William Butler Yeats: Notes (3)
Plays & Prose
Poems and a Play, Cuala 1914; Responsibilities and Other Poems, Macmillan 1916): Some of the poems prev. appeared in The Green
Helmet and Other Poems (1912), others in Poems Written in Discouragement (1913); Macmillan Edn. (1916) omitted the play The Two
Kings but added The Well and the Tree (itself omitted
from Collected Poems (1933, 1950); unidentified first epigraph.
In dreams begin responsiblities, the unidentified first epigraph, is attrib. there to an old play but probably invented by Yeats himself. Note that Delmore Schwartz published a collection of poems and stories as In Dreams Begin Responsibilities (1938) - making him the first of the Lowell generation to attain literary distinction. Schwartzs decline is the subject of his friend Saul Bellows novel Bellow in Humboldts Gift. (See August Kleinzahler, review of collections by John Berryman, in LRB, 15 July 2015 - online.)
INTRODUCTORY RHYMES, dated by Ellmann at Dec. 1913 [prob. err.]; actually provoked by George Moores attack on Lady Gregory in portions of Vale appearing in English Review, Jan. and Feb., 1914).
THE GREY ROCK, home of Aoibheal [here Aoife], from Irish craig Liath, a feature near Killaloe, Co. Clare, house of banshee of that name
TO A WEALTHY MAN [... &c], being Hugh Lane, Lady Gregorys nephew; first printed in The Irish Times (11 Jan. 1913; but given as Dec. 1912 in Vivian Mercier, Literature in English, 1891-1921, A New History of Ireland, VI, p.375), entitled The Gift / To a friend who promises a bigger subscription [... &c.]; described in notes by Yeats as the last of three public controversies [that] have stirred my imagination, in Responsibilities (1914 Edn.).
SEPTEMBER 1913, first printed in The Irish Times (8 Sept. 1913), entitled Romance in Ireland (On Reading much of the correspondence against the Art Gallery), and entitled Romantic Ireland in Nine Poems (1914); note that the phrase by the light of a holy candle originally followed prayer on shivering prayer [See R. F. Foster, Apprentice Mage, 1997].
TO A SHADE: your enemy, old foul-mouth is W. M. Murphy, the newspaper proprietor and employers organiser, who opposed the Lane benefaction; Yeatss elegy for Parnell at the time of the funeral (which he did not attend) was the poem Mourn and Then Onward (United Irishman, 10 Oct. 1891).
WHEN HELEN LIVED incl. reference to Marlowes lines, Was this the face that launched a thousand ships/And burnt the topless towers of Ilium (Trag. History of Dr Faustus, V, I, 94-95).
ON THOSE WHO HATED THE PLAYBOY ..., eunuchs refers to those who watch Don Juan riding to Hell in the painting by Charles Rickett (1866-1931).
THE THREE BEGGARS, lebeen-lone is a minnow bait (lón).
THREE HERMITS, seen as showing influence of Ezra Pound with whom Yeats shared Stone Cottage, Sussex in March 1913 when it was written.
BEGGAR TO BEGGAR CRIED, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, May 1914).
RUNNING TO PARADISE, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, May 1914).
THE HOUR BEFORE DAWN, compared by Louis MacNeice to Synges tramp in The Shadow of the Glen.
THE REALISTS, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, Dec. 1912).
THE WITCH, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, May 1914).
THE PEACOCK, first printed in Poetry (Chicago), and hence Ezra Pounds particular memories of it in Cantos.
THE MOUNTAIN TOMB, written at Maud Gonnes house, Les Mouettes, Colville, Calvados, Aug. 1912, and The Peacock, printed in Poetry (Chicago, Dec. 1912); refers to the tomb of Father Christian Rosencrux, as detailed in pamphlets concerning the Order of the Golden Dawn written by Yeats in 1901 (see Essays and Introductions, p.196ff.).
A CHILD DANCING IN THE WIND, also written at Calvados, Dec. 1912, and addressed to Iseult Gonne (1895-1954); first printed in Poetry (Chicago, Dec. 1912); there is a corresponding prose description of her as a beautiful girl singing by the edge of the sea in Normandy words and music of her own composition ... ending every verse with the cry: O Lord, let something remain (A Vision [B], p.220).
TWO YEARS LATER, addressed to same, written 3 Dec. 1912 or 1913, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, May 1914).
A MEMORY OF YOUTH, printed in Poetry (Chicago); silent as a stone; anticipates symbolism of stone of the heart and
enchanted to a stone in Dublin 1916.
