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Studies on W.B. Yeats

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Jacqueline Genet

An empty theatre?

Yeats as Minstrel in Responsibilities

Warwick Gould

Texte intégral

  • 1 (1) Responsibilities represents one of those plateaus of reappraisal and renewal" (John Unterecker, (...)
  • 2 (2) Allan Wade (ed)., The Letters of W.B. Yeats, (London, Rupert Hart-Davis, 1954), p. 576. Hereaft (...)
  • 3 (3) VP., p. 842.

1Yeats's individual volumes are always a part of a "moving image" of himself: the self they present, or as I would prefer to put it, the hero they create, is always a reappraisal1. We might expect, and frequently do find, in the later updatings of each volume, new versions of a self he had always to think of as in some way a "permanent self2, a great deal of rewriting and rearrangement. "Whatever changes I have made" said Yeats in a note to Early Poems and Stories (1925), "are but an attempt to express better what I thought and felt when I was a very young man"3.

  • 4 (4) On which see YP., p. 706-749.
  • 5 (5) On the changes in the canon, order and text of Responsibilities from 1914 onwards see below, no (...)

2What is striking therefore about Responsibilities, is that there is so little change in its volume-order and disposition between 1914, when the volume was first published on his sisters' press and 1931-32, when he placed the volume into the planned Edition de Luxe4 of his work. It remained an image with which he was very largely satisfied5.

  • 6 (6) VPL., p. 646.
  • 7 (7) Examples include the printing of On Baile's Strand with the poems of In the Seven Woods: Being (...)

3My initial text therefore is Responsibilities: Poems and a Play, published by the Cuala Press on 25 May, 1914. The play is the new version of The Hour Glass, privately printed by the Cuala Press earlier that year, and first appearing in Florence in The Mask in April 1913. As a morality play in 1903 it had even "converted a music-hall singer and kept him going to Mass for six weeks", a triumph which had at first "faintly pleased" Yeats, "so little responsibility [emphasis added] does one feel for that mythological world". But when the poet saw friends in the theatre he felt ashamed: the "wise man [of the play] humbled himself to the fool and received salvation as his reward" whatever Yeats tried to suggest in the dialogue, such was the image presented in the play's final tableau. Rewritten with the "elaboration of verse" the new version made the philosopher "accept God's will": Yeats had by this manoeuvre "so changed the fable that it is not false to [his] own thoughts of the world"6. The placing of the new version of The Hour Glass before the closing rhymes clearly indicates that Yeats wished the play to be included within the volume's overall sequence. It would be possible on another occasion, to push this point further: but the point belongs to comment on the play. It was Yeats's regular practice to include plays with current volumes of poems, sometimes as part of their sequence, sometimes not7. Equally it was his regular practice to remove such plays at a subsequent date. This paper, therefore, does not further discuss the placement of The Hour Glass in this volume.

  • 8 (8) Dundrum, Cuala Press, 1913.
  • 9 (9) Leipzig, Tauchnitz, 1913.
  • 10 (10) Nine Poems chosen from the Works of William Butler Yeats privately printed for John Quinn and (...)
  • 11 (11) Responsibilities and Other Poems (London, Macmillan, 1916).
  • 12 (12) The most significant of these is the attempt to reinsert in the volume The New Faces, a poem d (...)
  • 13 (13) It was Hugh Kenner who remarked that Yeats "was an architect, not a decorator; he didn't accum (...)

4The Hour Glass in its new version was but one of many of the contents which had appeared before: various sequences had appeared in the 1912 American trade edition of The Green Helmet and Other Poems and in Poems written in Discouragement8. Various other poems were collected from periodicals and from A Selection from the Poetry of W.B. Yeats9, and from the choice private printing of Nine Poems10. Although Responsibilities: Poems and a Play was "only" a Cuala Press volume, with trade publication two years away11, it marked a brilliant integration of all these disparate materials into an overall volume order which is in fact a sequence, one which retained that remarkable stability, despite a few later attempts on Yeats's part to tinker with it12. My method is therefore a very simple one: I propose to examine some aspects of the order13 and interrelation of some of the poems which make up this stable sequence.

I Beyond the fling of the dull ass's hoof14

  • 14 (14) VP., p. 321.
  • 15 (15) On Theatrum mundi in Yeats see Ruth Nevo, "Yeats and Schopenhauer", in Warwick Gould (ed.), Ye (...)

5The overall organising trope of the book, as so often with Yeats, is theatrum mundi15 but in this case the player on the stage is in an all but empty theatre, a stage in eternity

  • 16 (16) VP., p. 269.

Pardon, old fathers, if you still remain
Somewhere in ear-shot for the story's end,16

  • 17 (17) VP., p. 320.

6Further the figure at the centre is not a poor player who struts and frets his hour, but a minstrel. His stage is a cosmic stage, his audience, or what remains of it, consists of his surmise[d] companions, departed ancestors, dead poets, mythical heroes, the ghost of Parnell, the wild geese, hermits, beggarmen and visionary magi. His link with these figures is via that reed-throated whisperer17, addressed as a muse in the valedictory lines of the book. The company, such as it is, is at least preferable to the audience one finds in any ordinary theatre, or theatre of endeavour, such as the Abbey Theatre, or the Ireland of his day. Yeats's contempt is the mirror of that contemporary audience's apparent contempt for him, and he establishes this oppositional stance by means of his emphatic allusion to Ben Jonson's 'An Ode to Himself in the closing rhymes. Jonson had written

  • 18 (18) The same phrase is also used in the epilogue to Johnson's The Poetaster "Leave me. There's som (...)

And since our dainty age
Cannot endure reproof,
Make not thyself a page
To that strumpet, the stage,
But sing high and aloof,
Safe from the wolf's black jaw, and the dull ass's hoof18.

  • 19 (19) Ex., p. 257.
  • 20 (20) See for example the chapter "mottoes" in The Monastery (but note the exceptional motto to Ch. (...)

7Yeats's theatre, then is theatre's anti-self, his theatrum mundi is an inner world as well as a cosmic trope and a later-to-be-realized and staged ambition19. The source of the poet's inspiration, his power, and his responsibilities is dream, addressed in the first words of the first epigraph of the book, an aphorism probably invented, in a device imitated from the chapter-epigraphs in Walter Scott's novels20. Scott similarly invoked "Old Plays" as the source for what were in fact his own words.

In dreams begins responsibility.
OLDPLAY

  • 21 (21) VP., p. 269.

How am I fallen from myself, for a long time now I have not seen the Prince of Chang in my dreams.
KHOUNG-FOU-TSEU21.

  • 22 (22) Analects VII, v. In Legge's translation: "Extreme in my decay. For a long time I have not drea (...)

8Ancestor worship, of culture heroes in the manner of Confucius' Analects22 takes place via their dynamic presence as spirits in dreams. In addressing his own "old fathers" Yeats appears to apologise

  • 23 (23) VP., p. 270.

Pardon that for a barren passion's sake,
Although I have come close on forty-nine,
I have no child, I have nothing but a book,
Nothing but that to prove your blood and mine23.

9There is no hint of the middle-aged robustness of King Lear's Kent who, when asked "How old art thou?" replies

  • 24 (24) Act I., iv., p. 37-39.

Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor so old to dote on her for any thing. I have years on my back forty-eight24.

  • 25 (25) When the contrary thought is expressed in Beggar to Beggar Cried there is no mention of childr (...)
  • 26 (26) Au., p. 23.

10rather, in Yeats's case there is also an urge to be older – "close on forty-nine" – to be freed from any responsibility to reproduce25, perhaps, which is congruent with the suggestion I am making that "nothing but a book" is as much a boast as an apology. After all, the same old fathers, or one of the Yeats side of the family, spoke "the only eulogy that turn[ed Yeats's] head: 'We have ideas and no passions, but by marriage with a Pollexfen we have given a tongue to the sea cliffs'"26.

11From the epigraphs we move to the opening rhymes, and from those rhymes to "The Grey Rock'. In its opening address it calls up the dead poets of The Rhymers' Club, in a frame tale which underlines the performed quality of Responsibilities.

Poets with whom I learned my trade,
Companions of the Cheshire Cheese,
Here's an old story I've remade,
Imagining 'twould better please
Your ears than stories now in fashion...

  • 27 (27) VP., p. 270-271.

When cups went round at close of day –
Is not that how good stories run –?27

  • 28 (28) The marginal existence of Yeats's water-birds, and their access to otherworldly experience and (...)

12What is immediately noticed is that epigraph, opening and closing rhymes, and frame-tale level of 'The Grey Rock' are all in italics. In fact, there are many other verses and refrains right through to the closing rhymes in italics. It seems not only that the device of italics signals a frame to the collection, or an outer frame to a narrative poem, but also a consistent level of supernatural references. The old fathers, dead poets, the beggars in 'Beggar to Beggar Cried', even the old crane of Gort28 whose tale frames that of King Guaire and 'The Three Beggars', exists on the italic level of the outer frame of the book.

13In fact, on closer examination of the 1914 edition, the typographical schema can be seen to be even more elaborate. For the opening and closing rhymes of the volume are printed in rubric and italic, marking out an entire frame of reference to which the (black) italic of the two epigraphs relates.

