritual self-questioning in ‘Ego Dominus Tuus’, which is enacted ‘On the grey sand beside the shallow stream’ under Thoor Ballyllee (VP 367). We could note how the fisherman in the poem of that name ‘goes | To a grey place on a hill | In grey Connemara clothes’ to arrive at a place ‘Where stone is dark under froth’, as if he is so at one with his landscape that he can be a proper audience for the poet’s severe art, ‘cold and passionate as the dawn’ (VP 345-46). We could note too the ‘grey gull’ in ‘On a Political Prisoner’ that provokes the poet to recall how he had seen Constance Gore-Booth in her girlhood as a ‘rockbred, seaborne bird: |... Upon some lofty rock’ (VP 397).

19It is ‘grey’ in Yeats’s volume Responsibilities (1914) that I will briefly concentrate on, however, in conclusion. I do this since it is in that volume that I think that the use of the colour word ‘grey’ as a symbolic expression of Yeats at his most severe as a poet becomes evident. And in doing so it links the stark, cartoon-like outlines of many poems in that volume with the idea ‘of the hardy and wiry line of rectitude’ Yeats had noted Blake extolling, the Blake who thought form more important that the placing of colour in painting. And it reminds us too that, as Dowden noted of Pater, that how a man chooses to see the world, how he employs his eye, has ethical as well as aesthetic implications, is indicative of an achieved way of being human.

20The first poem in the collection, a mythic tale of gods and humans in ancient Ireland recounted for the dead poets of Yeats’s youth, is entitled ‘The Grey Rock’ and is set at the Craig Liath near Killaloe, Co. Clare, the house of the legendary Aoife, or Aoibheal of the Grey Rock. Its geography is one of ‘grey rock and the windy light’ (VP 275) which establishes the imaginative atmospherics, as it were, of the volume as a whole in which stones, rocks, thorn-trees, wind, cold desolate places constitute the objective correlative (to use T. S. Eliot’s symbolist and expressionist term) of a mood of acerbic disdain for social and aesthetic mediocrity:

Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.
(‘To a Friend whose Work has come to Nothing’, VP 291)

21The effect is to suggest an astringent austerity of mood and poetic tone. The grey colouration of many of the many poems is linked too with the idea of cleansing salt in the wind that blows over rocky landscapes, intensifying the sense that the poet’s presence in the volume is that of an excoriating critic of a debased social order. ‘To a Shade’ has the ghost of Parnell return to Dublin to ‘drink of that salt breath out of the sea | When grey gulls flit about instead of men, | And the gaunt houses put on majesty’ (VP 292). And in ‘September 1913’, one of Yeats’s best-known poems, the poet asks, setting the sacrificial heroism of the past against a depleted present: “Was it for this the wild geese spread | The grey wing upon every tide…?’ (VP 290)


1 On 10 July, 1902 Dowden wrote to Professor Martin Sampson ‘It is a good and pleasant thing that you think my Pater right, for you know Pater. He seems to me a very sure-footed critic, because he was so patient in his study, never writing until he had filled himself with his theme’. See Elizabeth H. Dowden and Hilda M. Dowden (eds.), Letters of Edward Dowden And His Correspondents (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1914), 320.

2 Edward Dowden, Essays Modern and Elizabethan (London: J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd; New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1910), 14. The only authority for the famous comment of Oscar Wilde’s that Studies in the History of the Renaissance is ‘“my golden book... the very flower of decadence: the last trumpet should have sounded the moment it was written”’ is Yeats (in The Trembling of the Veil, 1922), who dates it to his first meeting Wilde at William Henley’s: see Au 130. It therefore seems possible that Yeats is Dowden’s oral source. Wilde’s ‘enthusiasm’ for the book is undoubted, but his smile was surely a good deal less ‘ironic’ than Dowden assumed.

3 Ibid., 8-9.

4 Ibid., 2.

5 Ibid., 7.

6 Ibid., 20-21.

7 A footnote to the text of Essays and Introductions reads ‘Burns actually wrote:− “The wan moon is setting ayont the white wave,” but Yeats’s version has been retained for the sake of his comments’. Yeats’s mis-recollection intensifies whiteness in Burns’s imagery.

8 VP 117. In a BBC broadcast of 28 February 1935, Yeats conceded that this was an ‘obscurity’. ‘I must have meant by that the reflection of heather in the water’: see;jsessionid=7630A4C511F02AFE7B82337E4C624EC2?poemId=1689

9 I base my ideas here on J. Hillis Miller’s remarks about colour in Yeats’s early poetry in his Poets of Reality: Six Twentieth-Century Writers (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), 68-130 at 75-76.

10 From 1895 through to the 1924 reprinting of the seventh edition of Poems, the spelling ‘gray’ was preferred by certain of Yeats’s English publishers.

11 Dowden, Essays Modern and Elizabethan, 21.

12 Padraic Colum, ‘Reminiscences of Yeats’, Tri-quarterly 4 (1965, 71-76 at 75; cf., I&R 2, 210).

13 George Bornstein, Yeats and Shelley (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 122.