FALLEN MAJESTY, also written at Calvados in 1912 and first appeared in Poetry (Chicago, Dec. 1912); involves comparisons between Maud, Mary Hynes (of Raftery fame) and Helen of Troy.
FRIENDS, Mrs Olivia Shakespear; Lady Gregory; Maud Gonne.
THE COLD HEAVEN, first printed as in The Green Helmet (1912); Yeats, quizzed by Maud Gonne on its meaning, called it an attempt to describe the feelings aroused in him by the cold detached sky in winter; Jeffares calls it that superb and timeless poem (Headnote to Responsibilities sect. of Comm., p.98), and glosses it in place as a momentary intensity of perception with the air of a dream clinging to it.
THAT THE NIGHT COME, first printed in The Green Helmet (1912).
AN APPOINTMENT, written at Coole Park, 1907 or 1908; Yeats angered by appointment of Count Plunkett rather than Hugh Lane as Curator of Nat. Museum [see under Lane, RX].
THE DOLLS, written 20 Sept. 1913, arising from the observation during a lecture he was giving that all thought among us is frozen into something other than life.
THE MAGI, written 29 Sept. 1913, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, May 1914); Yeats recorded that he looked up one day into the blue of the sky, and suddenly imagined, as if lost in the blue of the sky, stiff figures in procession, and proceeded to make them complementary forms to those of the enraged Dolls (Responsibilities, 1914 Edn.).
A COAT, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, May 1914); old mythologies glosses by Jeffares as the poets readings in ODonovan, OCurry, OLooney, Mangan, &c.; CLOSING RHYME, written 1914, entitled
Notoreity, first printed in New Statesman (7 Feb. 1914); provoked by an article by George Moore in English Review; Yeatss wrote a letter reflecting the indignation felt by those he met to Lady Gregory (Letters, Wade, ed., 586).
The Wild Swans at Coole [Cuala
Edn.] (1917), with At the Hawks Well; Macmillan Edn., 1919, with 19 new poems incl. generally those in memory of Robert Gregory, The Phases of the Moon, The Double Vision of Michael Robartes, and others appearing for the first time, but omitting the play and hinting at new book of plays based on Noh (Four Plays for Dancers, 1921); collection reflects his personal unhappiness at the hands of Maud Gonne, his unrest after his marriage and before Georges automatic handwriting dispelled his misgivings; and the excitement of fixing up Thoor Ballylee or occupation.
WILD SWANS AT COOLE, dated Oct. 1916; printed in Little Review (June 1917); there is also an account of the Coole swans in George Moore, Ave (1947 Edn., p.190), which Lady Gregory copied into Coole; conjectural the link with Shelleys Alastor (A swan was there,/Beside a sluggish stream among the reeds ... rose ... Scaling the upward sky ... His eyes pursued its flight [&c.] (ll.277ff.); Yeats wrote to his wife,
Yesterday I wrote an account of the sudden ascent of a swan - a symbol of inspiration, I think
(letter of 3rd Feb., 1932; cited in John Unterecker, A Readers Guide, 1959, p.425).
IN MEMORY OF MAJOR ROBERT GREGORY, written 14 June, 1918, first printed English Review (Aug. 1918); much falling echoes Johnsons line, Go from me: I am one of those who fall (Mystic and Cavalier, quoted by Yeats in Autobiogs., p.222); cf. Shepherd and Goatherd, infra.
AN IRISH AIRMAN [... &c.], to be compared with the more embittered Reprisals, posthumously published in Rann, An Ulster Quarterly of Poetry (Autumn 1948).
MEN IMPROVE WITH THE YEARS, written 16 July 1916, first printed in Little Review (June 1917).
THE COLLAR-BONE OF A HARE, written 5 June 1916, first printed in Little Review (June 1917), cf. the tale of the peasant who finds a collarbone and, looking through it, sees gold heaped under ground (Mythologies, p.87).
UNDER THE ROUND TOWER, written March 1918, first printed in Little Review (Oct. 1918), descriptive of Glendalough; SOLOMON TO SHEBA, also written at Glendalough and first printed in Little Review (Oct. 1918), the characters respectively symbolising Yeats and his wife; cf. Autobiographies, p.464 [It seems to me that true love is a discipline ... &c.].
THE LIVING BEAUTY, first printed in Little Review (Oct. 1918), and concerns Iseult Gonne.
A SONG, printed in Little Review (Oct. 1918).
TO A YOUNG BEAUTY, also addressed to Iseult, printed in Nine Poems [Oct.] (1918); Landor is the most violent of men who uses his intellect to disengage a visionary image of perfect sanity in A Vision (p.144-45).