  • 29 (29) Dundrum, Cuala, 1903.
  • 30 (30) Thus when the two colours of the Cuala edition were slavishly followed for the trade edition p (...)

14This use of typography and ink colours to frame collections and to designate frame tales or levels of personal reference in narrative poems was not new to Responsibilities. It was a development of a method first used in In the Seven Woods: Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age29. In that collection, rubric was used for the title of the sequence and for the personal level of 'Baile and Aillinn'. It seems likely that the device was used because the Cuala Press at the time had no fount of italic types. The rubric is used inconsistently where italic might otherwise have been used30. But there is no doubt that this was his first experiment with the typographical signification of frame-tales, and I shall return to the subject of In the Seven Woods later.

II The Narrative Diptych

  • 31 (31) The legend of Dubhlaing O'Hartagan, who spumed the offer of two hundred years with Aoibhell of (...)

15For the moment, let me return to 'The Grey Rock' and to 'The Two Kings', the poem which should follow it, but which in the Collected Poems (1933 and later) is printed in the "Narrative and Dramatic" section, tucked discreetly at the back of the book. In the former poem I have suggested that italic is used to indicate the first level of narrative. In the book's theatre, this typography indicates the story is addressed to the immortal audience, the dead poets. Its implicit perspective is the immortal perspective of Aoife, betrayed by a faithless mortal to whom she has given her protection and who prefers "one crowded hour of glorious" death (as it were) to immortality31.

  • 32 (32) VP., p. 271.
  • 33 (33) Ibid., p. 273.

16Yeats's position on this material is clear, and he expects his audience of dead poets to share his perspective "The moral's your because it's mine"32 he warns them. While they had shown bravery in keeping "the Muses' sterner laws" and facing their ends "[u]nrepenting", they had nevertheless given no "loud service to a cause"33. Just as Maud Gonne is characterised as

  • 34 (34) Ibid., p. 272.

... a woman none could please,
Because she dreamed when but a child
Of men and women made like these;34.

17so the poets are expected to be on the immortal side, as it were, and to sympathise with the cry of Aoife

  • 35 (35) Ibid., p. 275.

Why must the lasting love what passes,
Why are the gods by men betrayed?35

18and with that of the minstrel who tells the tale, which is also the tale of himself

  • 36 (36) Ibid., p. 276.

I have kept my faith, though faith was tried.
To that rock-born, rock-wandering foot.
And the world's altered since you died,
And I am in no good repute
With the loud host before the sea,
That think sword-strokes were better meant
Than lover's music – let that be,
So that the wandering foot's content36.

19In the original collection, and in fact in all publications of Responsibilities until 1933, "The Grey Rock' was followed by "The Two Kings'. In that year, Yeats acceded to a request from his publisher, Harold Macmillan, to put the narrative poems in a section at the back of that popular one volume collection, which Yeats had suggested to Macmillan, as a way of keeping his name before the public while an edition de luxe was held over during the Depression.

  • 37 (37) For a full account see Warwick Gould, "Appendix Six The Definitive Edition: a History of the F (...)

20The anachronical, two-part arrangement of "Lyrical" and "Narrative and Dramatic" sections was designed expressly to encourage new buyers, who would initially encounter Yeats's short, well-loved lyrics. With the preferable chronological arrangement which recorded the poet's "permanent self or image of his life in his work awaiting its moment, Yeats was "delighted" by the suggestion of a popular arrangement, but it is now known to have been subsidiary to his preferred conception37, in which 'The Two Kings' remained steadfastly in its place in Responsibilities. I shall therefore consider its placement here.

21In 'The Two Kings' there is no personal frame of reference, but there are two levels to the narrative. Yeats had been a master of narrative enclosure ever since writing 'The Wanderings of Oisin' in which the story of Oisin's adventures (from one of his sources) is enfolded within the colloquy of Oisin and Patrick (from his other source). In 'The Two Kings' the first story concerns King Eochaid, returning to Tara from a royal tour, who is unable to administer the coup de grace to a miraculous white stag. In the second story, Etain his wife is courted by her faery husband from a former life, Midhir, using the ruse of a mysterious illness which has fallen upon Eochaid's brother Ardan. Etain agrees to requite Ardan's hopeless passion for her, which it appears is killing him. When she goes to meet him in secret, she is confronted by Midhir, who has been elaborately wooing her through the sickly Ardan. The two stories have one supernatural occurrence in common: both Eochaid and Etain find themselves, at the moment of their respective supernatural encounters, pressed against a beech-tree. When the two stories are considered together, we can see that these are two different accounts of the same supernatural encounter: each is confronting the shapechanging god Midhir in a different way. Eochaid forces the god-as-stag against a beech-bole and draws his knife when

  • 38 (38) VP., p. 278.

... On the instant
It vanished like a shadow, and a cry
So mournful that it seemed the cry of one
Who had lost some unimaginable treasure
Wandered between the blue and the green leaf
And climbed into the air, crumbling away,
Till all had seemed a shadow or a vision
But for the trodden mire, the pool of blood,
The disembowelled horse38.

22At the same moment, in, as it were, another part of the forest, Etain is confronting Midhir, her immortal husband. As Etain later tells Eochaid, who has intuitively known that the answer to his supernatural encounter will be found when he returns to his wife, she had answered Midhir's wooing by saying

  • 39 (39) Ibid., p. 284.

... I am King Eochaid's wife
And with him have found every happiness
Women can find39.

23While Midhir has replied

... With a most masterful voice,
That made the body seem as it were a string
Under a bow, he cried, "What happiness
Can lovers have that know their happiness
Must end at the dumb stone? But where we build
Our sudden palaces in the still air
Pleasure itself can bring no weariness,
Nor can time waste the cheek, nor is there foot
That has grown weary of the wandering dance,
Nor an unlaughing mouth, but mine that mourns,
Among those mouths that sing their sweethearts' praise,
Your empty bed."

24Etain replies

  • 40 (40) Ibid., p. 285.

... "How should I love," I answered,
"Were it not that when the dawn has lit my bed
And shown my husband sleeping there, I have sighed,
'Your strength and nobleness will pass away'?
Or how should love be worth its pains were it not
That when he has fallen asleep within my arms,
Being wearied out, I love in man the child?
What can they know of love that do not know
She builds her nest upon a narrow ledge
Above a windy precipice?"40.

25Midhir's appeal for her to come now and share his "useless happiness" rather than wait until her death reunites her with him anyway offers her her clinching argument in favour of mortal, rather than immortal love

"Never will I believe there is any change
Can blot out of my memory this life
Sweetened by death, but if I could believe,
That were a double hunger in my lips
For what is doubly brief."

  • 41 (41) Ibid., p. 285-286.

And now the shape
My hands were pressed to vanished suddenly.
I staggered, but a beech-tree stayed my fall'
And clinging to it I could hear the cocks
Crow upon Tara."41.

  • 42 (42) For a brief list of sources and authorities see YP., p. 541-542. The story of Etain and Midhir (...)
  • 43 (43) cf. Lady Gregory's discreet economy: "he was thankful to his wife for the kindness she had sho (...)

26The first story is wholly invented by Yeats to enclose just this one of many narratives from the Irish myths of Etain and Midhir42. Its point of contact with the story it encloses is the theme of 'The Grey Rock' viewed, as it were, from another perspective. A faithless immortal wife is faithful to her mortal husband for the duration of her mortal span, but this action (unlike that of Duibhlaing O'Hartagan in the earlier poem) is endorsed by the enclosing narrative. King Eochaid even thanks his wife for offering to sleep with his brother to cure his mysterious illness43, while thanking her for not sleeping with her faery husband

  • 44 (44) VP., p. 286.

... King Eochaid bowed his head
And thanked her for her kindness to his brother,
For that she promised, and for that refused44.

  • 45 (45) Myth. 116; the two conceptions just as surely "dying each other's life, living each other's de (...)

27Mortal life and its loyalties are thus shown by the two poems to be the antithesis of immortal life. The idea obsessed Yeats in all of his folkloric researches during the late nineties. "There is a war on between the living and the dead, and the Irish stories keep harping on it", he wrote in The Celtic Twilight45, and it is one of the paradoxical lessons in The Hour Glass

  • 46 (46) VPl., p. 583.

There are two living countries, one visible
and one invisible, and when it is summer there, it
is winter here, and when it is November with us,
it is lambing-time there46.

28My suggestion is that it is inside, as it were, the antinomy of the complementary heroic narratives that the poet dwells, and he dwells uncomfortably. His stage is lit by their contrasting spotlights, he is trapped in their double focus. For the minstrel in the ghostly theatre, immortal and mortal responsibilities are antithetical. Yet he is mortal – and torn: the book or children, the wandering foot or the loud host. In Etain's words, he builds his nest

... upon a narrow ledge
Above a windy precipice.

  • 47 (47) Myth. p. 333.

29Or, as Yeats himself put it in Per Arnica Silentia Lunae, "The poet... lives amid the whirlwinds that beset [the] threshold"47. He is a creature of the margins, like his beggars, hermits and water-birds, and his lyrics, which follow, live in a crossfire and conflicting loyalties.

III The finished man among his enemies

  • 48 (48) The Sense of an Ending (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), passim.
  • 49 (49) cf. T.S. Eliot's judgment: "Yeats... was one of the very few whose history is the history of t (...)

30If as I suggest, we should look upon this book as a performance in which the minstrel dramatises himself against the intolerable forces expressed in his stories and the contents of his memory, then we should not forget that its phantasmagoria of ancestors, dead poets, mythic heroes and visionary spectres are, as much as are the Dublin Lockout, the Hugh Lane Gallery controversy, and that over The Playboy of the Western World, the elements of another narrative, that of the poet's invented self, his hero who is, and is not, W.B. Yeats. Frank Kermode reminds us that human beings demand narrative to make sense of their lives48. It is this search for concords which connect Yeats's own times and his larger – eternal – concerns which characterises him; Yeats always functions in an order of being outside that of the history of his own times49. The interlinking of narrative and lyric in Responsibilities shows Yeats's attempt to situate himself as a hero, and his discouragements, within that larger theatre, that theatrum mundi.

  • 50 (50) E&I., p. 509.
  • 51 (51) On the Stage – and Off (London: Leadenhall Press, 1885), p. 121.

31In it, we can see that the man Yeats, the "bundle of accident and incoherence that sits down to breakfast"50 has become what the theatrical lingo of his day called a responsible. A responsible was an actor who could be depended upon to play any part at short notice, as Jerome K. Jerome reminds us51. The finished man, (compleat, not exhausted), was a responsible because he had invented enough masks – enough selves – to play the many parts required of him.

  • 52 (52) VP., p. 316.
  • 53 (53) Arnold S. Kaufman, "Responsibility" in Paul Edwards (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (Ne (...)
  • 54 (54) John Unterecker, op. cit., p. 113-114.
  • 55 (55) Yeats owned The Book of the Courtier from the Italian of Count Baldassare castiglione: done in (...)

32In a crude sense to be prepared for responsibility means to be prepared to "take the blame" (though not "out of all sense and reason"52, but it also means rather more than that. It is "intimately related to the theological issue of salvation, the allocation of divine rewards and punishments"53. In Yeats's case the inner certainty that he could now respond (responsively and responsibly) to crises personal and public, had its price: to be a responsible in the theatre of public life might mean becoming irresponsive to "sterner laws" and duties. In the grand antinomies of the volume's title, it might be more responsible for the poet to be irresponsible in the world's eyes. John Unterecker once proposed a complete taxonomy of the various responsibilities of this volume54, but it seems clear that it is preferable to see the supernatural responsibilities as personal or social irresponsibilities, the personal or social responsibilities as supernaturally irresponsible. The poet was the combat between an ideal self and a public man. What I have tried to show of his role as a minstrel, and of the consciously "performance-orientated" context in which the poems interact, makes it possible and necessary to reread the personal lyrics (and the many political and personal annotations already suggested for them, and their influences, autobiographical, poetic and intellectual, such as Hoby's translation of Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier55) in the light of a considerable simplification.

  • 56 (56) III. iv, lines 106-108: "unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, fork'd animal as (...)
  • 57 (57) VP., p. 273. Yeats's magnificent stanza:
    Was it for this the wild geese spread
    The grey wing upo (...)
  • 58 (58) The word "responsibility" came to be synonymous with the loss of inspiration: such a moment is (...)

33Yeats's poems – his progeny – depended on maintaining clearly the lines of contact with dream, with myth, with irresponsibility. If words were to "obey his call", he had a supervening responsibility to irresponsibility itself. This is expressed in the book's affinity with that peculiarly Irish wildness which T.R. Henn has defined so exactly in the context of the beggarman poems of Responsibilities, with their connotations of King Lear's "poor, bare, fork'd animal"56. There was more enterprise in walking naked, with unhouseled ghosts in 'The Cold Heaven' with hermits, beggars, dead poets, drunken gods and heroes, barnacle geese and a proud, wayward squirrel appointed by no government. Even the "wild geese" of Irish political exile troop with those the world's forgot57. Such celebrations laud that irresponsibility which is ineluctably linked to the sources of his inspiration58.

  • 59 (59) VP., p. 290-291.

Now all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honour bred, with one
Who, were it proved he lies,
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbours' eyes?
Bread to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult59.

  • 60 (60) Yeats's phrase to describe the qualities he found in William Morris's prose romances. See L., (...)
  • 61 (61) VP., p. 316.

34The closing poems express the poet's own "curious astringent joy"60 with the unflinching bleakness of his lot: lyrics which begin in discouragement and include taking the blame "out of all sense and reason" leave him nevertheless "[r]iddled with light"61.

  • 62 (62) Yeats's own edition of Herodotus was the Henry Cary translation in the Bohn's Classical Librar (...)

35A ghost from Herodotus62, sent out naked on the roads, he seems in a bleaker purgatory than the ghost of Parnell in 'To a Shade'. Yet he has consolations: the exercise of praising friends, such as Lady Gregory who partnered with him with Mind and delighted mind; Olivia Shakespear who

  • 63 (63) VP., p. 315.

Had strength that could unbind
What none can understand,
What none can have and thrive,
Youth's dreamy load...63.

  • 64 (64) Ibid., p. 316.

36and Maud Gonne, the memory of whom could cause him to "shake from head to foot"64; and the rather more palpable consolation to match the "surmise[d] companions", the "sterner conscience" and "friendlier home" at Coole.

  • 65 (65) In a letter to Lady Gregory, 4 April, 1913. The poem was possibly The Three Beggars. See Donal (...)
  • 66 (66) VP., p. 304.
  • 67 (67) Ibid., p. 820.
  • 68 (68) Ezra Pound reviewed Responsibilities (1916), and noted the bardic satire in a response which i (...)

37There are two features of the patterning of the latter parts of the volume to note: Yeats continues to mix what he called "story poems"65 with personal lyrics. The irresponsibilities of "the bad hour before the dawn"66 or 'The Three Hermits' and 'The Three Beggars' are registered in narratives. The last named poems also remind one that a feature of the volume's pattern is the use of doublets: 'The Grey Rock' and 'The Two Kings' are a diptych which prepares the reader for the double perspectives of what Yeats himself called the "complementary forms" of "fables"67: 'The Magi' and 'The Dolls'; 'The Witch' and 'The Peacock'; To a Child dancing in the Wind' and 'Two Years Later'. The duality, once the relation of the two initial narrative poems has been restored, is everywhere apparent. Half-anonymous yet personal, the minstrel in the theatre dramatises himself against the background of his own heroic tales for a departed audience, and yet he is also the finished man among his enemies, another kind of bard, fierce of satire and ready to assail those enemies68.

IV The World Growing Plastic Again

  • 69 (69) The removal of the sub-title Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age took place in that cr (...)

38It is not the first time Yeats has so structured a book. In the Seven Woods: Being Chiefly Poems of the Irish Heroic Age (1903), had opened with two double-decker heroic tales, followed by sequence of personal lyrics in their shadow. There too, the poet had been present in his narrative tales (a point I shall return to), and his self-dramatisation follows in shorter poems. That structure also has been obliterated in the Collected Poems. It had been partly dismantled earlier by Yeats, but its order (if not its sequence) had been carefully preserved69. When the book of Yeats's poems is read in the order he himself intended, the two narratives still precede the detumescent little group of lyrics grouped under the section title: "In The Seven Woods", their diminished stature and "heart-revealing intimacy" standing in contrast to the two preceding heroic tales the poet has told.

  • 70 (70) A good example of cante-fable can be found in Comrac Fhirdead Inso ("The Fight of Ferdiad") in (...)

39This partial restoration (which was carried into the Edition de Luxe proofs which became The Poems [London, Macmillan, 1949], the copy text for the Variorum Edition [1957] and the basic text for Yeats's Poems [1989]) suggests strongly that the interdependence of narrative and lyric modes continued to matter to Yeats. There is nothing surprising in that: cante-fable structure was the term used in the 1890s for ancient Irish story-telling70, and any accurate record of his middle years would preserve his preoccupation with it.

  • 71 (71) (L., p. 106). Yeats's 1889 definition is probably based upon a reading of Keats's description (...)
  • 72 (72) The Autumn of the Body when collected in Ideas of Good and Evil (1903). See infra Section VI f (...)

40Further, one of the ways Yeats sought to remake himself after the end of the nineties was by developing this interdependence of lyric and other modes. He had once seen the long poem as a (Keatsian) "thicket", "a region into which one should wander from the cares of life71. He had largely ceased to write narrative poems during the nineties (when he wrote almost everything else). But even during the Eglinton controversy of 1898, in The Autumn of the Flesh72, when he put his maximum weight behind Arthur Symons's endorsement of the Mallarméan "poetry of essences... [of] little and intense poems", he had written that, though he perceived "a crowning crisis of the world" when

  • 73 (73) E&I., P. 191-194.

we are beginning to be interested in many things which positive science, the interpreter of exterior law, has always denied: communion of mind with mind in thought and without words, foreknowledge in dreams and in visions, and the coming among us of the dead... I think we will not cease to write long poems, but rather we will write them more and more as our new belief makes the world plastic under our hands again...73.