SHEPHERD AND GOATHERD, written Feb. 1918-March 1918, first appearing in The Wild Swans at Coole as The Sad Shepherd; it is the poem Yeats was trying to write ... in manner like one that Spenser wrote for Sir Philip Sidney in a letter to Lady Gregory (22 Feb. 1918), and on completion called a pastoral modelled on what Virgil wrote for some friend [viz., Eclogue V]of his and on what Spenser wrote of Sidney; the Goatherd is a reincarnation of Robert Gregory; LINES WRITTEN IN DEJECTION, written in [Oct.] 1915.
THE DAWN, written 20 June 1914, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, Feb. 1916); the old queen with her broach is Emain, founding Emain Macha (Armagh), capital of Ulster.
ON WOMAN, dated 25 May 1914, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, Feb. 1916).
THE FISHERMAN, dated 4 June 1914, printed in Poetry (Chicago, Feb. 1916); the dead man is prob. Synge; the Maud Gonne Manuscript Book contains an earlier sketch with the lines But there is one/I can always see though he is not yet born/he walks by the edge of the stream/In a good homespun coat/And carries a fishing-rod in his hand. Notes also Yeatss commentary: I had met much unreasonable opposition. To overcome if I had to make my thoughts modern. Modern thought is not simple; I became argumentative, passionate, bitter; when I was very bitter I used to say to myself, “I do not write for these people who attack everything that I value [...] I am writing for a man I have never seen”. I built up in my mind the picture of a man who lived in the country where I had lived, who fished in the mountain streams where I had fished; I said to myself, “I do not know whether he is born yet, but born or unborn it is for him I write”. (See Daniel Albright, ed., W. B. Yeats:The Poems, in the Notes, p.572.) THE HAWK, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, Feb. 1916).
HER MEMORY, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, Feb. 1916), line 1 concerns Mrs Shakespear; Jeffares conjectures that line 6 signifies Iseult Gonne.
HER PRAISE, dated 27 Jan; first printed in Poetry (Chicago, Feb. 1916), it concerns Maud Gonne; THE PEOPLE, dated 10 Jan. 1915, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, Feb. 1916), entitled The Phoenix; HIS PHOENIX, written Jan. 1915, first printed in Poetry (Chicago, Feb. 1916), entitled as first line.
A THOUGHT FROM PROPERTIUS, written pre-Nov. 1915; based on 2nd Bk. of Sextus Propertius; Pallas Athene is Maud Gonne.
BROKEN DREAMS, dated 24 Oct. 1915; first printed in Little Review (June 1917) [dated Nov. 1917].
PRESENCES, dated Nov. 1915, first printed in Little Review (June 1917); harlot is prob. Mabel Dickinson; child and queen are Iseult and Maud; on being asked for a war poem, printed by Edith Wharton (Book of the Homeless, 1916); copy sent to Henry James, 20 Aug. 1915, with note: it is the only thing I have written on the war or will write, so I hope it may not seem unfitting. I shall keep the neighbourhood of the seven sleepers of Ephesus, hoping to catch their comfortable snores till the blood frivolity is over. (Letters, ed. Wade, p.600).
IN MEMORY OF ALFRED POLLEXFEN, Aug. 1916, first printed in Little Review (June 1917), entitled only In Memory; cf. account of funeral in letter to Lady Gregory, and report that his sister and the nurse had heard the Banshee the night before his death (Letters, ed. Wade, p.553).
UPON A DYING LADY, Jan. 1912-July 1914, appearing as Seven Poems in Little Review (Aug. 1917); concerns Aubrey Beardsleys sister Mabel, n. George Bealby Wright, dying of cancer; a letter to Lady Gregory gives an account of being at the bedside of the dying sister of Beardsley, who was practically one of us, and reports that she said, I wonder who will introduce me in heaven; and further, I cannot overstate her strange charm - the pathetic gaiety. It was her brother but her brother was not I think loveable, only astounding and intrepid. (Letters, ed., Wade, p.164).
EGO DOMINUS TUUS, written 5 Oct. 1915; first printed in Poetry (Chicago, Oct. 1917); Yeats was to write in 1925, I can now, if I have energy, find the simplicity I have sought in vain. I need no longer write poems like The Phases of the Moon nor Ego Dominus Tuus (A Vision, [A], p.xii); title from Dantes Vita Nuova, and is explained in Per Amica Silentia Lunae (1918); among other prose texts, Jeffares cites comments on the Mask in Mythologies and other prose writings [see RX, Commonplaces & Quotations]; remarks on Keats are to be found in Anima Hominis, Mythologies, p.329 [see also under Phases of the Moon, infra]; A PRAYER ON GOING INTO MY HOUSE, written 1918, first printed in Little Review (Oct. 1918).