41Narrative poetry might be necessary to the movement, presumably in a larger educative purpose, particularly in Ireland. Its role was to be for Yeats in part fulfilled by Lady Gregory's Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902) and Gods and Fighting Men (1904) which provided the modern world with what he thought laudable versions of Irish myths. The surprising success of those books I think in part quelled Yeats's sense of an unfilled need for mythological narrative, though he was to use them in writing his own narrative poetry.

V "Mythical Method" and Epic Misreading

42T.S. Eliot has a very well-known remark about James Joyce and the "mythical method" of Ulysses.

  • 74 (74) From "Ulysses, Order and Myth", The Dial, (Nov. 1923), quoted from Frank Kermode (ed. Select'e (...)

In using the myth, in manipulating a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity, Mr. Joyce is pursuing a method which others must pursue after him. They will not be imitators, any more than the scientist who uses the discoveries of an Einstein in pursuing his own, independent, further investigations. It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history. It is a method already adumbrated by Mr. Yeats, and of the need for which I believe Mr. Yeats to have been the first contemporary to be conscious. It is a method for which the horoscope is auspicious. Psychology (such as it is, and whether our reaction to it be comic or serious), ethnology, and The Golden Bough have concurred to make possible what was impossible even a few years ago. Instead of narrative method, we may now use the mythical method. It is, I seriously believe, a step toward making the modern world possible for art... And only those who have won their own discipline in secret and without aid, in a world which offers very little assistance to that end, can be of any use in furthering this advance74.

  • 75 (75) "Tara Uprooted': Yeats's In the Seven Woods in relation to Modernism", in George Bornstein and (...)
  • 76 (76) I hardly hear the purlieu cry
    Or a Tommy talk as I pass one by
    Before my thoughts begin to run
    On (...)

43Michael Sidnell suggests75 that Eliot had In the Seven Woods: Being Chiefly Poems of the Irish Heroic Age (1903) in mind when he wrote this passage, and certainly Joyce was to be impressed enough by the book to parody 'Baile and Aillinn' in Ulysses, though there are signs that his admiration for Yeats's methods might have been a more complex matter than Eliot allows for here76.

  • 77 (77) Could it be that Eliot admired the poems-and-notes method of The Wind Among the Reeds enough t (...)

44Eliot's attitude to the "mythical method" and to Yeats's "adumbration" of it is very much a post-Great War attitude. It might also conceal and indebtedness to Yeats that Eliot preferred to understate77. Its anachronism ignores the facts: in 1903, Yeats had not found contemporary history anarchic or futile, he lived in a weary time, to be sure, and history had not delivered an Armageddon he both feared and actively looked forward to, but weariness of passion, emotional detumescence, was a personal failure, rather than a failure of history.

45Eliot's perspective suggests some development from the "adumbration of method" supplied by Yeats to the full-blown mythic method of Ulysses. The development is a growth in irony: the futility and anarchy which Eliot believes he perceives in the present is ordered, controlled and shaped by the "mythical method", which makes that modern world possible for art by holding, as it were, a myth up to perceived social reality.

  • 78 (78) In the Seven Woods: Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age, (Dundrum: Cuala, 1903), p. 25 (...)

46In In the Seven Woods Yeats had hoped that indefatigable rewriting (eg. of On Baile's Strand) might bring a "less dream-burdened will into my verses"78. But this in itself is not enough to authenticate the supposed origins of what we could call proto-modernism (at least it relates to Yeats). There are good reasons to assume that Eliot as a later commentator in searching for his own poetic roots, might not have comprehended Yeats's imperatives.

47Eliot's anachronistic reading of Yeats by the light of a post-War sense of historical formlessness and disaster does not accord with the relation to myth and the mythic world which we know Yeats to have held. He was a believer, if a sceptical one, in spirit forces, and in many phenomena which had direct equivalents in Irish faery belief. Irish myth had a reality to him which Eliot had no reason to concede. What was the working nature of that reality?

  • 79 (79) VP1., p. 932.
  • 80 (80) The Sense of an Ending (London, O.U.P., 1966), p. 39.
  • 81 (81) VPl., p. 646.

48Consider, for the moment, his preoccupation "with a certain myth [involving "ecstasy at the contemplation of ruin"] that was itself a reply to a myth [of his own time, that of progress]". He characterised that relation not as "fiction, but one of those statements our nature is compelled to make and employ as a truth though there cannot be sufficient evidence"79. Although Yeats would seem to be using the word fiction in a sense remote from that in which it is used by such a later commentator as Frank Kermode, it nevertheless seems that in Responsibilities he uses Irish mythical stories for those purposes which Kermode sees as the purposes of fictions, viz., "for finding things out, and they change as the needs of sense-making change... Myths call for absolute, fictions for conditional assent. Myths make sense of a lost order of time... fictions, if successful, make sense of the here and now"80. Irish myths, internalised by a minstrel who is intent on dramatising his own predicament against those elements of myth which he interprets as most relevant to that predicament, become fictions under his hand. There is no wonder that Yeats felt "so little responsibility... for that mythological world"81.

VI Self-Portraiture and "The Tradition of Myself"

49To trace Yeats's chief imperative of the years 1900-1914 back to its root-tip, one must recall why he had come to dislike some of his own imperatives of the late nineties. By 1903 he was prepared to admit

  • 82 (82) L., p. 402.

I am no longer in much sympathy with an essay like The Autumn of the Body, not that I think that essay untrue. But I think I mistook for a permanent phase of the world what was only a preparation. The close of the last century was full of a strange desire to get out of form, to get some kind of disembodied beauty, and now it seems to me the contrary impulse has come. I feel about me and in me an impulse to create form, to carry the realization of beauty as far as possible82.

  • 83 (83) "The love-poems and the hate-poems of Irish literature are almost all utterances of some actua (...)
  • 84 (84) Au., p. 102-103.
  • 85 (85) "Gaelic Folk Songs", The Nation, (April-May 189). Quoted from Breandan O Conaire (ed.) Languag (...)

50It is frequently the case with Yeats that such a statement indicates a tide that has been running for some considerable time, and the directions in which his new enthusiasm for form were to lead him – self-portraiture – indicate in part the origins of the impulse in his sense of the vividness of Irish popular poetry. The very origins of the impulse are first found in a review of 1896, when Yeats recalled being greatly moved by "bad Irish verses" which nevertheless contained "the secret of much Irish poetry" viz., "the actual emotion of the writer"83. The discovery occasioned debates (as early as 1885) with his father who insisted that "personal utterance was only egotism"84. Another influence, not remembered by Yeats, was undoubtedly Douglas Hyde, who had insisted in 1890 that Gaelic folk-songs were "intensely interesting [because]... they certainly represent genuine passion...[and are]... the work of people whom strong passion caused to express themselves in verse"85.

51By 1903 the idea had begun to emerge in lectures, where Yeats would tell the story of the bad verses by an "obscure Irish patriotic poet" who describes the "first sight of the hills of his own country as he came back on shipboard".

  • 86 (86) Robert O'Driscoll, "Yeats On Personality": Three Unpublished Lectures" in Robert O'Driscoll an (...)

I found I was moved to tears. I said, "Why is this? It is very bad writing;" and the thought came to me "It is because it is a man's exact feeling, his own absolute thought put down as in a letter." I said to myself, "We have thrown away the most powerful thing in all literature – personal utterance. This poetry of abstract personality has taken the blood out of us, and I will write poetry as full of my own thought as if it were a letter to a friend, and I will write these poems in simple words, never using a phrase I could not use in prose. I will make them the absolute speech of a man"86.

52It is not entirely clear at what date Yeats made these firm intentions: what is clear is that by 1903 they were being recalled as fresh imperatives for his audience. In 'Four Years: 1887-1891' he tells us of those earlier hopes, for

  • 87 (87) Au., p. 150-151.

an art where the artist's handiwork would hide as under those half-anonymous chisels, or as we find it in some old Scots ballads... I took great pleasure in certain allusions to the singer's life one finds in old romances and ballads, and thought his presence there all the more poignant because we discover it half lost87.

  • 88 (88) Ex., p. 210.
  • 89 (89) The two essays "What is Popular Poetry?" and "Speaking to the Psaltery" were placed by Yeats a (...)
  • 90 (90) Ex., p. 209.
  • 91 (91) Ibid., p. 202.
  • 92 (92) Ibid., p. 214.

53And as the changing experiments got a measure of success Yeats came to dream of a "theatre of speech, of romance, of extravagance"88, a theatre of narrative and minstrelsy89. Narrative poetry had to "find its minstrels again, and lyrical poetry adequate singers"90 and these were concerns which became separated from those of the Abbey which somewhat to Yeats's dismay had concentrated on what he called "peasant comedy". In 1908 he wrote that "[we] still dream" of the imperatives expressed in his 'Literature and the Living Voice' written in 190591. That essay represents the high point of his hope for a narrative poetry of the "half-anonymous chisel" and a revival of a culture of the cottage. Loathing modern recitation – "[s]ome youg man in evening clothes will recite to you The Dream of Eugene Aram, and it will be laughable, grotesque, and a little vulgar"92 – he affirmed

  • 93 (93) Ibid., p. 214-215.

We must go to the villages or we must go back hundreds of years to Wolfram of Eschenbach and the castles of Thuringia. In this, as in all other arts, one finds its law and its true purpose when one is near the source. The minstrel never dramatised anybody but himself. It was impossible, from the nature of the words the poet had put into his mouth, or that he had made for himself, that he should speak as another person. He will go no nearer to drama than we do in daily speech, and he will not allow you for any long time to forget himself. Our own Raftery will stop the tale to cry, "This is what I, Raftery, wrote down in the book of the people"; or, "I, myself, Raftery, went to bed without supper that night"... so many lines of narrative, and then a phrase about himself and his emotions. The reciter cannot be a player, for that is a different art; but he must be a messenger, and he should be as interesting, as exciting, as are all that carry great news. He comes from far off, and he speaks of far-off things with his own peculiar animation... His art is nearer to pattern than that of the player. It is always allusion, never illusion; for what he tells of, no matter how impassioned he may become, is always distant, and for this reason he may permit himself every kind of nobleness... In a short poem he may interrupt the narrative with a burden...93.

  • 94 (94) See Joseph Ronsley (ed.) "Yeats's Lecture Notes for "Friends of My Youth'" in Robert O'Driscol (...)
  • 95 (95) Ex., p. 217-218.
  • 96 (96) L., p. 583. The idea, brewing for so long (see L. 462 for Yeats's 1905 imperatives of "common (...)

54In case any should be deluded by Ezra Pound into thinking that the minstrel phase in Yeats's poetic was the product of Pound's troubadour enthusiasms, it is well to note that this lecture was delivered several years before Pound came onto the London scene. Out of its Irish roots arose Yeats's insistence upon candour, upon the idea that a poet's "life is an experiment in living"94 that his "passionate speech" (for Yeats the "one art")95, is a mode of "self-portraiture". This was the conclusion of that debate with John Buder Yeats, and Yeats may be said to have won it when he wrote to his father in August 1913 about his change from a poetry of "vision" to one of "self portraiture": "I have tried to make my work convincing with a speech so natural and dramatic that the hearer would feel the presence of a man thinking and feeling"96.

VII Lacrimae Rerum and the "Splendour of Imagination"

55Responsibilities is the flower of Yeats's Irish speech movement, but it is also its epitaph. With Florence Emery having gone to Ceylon in 1912, its great exemplar (though not its Muse) had departed. It was the end too of the hopes for a revival based on a narrative, peasant culture, which had always been, for all its charm, something of a sentimental cultural project.

  • 97 (97) Mem., p. 142.
  • 98 (98) The Gift of Harun Al-Rashid in The Tower, also relegated to the back of the Collected Poems (1 (...)

56The end of the phase begun with In the Seven Woods (1903) also marked the beginning of a poetry in which full self-portraiture was possible without the trope of minstrelsy. That "secondary or interior personality created by me out of the tradition of myself... this personality (alas, to me only possible in my writings)"97 allowed for the whole scale internalisation of the stances struck towards myth. With one splendid exception98, long poems in future were to be greater lyrics and dialogue poems, or more formal extended lyrical modes, such as elegies.

  • 99 (99) VP., p. 431.

57Yeats also progresses from Responsibilities more certain that he has created a character called "Yeats". He has earned the right to mythologise himself, and everything can now take place within the compass of a character large enough continually to command our attention. The finished man, among his enemies perhaps, but always within "his own secret meditation... the labyrinth that he has made"99, which is, for the reader, his text.

58So, much of the scaffolding found in Responsibilities, useful as it was to structure that collection, is no longer quite so necessary, though the interdependence of shorter and longer poems remains. How Yeats freed himself from a minstrel's dependence upon Irish narrative poetry came about as a result of a controversy over 'The Two Kings' between Ezra Pound and John Butler Yeats.

  • 100 (100) Poetry, IV, ii (May 1914), quoted from T.S. Eliot (ed.) Literary Essays of Ezra Pound (London (...)
  • 101 (101) L., p. 584-585.
  • 102 (102) Ibid. Pound had his own fish to fry in the review, wondering aloud whether Yeats could qualif (...)

59When Pound reviewed Responsibilities Poems and a Play for Poetry (Chicago) he praised (in spite of its "obscurity") 'The Grey Rock' for its "curious nobility... which is, to me at least, the very core of Mr. Yeats's production, the constant element of his writing100. Pound could hardly withhold such praise: 'The Grey Rock' had won $250,000 (£50,00) from Poetry in the preceding November, and Yeats had given most of the money to Pound, keeping but £10.0.0 so as to be able to order a book-plate from Thomas Sturge Moore101. But Pound was incurious as to the other half of the narrative diptych: "it is impossible to take any interest in a poem like The Two Kings – one might as well read the Idylls of another" he said in the same review102, displaying an extraordinarily deaf ear to Tennyson as well as to Yeats. John Buder Yeats was livid:

  • 103 (103) Richard J. Finneran, George Mills Harper, William M. Murphy (eds.) Letters to W.B. Yeats (Lon (...)

... what the devil does Ezra Pound mean by comparing The Two Kings' with Tennyson's Idylls? The Two Kings is immortal, and immortal because of its intensity and concentration It is so full of the "tears of things" that I could not read it aloud... [adding in a foot-note]. In The Two Kings there is another quality often sought for by Tennyson, but never attained, and that is splendor of imagination, a liberating splendor, cold as sunrise. I don't agree with Ezra Pound103.

  • 104 (104) See E&I., p. 523.

60As Yeats ever after remembered104, the phrase gave him the formula 'The Fisherman' adumbrates

  • 105 (105) VP., p. 348.

Maybe a twelvemonth since
Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man,
And his sun-freckled face,
And grey Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark under froth,
And the down-turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream;
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;
And cried, "Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn105.

  • 106 (106) YP., p. 708.
  • 107 (107) See Letters on Poetry from W.B. Yeats to Dorothy Wellesley, intro. Kathleen Raine, (London: O (...)
  • 108 (108) A Midsummer Night's Dream, V: 1, 60.

61The formula, it is to be noted, is a development of John Butler Yeats's description. Yeats adds that troubling polysyllable passionate, a key and frequent "metrical trick"106, but in this context also a key doctrine. From henceforth cold form will contain hot matter, and the "completeness of the holding down" will match the "stirring of the beast underneath"107 but the "concord of this discord"108 is not wholly a matter of technique and craft.

62To write "for my own race and the reality" it was necessary to write not for the insolent, the craven, the knavish or the drunken, the witty, the clever, or any who beat down

... the wise
And great an beaten down

63but to write for this

... man who does not exist
A man who is but a dream.

  • 109 (109) Report of Seamus Heaney's inaugural lecture as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, by Nicholas Shr (...)

64No longer was Yeats addressing dream-figures and retelling Irish heroic narratives to them as a backcloth to the ignominy of the modern world (in some modernist irony as Eliot might have seen it), but writing for a "man who does not exist", setting up what Seamus Heaney has recently called the poet's counter-reality109. Henceforth, Yeats was able directly to "take on the world on his own terms", as Seamus Heaney once put it

defin[ing] the areas where he would negotiate and where he would not; ... never accepting] the terms of another's argument but propound [ing] his own.

65Heaney continues in the same passage to a wider claim:

  • 110 (110) Seamus Heaney, Preoccupations (London: Faber and Faber, 1983), p. 101. Adolphe Haberer alerte (...)

I assume that this peremptoriness, this apparent arrogance, is exemplary in an artist, that it is proper and even necessary for him to insist on his own language, his own vision, his own terms of reference. This will often seem like irresponsibility [emphasis added] or affectation, sometimes like callousness, but from the artist's point of view it is an act of integrity110.

  • 111 (111) On these fictions see Warwick Gould, '"A Lesson for the Circumspect': W.B. Yeats's Two Versio (...)

66Proposing that counter-reality, that antiself, that imagined audience, enabled Yeats to perform the poetic equivalent of a Copernican revolution and achieve self-dramatisation without egotism. The process by which this happened is properly the subject of another essay, but it is perhaps best summarised as follows. Yeats came to see that the implicit narrative of his chief character "Yeats" was itself the thread on which he could string, or arrange, his poems. It was not possible entirely to abandon the scaffolding which fictions provided, but it was now possible to abandon a cantefable dependent upon Irish mythical narrative. It was now bolder to divide himself into Hic and Ille; to bring back in The Wild Swans at Coole (1919), Robartes and Aherne; to augment their number through the happy accident of error; to propagate the Arabian Nights fictions which scaffold the poems until A Vision was ready in 1925111, as his own extended fiction. By these means Yeats turned himself inside out, invented or reinvented fictions about himself, widened that mental theatre and invited his audience to take him on his own terms. This was his paradoxical path to self-dramatisation without egotism.

Notes

1 (1) Responsibilities represents one of those plateaus of reappraisal and renewal" (John Unterecker, A Reader's Guide to W.B. Yeats [London, Thames and Hudson, 1959, 1973], p. 113). Is there any volume of Yeats's verse which does not?