THE PHASES OF THE MOON, first appeared in The Wild Swans at Coole; a later note (dated 1922), explains: Years ago I wrote three stories in which occur the names of Michael Robartes and Owen Aherne. [...] They take their place in a phantasmagoria in which I endeavour to explain my philosophy of life and death. To some extent I wrote these poems as a text for exposition (Collected Poems, 1933); note allusion to engraving of The Lonely tower, an ill. by Samuel Palmer over the phrase Some high lonely tower from Il Penseroso (l.186), in The Shorter Poems of John Milton (1889), appearing over the description, here poetic loneliness has been attempted [... &c.]; on the phase of the moon occupied by Keats, Yeats wrote, Thought is disappearing into image; and in Keats, in some way a perfect type, intellectual curiosity is at its weakest; there is scarcely an image, where his poetry is at its best, whose subjectivity has not been heightened by its use in many great poets, painters, sculptors, artificers (A Vision [B] p.134).
THE CAT AND THE MOON, written in Normandy, 1917; first printed in Nine Poems [ Oct.] (1918); Yeats noted that he allowed [himself] to think of the cat as the normal man and of the moon as the opposite he seeks perpetually, or as having any meaning I have conferred upon the moon elsewhere. (Introduction to The Cat and the Moon, play, rep. in Explorations, pp.402-04).
THE SAINT AND THE HUNCHBACK, written 1918, appearing first in The Wild Swans at Coole; concerns phases 26 and 27 of the Moon (cf. A Vision, [B], p.177-78, and 180-81).
TWO SONGS OF A FOOL, July and Sept. 1918; reflects Yeats sense of responsibility for Iseult, towards whom he is waxing fatherly.
THE DOUBLE VISION OF MICHAEL ROBARTES, written 1919, first published in Wild Swans at Coole (1919); in the corresponding sections of A Vision Yeats referred to a decadence that will descend the adoration of force in the last gyre, and offers the coarsening of women in New York or Paris as examples (A Vision [A], p.213-14); Jeffaress commentary cites Ellmann: The sphinx is the intellect, gazing on nboth the known and the unknown things, the Buddha is the hear, gazing on both loved and unloved things; and the dancing girl, most important of all, is primarily an image of art. She dances between them because art is noeither intellectual nor emotional, but a balance of these qualities. (The Identity of Yeats, p.255; New Commentary, p.183); Homers paragon [double caps. in Albright edn.] is Helen, therefore Maud; Archbishop Price used the lead from the older (Catholic) cathedral Cormacs cathedral for the new (Protestant) one.
Michael Robartes and the Dancer
(1921); Preface refers to Michael Robartess exposition of the Speculum
Angelorum et Hominum of Giraldus, while notes throughout also deal
with this hermetic material.
MICHAEL ROBARTES AND THE DANCER, written 1919, first printed in The Dial (Nov. 1920); He is Yeats, and She is Iseult Gonne; this altar piece: see St George and the Dragon, Nat. Gallery, Dublin.
SOLOMON AND THE WITCH, written 1918; concerns Yeats and his wife (cf. Solomon to Sheba); elucidation of Choice and Chance to be found in notes for Calvary (in Four Plays for Dancers, 1921).
AN IMAGE FROM PAST LIFE, written Sept. 1919, first printed in The Nation (Nov. 1920), it reflects material in Tagores In the Dusty Path of a Dream, incl. by Yeats in The Oxford Book of Modern Verse (1936); She represents Mrs Yeats to the poets
He; final lengthy paragraph of Yeatss notes on the poem reproduced in Jeffares, New Commentary, 1984, p.187-88).
UNDER SATURN, written Nov. 1919, first printed The Dial (Nov. 1920).