2 (2) Allan Wade (ed)., The Letters of W.B. Yeats, (London, Rupert Hart-Davis, 1954), p. 576. Hereafter cited as "L". On the implications of the idea of a "permanent self built up in his writings, see Warwick Gould, "Appendix Six: The Definitive Edition: A History of the Final Arrangements of Yeats's Work" in A. Norman Jeffares (ed.). Yeats's Poems, London: Macmillan 1989, p. 706-749). This edition is hereafter cited after the symbol" YP". Other standard editions of Yeats, cited in this article will be cited in the notes, using the following standard abbreviations: Autobiographies (London: Macmillan, 1955) – "Au".; Essays and Introductions (London: Macmillan, 1961) – "E&I"; Explorations, sel. Mrs. W.B. Yeats (London: Macmillan, 1962) – "Ex"; Memoirs, ed. Dennis Donoghue (London: Macmillan, 1972) – "Mem"; Mythologies (London: Macmillan, 1959) – "Myth"; The Variorum Edition of the Poems of W.B. Yeats, eds. Peter Allt and Russell K. Alspach (New York: Macmillan, 1957, cited from corrected 1966 printing) – "VP"; The Variorum Edition of the Plays of W.B. Yeats, ed. Russell K. Alspach assisted by Catherine C. Alspach (London: Macmillan, 1966, cited from corrected second printing 1966) – "VPL".

3 (3) VP., p. 842.

4 (4) On which see YP., p. 706-749.

5 (5) On the changes in the canon, order and text of Responsibilities from 1914 onwards see below, note 8.

6 (6) VPL., p. 646.

7 (7) Examples include the printing of On Baile's Strand with the poems of In the Seven Woods: Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age (Dundrum: Dun Emer, 1903) and of The Green Helmet, An Heroic Farce in the oddly titled The Green Helmet and Other Poems (Churchtown, Dundrum: Cuala, 1910): neither play was an integral part of the sequence of its volume in the way in which The Hour Glass was included within the sequence enclosed by the opening and closing verses of "Pardon, old fathers, if you still remain", and "While I, from that red-throated whisperer" in Responsibilities: Poems and a Play, (Churchtown, Dundrum, 1914). There has been debate over whether The Death of Cuchulain and Purgatory should be seen as part of the sequence of poems in what became (after Yeats's death, but printed according to his volume –order), Last Poems and Two Plays (Dublin, Cuala, 1939). See Phillip L. Marcus, "Yeats's 'Last Poems': a Reconsideration" in Warwick Gould (ed.), Yeats Annual N° 5 (London: Macmillan, 1987), p. 3-14

8 (8) Dundrum, Cuala Press, 1913.

9 (9) Leipzig, Tauchnitz, 1913.

10 (10) Nine Poems chosen from the Works of William Butler Yeats privately printed for John Quinn and his Friends, April 1st., 1914.

11 (11) Responsibilities and Other Poems (London, Macmillan, 1916).

12 (12) The most significant of these is the attempt to reinsert in the volume The New Faces, a poem deleted at Lady Gregory's request. See Wayne K. Chapman, "The Annotated Responsibilities: Errors in the Variorum Edition in a New Reading of the Genesis of Two Poems, 'On Those That Hated The Playboy of the Western World, 1907, and The Two Faces" in Warwick Gould (ed.), Yeats Annual N° 6 (London: Macmillan, 1988), p. 108-133. Chapman's argument concerns the alteration of Responsibilities and Other Poems (1916) before its 1917 reprinting. The alterations included the splitting of To a Child Dancing in the Wind into a doublet (I. To a Child Dancing in the Wind and II Two Years Later) which directly complements the other doublets in the 1914 edition: see infra Section III. There were other changes to titles and texts of poems, and the deletion of certain notes. For Later Poems (1922), Yeats rewrote certain portions of The Hour Before Dawn and "The Attack on The Playboy of the Western World, 1907" and other poems not in the Responsibilities unit. He also considered adding The New Faces, written late in 1912 which "well might have appeared earlier [ie in Responsibilities (1914)] beside its sister poems To a Friend whose Work has come to Nothing and To a Shade" (Chapman, loc. cit., p. 115), but for Yeats's tact in withholding the poem at Lady Gregory's request. Although he pasted a holograph copy of the poem into the copy of Responsibilities and Other Poems (1917) now in the Holland Library, Washington State University, Pullman, suggesting that he intended it to form part of the Responsibilities sequence in Later Poems (1922). A holograph of the poem was pasted onto p. 49 of Responsibilities and Other Poems (1917), over The Well and the Tree. That poem was the only poem not part of the 1914 sequence: it is the closing lyric from At the Hawk's Well and was added to the sequence (between Beggar to Beggar Cried and Running to Paradise) for the 1916 trade edition. See Chapman, loc. cit., p. 115-129. Sturge Moore clearly drew his inspiration for that volume's cover-design from The Well and the Tree. See W. Gould, (ed.), Yeats Annual N° 4 (London: Macmillan, 1986), plates 9-11.

13 (13) It was Hugh Kenner who remarked that Yeats "was an architect, not a decorator; he didn't accumulate poems, he wrote books" ("The Sacred Book of the Arts", Irish Writing: [W.B. Yeats A Special Number], 31, Summe 1955, p. 24-35), and much reprinted since, eg. in Kenner's Gnomon: Essays on Contemporary Literature (New York: Obolensky, 1958), p. 9-29. Kenner's comment was made about volume-order, and he was to extrapolate his ideas from "books" to the Book. But the idea that "the unit in which to inspect and discuss [Yeats's] development is not the poem or sequence of poems, but the volume", (Irish Writing, loc. cit., p. 27) cannot be translated as easily to "the oeuvre, the deliberate artistic Testament, a division of that new Sacred Book of the Arts" as Kenner might have hoped. When his article had appeared, Mrs. Yeats alerted him to the fact that the order of the "Last Poems" in Poems (London: Macmillan, 1949) was not Yeats's own, thus making it no longer possible to see "order" and "arrangement" as different aspects of the same "Sacred Book" or "dramatic revelation". For Kenner's account see Richard J. Finneran, Editing Yeats's Poems: A Reconsideration (London: Macmillan, 1989), p. 165-166. Note, however, that the conclusions Finneran draws from the episode are very dubious.

14 (14) VP., p. 321.

15 (15) On Theatrum mundi in Yeats see Ruth Nevo, "Yeats and Schopenhauer", in Warwick Gould (ed.), Yeats Annual N° 3 (1985), p. 15-32 at 20-27; and Warwick Gould, '"A Crowded Theatre': Yeats and Balzac" in A. Norman Jeffares, (ed.), Yeats the European, (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe; Savage, Maryland: Barnes & Noble Books, 1989, Princess Grace Irish Library Series, N° 3), p. 69-90 & nn.

16 (16) VP., p. 269.

17 (17) VP., p. 320.

18 (18) The same phrase is also used in the epilogue to Johnson's The Poetaster "Leave me. There's something come into my thought
That must and shall be sung high and aloof,
Safe from the wolf's black jaw, and the dull ass's hoof (YP., p. 551)

19 (19) Ex., p. 257.

20 (20) See for example the chapter "mottoes" in The Monastery (but note the exceptional motto to Ch. xiv, ascribed to a New Play); The Abbot; Peveril of the Peak; Woodstock; The Fair Maid of Perth, etc...

21 (21) VP., p. 269.

22 (22) Analects VII, v. In Legge's translation: "Extreme in my decay. For a long time I have not dreamed as I was wont to, that I saw the Duke of Chau". Yeats's "Prince of Chang" may have been a simple misremembering (for he does credit the quote to Confucius). Yeats returns to "The great lord of Chou" in Vacillation, VP., p. 502.

23 (23) VP., p. 270.

24 (24) Act I., iv., p. 37-39.

25 (25) When the contrary thought is expressed in Beggar to Beggar Cried there is no mention of children in the beggar's "ease", and his wife "need not be too comely – let it pass", (VP., p. 300).

26 (26) Au., p. 23.

27 (27) VP., p. 270-271.

28 (28) The marginal existence of Yeats's water-birds, and their access to otherworldly experience and illumination is discussed in Warwick Gould, "Lionel Johnson Comes the First to Mind': Sources for Owen Aherne" in George Mills Harper (ed.), Yeats and the Occult (Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1975), p. 255-284 at p. 273-76.

29 (29) Dundrum, Cuala, 1903.

30 (30) Thus when the two colours of the Cuala edition were slavishly followed for the trade edition published by the Macmillan Company, New York, 1903, Yeats felt the book had been "spoilt" (Allan Wade, A Bibliography of the Writings of W.B. Yeats, [London, Rupert Hart-Davis, 3rd. edition, revised and edited by Russell K. Alspach, 1968], p. 68). Rubric is not used for the personal level of "The Old Age of Queen Maeve" (eg. lines 30-35, VP., p. 181) which as yet lacks its italicised first stanza, not added until 1932 in what was, however, a congruent development – see VP p. 180). Black type is used for the argument of Baile and Aillinn and yet rubric for the title and opening stage directions of On Baile's Strand, while rubric is used not only for the narrator's level of Baile and Aillinn but also for the Ogham letters of Baile's grave (line 118, VP., p. 114).

31 (31) The legend of Dubhlaing O'Hartagan, who spumed the offer of two hundred years with Aoibhell of Craig Liath by breaking that offer's condition and fighting alongside Murchad, son of Brian Boru in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, is outlined in YP., P. 541. See Also Gods and Fighting Men The Story of the Tuatha De Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland, arranged and put into English by Lady Gregory, with a Preface by W.B. Yeats, (Gerrards Cross, Colin Smythe, 1970), p. 87-88. On the following pages is the story of Midhir and Etain, which Yeats used (among other sources) for The Two Kings".