EASTER 1916, written at Maud Gonnes house in Calvados, Normandy; manuscript dated 25 Sept. 1916; edn. of 25 copies as Easter 1916 privately printed by Clement Shorter for distribution among his friends, followed by its appearance in New Statesman (23 Oct. 1920); Yeats was to write in a note of July 1916 to September 1913 that the earlier poem sounds old-fashioned now and that [t]he late Dublin Rebellion, whatever one can say of its wisdom, will long be remembered for its heroism [Ellmann, 1948, p.220]; Yeats wrote to Lady Gregory, I had no idea that any public event could so deepingly move me - and I am very despondent about the future. At the moment I feel all the work of years has been overturned, all the bringing together of classes, all the freeing of Irish literature ancd criticism from politics. (11 May 1916; Letters, ed. Wade, 1954, p.613); Note also, The Nationalist abstractions were like the fixed ideas of some hysterical woman, a part of the mind turned into stone (Autobiographies, p.234). Called by V. K. Menon a palinode to September 1916 (The Deveopment of William Butler Yeats, p.48.) Jeffares (Commentary, 1988, pp.190-91) quotes a long letter from Yeats to Lady Gregory:
My dear Lady Gregory, The Dublin tragedy has been a great sorrow and anxiety. Cosgrave, who I saw a few months ago in connection with the Municipal Gallery project and found our best supporter, has got many years imprisonment and to-day I see that an old friend Henry Dixon [according to Wades note, this was Thomas Dickson, the Henry Dixon who took part in the Rising having been released from prison in June 1917, but Edward Malins, Yeats and the Easter Rising, 13, has not been able to discover his name among those of the prisoners released at that time] - unless there are two of the name -who began with me the whole work of the literary movement has been shot in a barrack yard without trial of any kind. I have little doubt there have been many miscarriages of justice. The wife of a Belgian Minister of War told me a few days ago that three British officers had told her that the command of the British army in France should be made over to the French generals, and that French generals have told her that they await with great anxiety the result of the coming German attack on the English lines because of the incompetence of the English Higher Command as a whole. Haig however they believed in - he was recommended by the French for the post. I see therefore no reason to believe that the delicate instrument of Justice is being worked with precision in Dublin.  I am trying to write a poem on the men executed - terrible beauty has been born again. If the English Conservative party had made a declaration that they did not intend to rescind the Home Rule Bill there would have been no Rebellion. I had no idea that any public event could so deeply move me - and I am very despondent about the future. At the moment I feel that all the work of years has been overturned, all the bringing together of classes, all the freeing of Irish literature and criticism from politics. Maud Gonne reminds me that she saw the ruined houses about OConnell Street and the wounded and dying lying about the streets, in the first few days of the war. I perfectly remember the vision and my making light of it and saying that if a true vision at all it could only have a symbolised meaning. This is the only letter I have had from her since she knew of the Rebellion. I have sent her the papers every day. I do not yet know what she feels about her husbands death. Her letter was written before she heard of it. Her main thought seems to be tragic dignity has returned to Ireland. She had been told by two members of the Irish Party that Home Rule was betrayed. She thinks now that the sacrifice has made it safe. She is coming to London if she can get a passport, but I doubt her getting one. Indeed I shall be glad if she does not come yet - it is better for her to go on nursing the French wounded till the trials are over. How strange that old Count Plunkett and his wife and his three sons should all be drawn into the net. (Letters, ed., Wade, p.612-14; here pp.190-91.)
SIXTEEN DEAD MEN, written 17 Dec. 1916 or 1917; first printed in The Dial (Nov. 1920); number incl. Roger Casement with the fifteen executed leaders.
THE ROSE TREE, dated 7 April 1917; first printed in The Dial (Nov. 1920); influenced by the ballad Irelands Liberty Tree [see under Tom Paulin, RX].
ON A POLITICAL PRISONER, written 10-29 Jan. 1919, first printed in The Dial (Nov. 1920); concerns Con Markievicz; Yeats wrote to Mrs Yeats, I am writing one on Con to avoid writing one on Maud. All of them are in prison ... (1918).
THE LEADERS OF THE CROWD, written 1918.
TOWARDS BREAK OF DAY, written prob. Jan. 1919, first printed in The Dial (Nov. 1920); the marvellous stag is in Mallorys Morte dArthur, III, 5.
DEMON AND BEAST, written 23 Nov. 1918; first printed in The Dial (Nov. 1920); Jeffares quotes, The arts are all the bridal chambers of joy. No tragedy is legitimate unless it leads some great character to his final joy [... &c] (On the Boiler).
THE SECOND COMING, written Jan. 1919; first printed in The Dial (Nov. 1920); Yeatss annotation takes the form of a narration of Robartess instruction amid the Judwalis, illustrated by the double cone, anding ending with the glosses on Judwalis: their name means makers of measures, or as we should say, of diagrams (Michael Robartes, 1921); Yeatss speaks of the growing murderousness of the world, and goes on to quote The Second Coming (Autobiographies, p.192); the best lack all conviction [...
&c.] linked to Shelley, The good want power, but to weep barren tears, The powerful all goodness want ... (Prometheus Unbound, 6 25-8); the lines on a shape with the body of a lion ... (12-17) are quoted in A Vision in the passage that describes the moment when the Great Year reaches its intellectual climax (A Vision [B], p.263); Yeats refers to The Second Coming in the introduction to his play The Resurrection; also, We may meet again, not the old simple celebration of life tuned to the highest pitch, neither Homer nor the Greek dramatists, something more deliberate than that, more systematised, more external, more self-conscious, as must be at a second coming. (Explorations, p.374). Cf. also Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), who said, One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.