32 (32) VP., p. 271.

33 (33) Ibid., p. 273.

34 (34) Ibid., p. 272.

35 (35) Ibid., p. 275.

36 (36) Ibid., p. 276.

37 (37) For a full account see Warwick Gould, "Appendix Six The Definitive Edition: a History of the Final Arrangements of Yeats"s Work" in YP., p. 706-749 esp. p. 714-715. Richard J. Finneran in The Poems A New Edition (Macmillan, 1984), based his text upon The Collected Poems (Macmillan, 1933) and preserved that arrangement in The Poems Revised (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1989). The reasons he offers in Editing Yeats's Poems: A Reconsideration (London, Macmillan Press, 1989) are rebutted in "Appendix Six". Finneran is quite mistaken in assuming in this last named book that The Two Kings was somehow a separate entity in the Edition de Luxe proofs: and ignores the violence done to Responsibilities as a sequence by its removal (p. 160).

38 (38) VP., p. 278.

39 (39) Ibid., p. 284.

40 (40) Ibid., p. 285.

41 (41) Ibid., p. 285-286.

42 (42) For a brief list of sources and authorities see YP., p. 541-542. The story of Etain and Midhir was a favourite of Yeats's and to some extent in his choice of incident (from his most immediate source in Lady Gregory's Gods and Fighting Men [see above n.17] p. 91 and seq.), Yeats was writing around his favourite episode in the story. Midhir's wooing of Etain had been literally translated for Yeats by Maud Gonne from the French in H. D'Arbois de Jubainville's Le Cycle Mythologique Irlandais et La Mythologie Celtique (Paris: Ernest Thorin, 1884) for the notes to The Wind Among the Reeds (1899): see VP., p. 805, 817.

43 (43) cf. Lady Gregory's discreet economy: "he was thankful to his wife for the kindness she had shown to [his brother]" (Gods and Fighting Men, op. cit., p. 93). In so far as The Two Kings may be said to have a personal allegory, it would seem to refer to Olivia Shakespear and her commitment to her husband, both because of its date of composition (1912) and the probability that Yeats had a second affair with Olivia Shakespear in 1910. See Deirdre Toomey '"Worst Part of Life': Yeats's Horoscopes for Olivia Shakespear" in Warwick Gould (ed.) Yeats Annual N° 6 (London: Macmillan, 1988), p. 222-226. But for the view that the poem relates to Maud Gonne, see Phillip L. Marcus, "Incarnation in 'Middle Yeats'" in Richard J. Finneran (ed.) Yeats Annual N° 1 (London: Macmillan Press, 1892), p. 68-81.

44 (44) VP., p. 286.

45 (45) Myth. 116; the two conceptions just as surely "dying each other's life, living each other's death" as Yeats would later put the Hcraclitean thought in A Vision (London, Macmillan, 1937, 1962, p. 68).

46 (46) VPl., p. 583.

47 (47) Myth. p. 333.

48 (48) The Sense of an Ending (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), passim.

49 (49) cf. T.S. Eliot's judgment: "Yeats... was one of the very few whose history is the history of their own time", in "The Poetry of W.B. Yeats. A Lecture" in Purpose XII, 3-4, (July-December, 1940), p. 127.

50 (50) E&I., p. 509.

51 (51) On the Stage – and Off (London: Leadenhall Press, 1885), p. 121.

52 (52) VP., p. 316.

53 (53) Arnold S. Kaufman, "Responsibility" in Paul Edwards (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan Company; London: Collier-Macmillan, 1967), vii, p. 183.

54 (54) John Unterecker, op. cit., p. 113-114.

55 (55) Yeats owned The Book of the Courtier from the Italian of Count Baldassare castiglione: done into English by Sir Thomas Hoby anno 1561 intr Walter Raleigh, (London: David Nutt, 1900). On the impact of this book (and of Yeats's travels in Italy with Lady Gregory) on Responsibilities, see Corinna Salvadori, Yeats and Castiglione: Poet and Courtier. A Study of Some Fundamental Concepts of the Philosophy and Poetic Creed of W.B. Yeats in the Light of Castiglione's II Libro del Cortegiano. (Dublin: Figgis, 1965).

56 (56) III. iv, lines 106-108: "unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, fork'd animal as thou art. – Off, off, you lendings! – Come, unbutton here." See Henn's The Lonely Tower (London: Methuen, 1950, second ed., 1965), p. 92-94. Ch. VI is an excellent meditation on Responsibilities.

57 (57) VP., p. 273. Yeats's magnificent stanza:
Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave? (VP., p. 290).
has been deftly traced to its origins in Thomas Davis's "The Green Above the Red" by Colin Meir in The Ballads and Songs of W.B. Yeats: The Anglo-Irish Heritage in Subject and Style (London: Macmillan, 1974), p. 92-93. As well as forcing the reader to question "delirium", Yeats's transumption of Davis's lines
Sure 'twas for this Lord Edward died, and Wolf Tone sunk serene –
Because they could not bear to leave the Red above the Green;
And 'twas for this that Owen fought, and Sarsfield nobly bled –
Because their eyes were hot to see the Green above the Red.
brings the verse as well as the heroes of The Nation's popular balladry within the matrix of Yeats's meditation. Davis's lines are here quoted from National and Historical Ballads, Songs, and Poems by Thomas Davis, M.R.I.A. (Dublin: James Duffy and Sons, 1876), p. 191.

58 (58) The word "responsibility" came to be synonymous with the loss of inspiration: such a moment is evoked with paradoxical ease in a stanza of Vacillation
Although the summer sunlight gild
Cloudy leafage of the sky,
Or wintry moonlight sink the field
In storm-scattered intricacy,
I cannot look thereon,
Responsibility so weighs me down. (VP., p. 501, 1933).
In 1889, Yeats pondered the "responsibility of life" felt by a cat who had killed a mouse and become "not half so amusing". The "responsibility of life" was to be "always thinking" (L., p. 140).

59 (59) VP., p. 290-291.

60 (60) Yeats's phrase to describe the qualities he found in William Morris's prose romances. See L., p. 379.

61 (61) VP., p. 316.

62 (62) Yeats's own edition of Herodotus was the Henry Cary translation in the Bohn's Classical Library Series (London: G.K. Bell, 1912). The account of the "cold and naked" ghost can be found on p. 344. See also Peter Kuch, "Laying the Ghosts"?: W.B. Yeats's Lecture on Ghosts and Dreams" in Warwick Gould (ed.) Yeats Annual N° 5 (London: Macmillan, 1987), p. 114-135, at p. 132 n.7.

63 (63) VP., p. 315.

64 (64) Ibid., p. 316.

65 (65) In a letter to Lady Gregory, 4 April, 1913. The poem was possibly The Three Beggars. See Donald T. Torchiana and Glenn O'Malley (eds.) "Some New Letters from W.B. Yeats to Lady Gregory" in ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature iv: 3 (July 1963), p. 9-47 at p. 29.

66 (66) VP., p. 304.

67 (67) Ibid., p. 820.

68 (68) Ezra Pound reviewed Responsibilities (1916), and noted the bardic satire in a response which is worth quoting in a slighdy larger compass: "....... Mr. Yeats has not 'gone off. He is the only poet of his decade who has not gradually faded into mediocrity... The new poems... hold their own; they establish their own tonality... There is a new robustness; there is the tooth of satire which is, in Mr. Yeats's case, too good a tooth to keep hidden. The Coat, the wild wolf-dog that will not praise his fleas, The Scholars are all the sort of poem that we would gladly read more of. There are a lot of fools to be killed and Mr. Yeats is an excellent slaughter-master, when he will but turn from ladies with excessive chevelure appearing in pearl-pale nuances... the glamour is still there in The Wind Among the Reeds for those who still want it... The ragged hat in Biscay Bay is a sign of the poet's relationship to his brother Jack B. Yeats, and a far cry from the bridles of Findrinny. But, despite such occasional bits of realism, the tone of the new book is romantic. Mr. Yeats is a romanticist, symbolist, occultist, for better or worse, now and for always... he is the only one left who has sufficient intensity of temperament to turn these modes into art" (Poetry IX, Dec. 1916, p. 150-151).

69 (69) The removal of the sub-title Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age took place in that crucial and overlooked development The Poetical Works of William W. Yeats Vol. 1 Lyrical Poems (1906). In the same volume, the characters' names in The Wind Among the Reeds were removed, a significant dismantlement of myth. Yeats seems to have wanted to get out of myth, as it were, and to demystify his readers by shaking off invented names in order to strike a series of poses in the face of the various faery and other forces which infest that collection's emotional and psychic geography. (The removal of the character's names is not a wholly successful manoeuvre. They all become the figure at the centre which increases the risk that they will be confused with Yeats himself). "The Old Age of Queen Maeve and Baile and Aillinn follow the lyrics they formerly preceded and which are now separately grouped under the short title In the Seven Woods. In all later collections (except Collected Poems [1933]) the lyrics are replaced after the narratives, though under their separate title.