A PRAYER FOR MY DAUGHTER, written Feb.-June 1919; first printed Poetry (Chicago, Nov. 1919); see usages of stone and dolls throughout the poetry and prose.
MEDITATIONS IN TIME OF CIVIL WAR, dated 9 Nov. 1914 (Maud Gonne Manuscript Book), first printed The Dial (Nov. 1920), entitled A Meditation [... &c.], prob. misprint.; one throb of the artery echoes one pulsation of the artery in Blakes Time, copied in Yeatss selection of Blakes Poems (1893 - i.e., Works?; Jeffares relates the subject of the poem to a passage in Celtic Twilight, concerning a sense of weakness, of dependene on a great personal being somewhere far off yet near at hand (Mythologies, p.68-9); further, we perceive in a pulsation of an artery, and after slowly decline (Per Amica Silentia Lunae; Mythologies, p.361); see also Albrights citation of the passage in A Vision descriptive of a civilisation struggl[ing] to keep self-control and the loss of control over thought [that] comes towards the end before the last surrender, the irrational cry, revelation - the scream of Junos peacock. (A Vision [B], p.268; see in RX files under A Vision]; see also Solomon and the Witch, and the crowing of the old man in The Adoration of the Magi (story), as well as the strange bird in Her Triumph, being Part. IV of A Woman Young and Old (in The Winding Stair coll.).
TO BE CARVED ON A STONE AT THOOR BALLYLEE, written prob. May-July 1918; Yeats wrote to John Quinn a variant poem, I, the poet, William Yeats,/With common sedge and broken slates,/And smithy work from the Gort forge,/Restored this tower for my wife George;/And on my heirs I lay a curse/If they should alter for the worse,/From fashion or an empty mind,/What Raftery built and Scott designed. [Note that this version is read by Gus Martin on the audio-guide at Coole Park, where the former version is in fact engraved on a plague of limestone set in the tower, outside.
The Gift of Harun Al-Rashid (1924), first printed in English Life and The Illustrated Review (Jan. 1924), then in The Dial (June 1924), and later included in The Tower (1924); it is modelled his own marriage to George Hyde-Lees, purporting to be based on a tradition of the desert according to which Harun presented Kusta Ben Luka (b.820) with a new bride who had to the great surprise of her friends, fallen in love with the elderly philosopher though another tradition holds that Harun had bought her from a passing merchant; Kusta had planned to end his days in a monastery at Nisibis, though a variant tradition has it that he was deep in a violent love affair that he had arranged for himself; the only thing on which there is general agreement is that he was warned by a dream to accept the gift of the Caliph, and that his wife a few days after the marriage began to talk in her sleep, and that she told him all those things which he had searched for vainly all his life in the great library of the Caliph and in the conversation of wise men (The Cat and the Moon and Certain Poems, 1924, p.38ff.; A. N. Jeffares, New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, 1984, 1984, p.445.) In a footnote to All, all those gyres and cubes and midnight things (CP, p.519), Yeats remarked that This refers to the geometrical forms which Robartes describes the Judwali Arabs as making upon the sand for instruction of the young people, and which, according to tradition, were drawn as described in sleep by the wife of Kusta-ben-Luka (The Dial, June 1924). Jeffares adds, "Yeats invented the Judwalis." (Commentary on the Poems, 1968, rev. edn. 1984, p.445.)
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The Tower (1928), assembles
poems previously published in Seven Poems and A Fragment (1922); The Cat and the Moon (1924), and October Blast (1927); also Fragments, added to The Tower as edited in Collected Poems (1933), where The Hero, the girl and the Fool is replaced by The Fool by the Roadside while the order of some poems is altered.
SAILING TO BYZANTIUM, written Autumn 1926; manuscript dated 26 Sept. 1926, first appeared in October Blast; subject derives from reading W. G. Ho[l]mes, The Age of Justinian and Theodora (1905); Mrs A. Strong, Apotheosis and After Life: three Lectures on Certain Phases of Art and Religion in the Roman Empire (1915); and O. M. Dalton, Byzantine Art and Archaeology (1911); also Gibbon, general histories and the Encyc. Brit; Yeats, in a BBC Belfast broadcast: Now I am trying to write about the state of my soul, for it is right for an old man to make his soul, and some of my thoughts upon that subject I have put into a poem called Sailing to Byzantium. When Irishmen were illuminating the Book of Kells and making the jewelled croziers in the National Museum, Byzantium was the centre of European civilisation and the source of its spiritual philosophy, so I symbolise the search for the spiritual life by a journey to that city. (8 Sept. 1931); [On Byzantium:] I think if I could be given a month of Antiquity and leave to spend it where I chose, I would spend it in Byzantium a little before Justinian opened St. Sophia and closed the Academy of Plato. [...] I could I think that in early Byzantium, and maybe never before or since in recorded history, religious, aesthetic and practical life were one, that architects and artificers - though too, it may be, poets, for language had been the instrument of controversy and must have grown abstract - spoke to the multitude and the few alike. The painter and the mosaic worker, the worker in gold and silver, the illuminator of Sacred Books, were almost impersonal, almost perhaps without consciousness of individual design, absorbed in their subject-matter and that the vision of a whole people. They could copy out of old Gospel books those pictures that seemed as sacred as the text, and yet weave all into a vast design, the work of many that seemed the work of one, that made building, picture, pattern, metal-work of rail and lamp, seem but a single image, and this vision, this proclamation of their invisible master, had the Greek nobility, Satan always the still half divine Serpent, never the horned scarecrow of the didactic Middle Ages. (A Vision, 1925 edn., p.191; see also A Vision [B], 1937, pp.279-80; see longer extract in Quotations, supra); Richard Ellmann compares Yeatss Byzantium to Blakes Golgonooza as holy cities of the imagination, and refers the reading of the phrase artifice of eternity to that supreme art which is to win us from life and gather us into eternity like doves into their dove-cots (The Tables of the Law) [see Ellmann, Yeats: Man and Masks, 1948, p.257] - i.e., the passage on the prophecies of Joachim de Flora ending: [...] for the world only exists to be a tale in the ears of coming generations; and terror and content, birth and death, love and hatred, and the fruit of the Tree, are but instruments for that supreme art which is to win us from life and gather us into eternity like doves into their dove-cots. (Mythologies, pp.300-01.) Note that a MS version has This country for That country. See also R. F. Foster, W. B. Yeats - A Life, Vol. II: The Arch-Poet ( OUP 2003): [Yeats] engagingly admits that according to the System, the rise of the Byzantine state should occur at a different historical stage from that in which it actually happened, but, nonetheless, in one of the few passages often quoted from A Vision, he asserts his own identification with it. (p.288.) Foster quotes the above extract at great length, as supra.)
THE TOWER, manuscript dated 7 Oct. 1925; title poem printed in The New Republic (29 June 1927); on old age: I am tired & in a rage at being old, I am all I ever was & much more but an enemy has bound and twisted me so I can plan & think as I never could, but no longer achieve all I plan & think (Letter to Olivia Shakespear, June 1922; printed as unpubl. in Ellmann, 1938, p.245); Collected Poems (1928) contains a note: When I wrote the lines about Plato and Plotinus I forgot that it is something in our own eyes that makes us see them as all transcendence ...[and quotes Plotinus:]
the soul is the author of all living things, that it has breathed life into them all ... but soul, since it can never abandon itself, is of eternal being[?] (p.533).
MEDITATIONS IN TIME OF CIVIL WAR, seven poems [Ancestral Houses; My House;
My Table; My Descendents; The Road at My Door (note that the soldier in his blood echoes Walter de la Mare, The Highwayman: When tye shot him down on the highway,/Down like a dog on the highway,/And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at this throat); The Stares Nest by My Window; I See Phantoms of Hatred and of the Hearts Fullness and of the Coming Emptiness], the first written in England, and the others at Thoor Ballylee, 1922-23; first printed in The Dial (Jan. 1923); authors note explains that our ancient bridge was blown up; that a stare is an Irish starling; further, Jacques Molay was Grand Master of the Templars [1118-1312] and seems to me fit symbol for those who labour for hatred, and so for sterility in various kinds. It is said to have been incorporated in ritual of certain Masonic societies ... and to have fed class-hatred; together with an explanation for the inclusion of hawks, because I have a ring [made by Dulac] with a hawk and a butterfly upon it, to symbolise the straight road of logic ... and the crooked road of intuition; Satos gift is the sword, presentation of which is recounted in a letter to Edmund Dulac (22 March 1920, Letters, ed. Wade, p.662); see also leter to Olivia Shakespear: I am writing a new Tower poem
I make my Japanese Sword and its silk covering my symbol of life. (Cited in T. R. Henn, The Lonely Tower, Methuen 1950, p.134); stanzas from The Stares Nest are quoted in Autobiographies, 579-80; Jacques Mollay was burnt March 1314; all we see from our windows is beautiful and quiet and has been so; yet two miles off near Coole, which is close to the main road, the Black and Tans flogged young men, then tied them to their lorries by the heels and dragged them along the road till their bodies were torn to pieces. I wonder will literature be much changed by that most momentous of events, the return of evil. (Letters, ed. Wade, p.680; quoted in Rajan, Yeats, 1965, p.128);.See also remarks by Seamus Deane [under Yeats: selections from commentary and criticism].