70 (70) A good example of cante-fable can be found in Comrac Fhirdead Inso ("The Fight of Ferdiad") in Eugene O'Curry, On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish: a Series of Lectures ed. W.K. Sullivan, (London, Williams and Norgate, 1873), III, p. 414 and seq.. The term is familiar from the work of such folklorists of Yeats's time as Joseph Jacobs. See his "Childe Rowland", Folklore II: 11 (1891) p. 182-97 (p. 196).

71 (71) (L., p. 106). Yeats's 1889 definition is probably based upon a reading of Keats's description of Endymion as "a little region to wander in ... in which the images are so numerous that many are forgotten and found new on a second reading" in a letter to Benjamin Bailey of 8 October, 1817,. See Robert Gittings (ed.), The Letters of John Keats A Selection (Oxford: O.U.P., 1970), p. 27.

72 (72) The Autumn of the Body when collected in Ideas of Good and Evil (1903). See infra Section VI for Yeats's subsequent misgivings about the drift of this essay.

73 (73) E&I., P. 191-194.

74 (74) From "Ulysses, Order and Myth", The Dial, (Nov. 1923), quoted from Frank Kermode (ed. Select'ed Prose of T.S. Eliot (London, Faber and Faber, 1975), p. 177-178.

75 (75) "Tara Uprooted': Yeats's In the Seven Woods in relation to Modernism", in George Bornstein and Richard J. Finneran (eds.), Yeats: An Annual of Critical and Textual Studies III, A Special Issue on Yeats and Modern Poetry (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 107-120 at p. 116.

76 (76) I hardly hear the purlieu cry
Or a Tommy talk as I pass one by
Before my thoughts begin to run
On F. M'Curdy Atkinson,
The same that had the wooden leg
And that filibustering filibeg
That never dared to slake his drouth,
Magee that had the chinless mouth.
Being afraid to marry on earth
They masturbated for all they were worth.
(Ulysses ed. H.W. Gabler, Wolfhard Steppe and Claus Melchior, [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986], p. 177). By "The Day of the Rabblement" Joyce was ready to protest that the Irish Literary Theatre should be less mythic (than, say Diarmuid and Grania or Hyde's The Twisting of the Rope, might suggest). He turned on Yeats in his search for a theatre less Gaelic and mythic, and more Ibsenite and modern: 'In aim and form The Wind Among the Reeds is poetry of the highest order, and The Adoration of the Magi (a story one of the great Russians might have written) shows what Mr. Yeats can do when he breaks with the half-gods. But an aesthete has a floating will, and Mr. Yeats's treacherous instinct of adaptability must be blamed for his recent association with a platform [the Irish language movement] from which even self-respect should have urged him to refrain". Joyce was shortly to meet Yeats (at Russell's behest) in August 1902) and to declare at the end of the tea that Yeats was "too old for me to help you". Yeats was forbearing and replied by not including some notes of the conversation in a preface for Ideas of Good and Evil (1903) but by dedicating his stories in 1904 to Joyce and by stressing in a letter to Joyce that adaptability was necessary or one could "learn[] nothing". For the story of their relation in these years see Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (New and Revised Edition) (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 98 & ff.; also see Ellmann's Eminent Domain (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 34, from which the quotations above are taken.

77 (77) Could it be that Eliot admired the poems-and-notes method of The Wind Among the Reeds enough to imitate it in The Waste Land? If so, does the "mythical method" take, in Eliot's view, its ultimate origin not in The Seven Woods (as Sidnell suggests) but in the 1899 collection?

78 (78) In the Seven Woods: Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age, (Dundrum: Cuala, 1903), p. 25. The parallelism of personal and mythical in a poem such as Baile and Aillinn is a development from the poems-and-notes method of The Wind Among the Reeds. Yeats said in 1908 that the "reckless obscurity" of the poems in that collection had led him to construct the elaborate plinths of recondite notes on which they stand, notes full of "more wilful phantasy than I now think admirable, though what most mystical still seems to me the most true" (VP., p. 800).

79 (79) VP1., p. 932.

80 (80) The Sense of an Ending (London, O.U.P., 1966), p. 39.

81 (81) VPl., p. 646.

82 (82) L., p. 402.

83 (83) "The love-poems and the hate-poems of Irish literature are almost all utterances of some actual love and hate, and we know whom they praised and whom they cursed". See Deirdre Toomey (ed.) "Bards of the Gael and Gall: an Uncollected Review by Yeats in The Illustrated London News" in Warwick Gould (ed.), Yeats Annual N° 5 (London: Macmillan Press, 1987, p. 203-11 at p. 208.

84 (84) Au., p. 102-103.

85 (85) "Gaelic Folk Songs", The Nation, (April-May 189). Quoted from Breandan O Conaire (ed.) Language, Lore and Lyrics Essays and Lectures of Douglas Hyde (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1986), p. 116.

86 (86) Robert O'Driscoll, "Yeats On Personality": Three Unpublished Lectures" in Robert O'Driscoll and Lorna Reynolds (eds.) Yeats and the Theatre (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1975), p. 30.

87 (87) Au., p. 150-151.

88 (88) Ex., p. 210.

89 (89) The two essays "What is Popular Poetry?" and "Speaking to the Psaltery" were placed by Yeats at the opening of Ideas of Good and Evil (London, A.H. Bullen, 1903) perhaps with the intention of bringing his current concerns to the forefront ahead of older essays, such as "The Autumn of the Body". The definitive article on the subject is that of Ronald Schuchard, "The Minstrel in the Theatre: Chaucer, Arnold and Yeats's New Spiritual Democracy" in Richard J. Finneran (ed.), Yeats Annual N° 2 (London: The Macmillan Press, 1983), p. 3-25.

90 (90) Ex., p. 209.

91 (91) Ibid., p. 202.

92 (92) Ibid., p. 214.

93 (93) Ibid., p. 214-215.

94 (94) See Joseph Ronsley (ed.) "Yeats's Lecture Notes for "Friends of My Youth'" in Robert O'Driscoll and Lorna Reynolds (eds.), Yeats and the Theatre (Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1975) p. 60-81 at p. 74.

95 (95) Ex., p. 217-218.

96 (96) L., p. 583. The idea, brewing for so long (see L. 462 for Yeats's 1905 imperatives of "common idiom" and "common passion"), was never abandoned: see E&I p. 512 and 529: "I have spent my life in clearing out of poetry every phrase written for the eye, and bringing all back to syntax that for fear alone" (An Introduction for My Plays, 1937).

97 (97) Mem., p. 142.

98 (98) The Gift of Harun Al-Rashid in The Tower, also relegated to the back of the Collected Poems (1933), though restored to that collection by Mrs. Yeats for The Poems of W.B. Yeats (1949).

99 (99) VP., p. 431.

100 (100) Poetry, IV, ii (May 1914), quoted from T.S. Eliot (ed.) Literary Essays of Ezra Pound (London: Faber and Faber, 1954), p. 378-81 at p. 379.

101 (101) L., p. 584-585.

102 (102) Ibid. Pound had his own fish to fry in the review, wondering aloud whether Yeats could qualify as an Imagist. But he had been present when Yeats had been working on an early draft of The Two Kings when Yeats had summoned both Pound and Sturge Moore to help him get rid of "Miltonic generalization". See Donald T. Torchiana and Glenn O'Malley (eds.) "Some New Letters from W.B. Yeats to Lady Gregory" (loc. cit.), p. 14. The same problem of Miltonic influence had beset Keats in his attempts at epic poetry: see Robert Gittings (ed.) The Letters of John Keats A Selection (Oxford O.U.P., 1972), p. 292.

103 (103) Richard J. Finneran, George Mills Harper, William M. Murphy (eds.) Letters to W.B. Yeats (London, Macmillan, 1977), I, p. 289. John Butler Yeats returned to the attack in a further letter of 14 August, 1914, characterising Pound as sharing with most Americans, but especially American women, a desire to live a "surface life" which "shuts them out of the world of dream and desire. Not for them the shaping power of imagination. They are exiles consoling themselves as they can, by saying things which are to convince themselves and others that they are superior beings... So you see I prefer your Two Kings, which I cannot read without tears, the intensity instantly assuaged by the rhythms of art, and the tears of sorrow mingling with the tears of beauty" (Ibid., p. 301).

104 (104) See E&I., p. 523.

105 (105) VP., p. 348.

106 (106) YP., p. 708.

107 (107) See Letters on Poetry from W.B. Yeats to Dorothy Wellesley, intro. Kathleen Raine, (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 86.

108 (108) A Midsummer Night's Dream, V: 1, 60.

109 (109) Report of Seamus Heaney's inaugural lecture as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, by Nicholas Shrimpton, The Observer 5 November, 1989.

110 (110) Seamus Heaney, Preoccupations (London: Faber and Faber, 1983), p. 101. Adolphe Haberer alerted me to this juxtaposition, and I am very grateful to him.

111 (111) On these fictions see Warwick Gould, '"A Lesson for the Circumspect': W.B. Yeats's Two Versions of A Vision and the Arabian Nights" in Peter L. Caracciolo, (ed.), The Arabian Nights in English Literature (London: Macmillan Press, 1989), p. 244-280.

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