NINTEENTH HUNDRED AND NINETEEN, written 1919, printed in The Dial (Sept. 1921); arising from some horrors at Gort; note however that Peter Costello (Heart Grown Brutal, 1977, p.153) assigns it to 1920, quoting account of killing of old woman at Kitartan by Black and Tans with Lewis Gun, reported in Irish Independent, 3 Nov. 1920; golden grasshoppers and bees, for Thucydides, I, vi.; poss. from Walter Pater, Greek Studies (1875); notes on the poem much concerned with the Platonic Year and the whirling wind, and whirling dust; Louie Fuller was whirling American dancer celebrated by Mallarmé and Toulouse-Lautrec; seven years ago may refer to Ulster politics in 1912; of Robert Artisson, Yeats wrote: an evil spirit much run after in Kilkenny at the start of the fourteenth century. Are not those who travel in the whirling dust also in the Platonic Year? (in Dial, 1921).
THE WHEEL, written Sept. 1921; first printed in Seven Poems (1922); cf. passage on Joachim of Flora (Mythologies, pp.300-01; see supra).
YOUTH AND AGE, written in 1924, first printed in The Cat and the Moon (1924).
THE NEW FACES, written Dec. 1912; first printed in Seven Poems (1922); addressed to Lady Gregory; see Lady Gregorys affectionate view of the catalpa tree in Coole, 1931, p.42-44.
A PRAYER FOR MY SON, written Dec. 1921, first printed in Seven Poems (1922).
TWO SONGS FROM A PLAY, written 1926 (excepting the last stanza, added in 1930-31), the first poem printed in The Adelphi (June 1927), and On the Boiler ; full text first printed in Stories of Michael Robartes and His Friends (1931); the poem establishes comparison between Dionysian and Christian, and Jeffares quotes very extensively from the Introduction to The Resurrection (first played, Abbey 20 July 1934) in Wheels and Butterflies, in which the songs occur; Ellmann compares the place of Dionysius and Christ in the astrological order; Doric is Spartan. [For a new identification of the source of fabulous formless darkness in the second song, see attached.]
FRAGMENTS, prob. written 1931; first stanza appeared as part of authors commentary on Words on the Window Pane in Dublin Magazine (Oct.-Dec. 1931); reprinted with second stanza in Collected Poems (1933); see Yeatss essay on Berkeley, taking the form of a critique of Lockes separation of primary and secondary qualities, and involving a comparison between Berkeleys indictment of Locke and Burkes indictment of Warren Hastings Essays and Introductions (400-01; Jeffares, New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, 1984, p.245); The Symbolism of Poetry (1900), includes remarks in Nineveh, keyed to Arthur OShaughnessy, who wrote that they [the poets] built Nineveh with their sighing ... For each age is a dream that is dying/Or one that is coming to birth [in Music and Moonlight, 2].
LEDA AND THE SWAN, written 18 Sept. 1923; first printed in The Dial (June 1924); arose from request for poem by George Russell for Irish Statesman; Yeats recorded that he was thinking along the lines that nothing is now possible without some movement or birth from above, preceded by some violent annunciation (from account given in The Cat and the Moon and Certain Poems, 1924); influence of Gogartys To the Liffey with the Swans also noticed; pictorial inspirations incl. Michelangelos picture at Venice (a col. phot. of which Yeats held); the Etruscan bas-relief at the British Museum; and the statue of Leda and the Swan at Markree Castle, Colloney, Co. Sligo, seat of the Cooper family; for that white rush, cf., Spensers Prothalamion, Two fairer birds I yet did never see:/The snow which doth the top of Pindus strew./Did never whiter shew/Nor Jove himself when he a swan would be/For love of Leda, whiter did appeare:/Yet Leda was, they say, as white as he,/Yet not so white as those, nor nothing neare; note also that Ellmann cites a remark of Yeats to Fiona MacLeod in which the former spoke of his story The Adoration of the Magi as containing a half-prophecy of a very veiled kind to the effect that another Leda would open her knees to the swan (Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, 1948, p.122; citing E. A. Sharp, William Sharp, p.282); I imagine the annunciation that founded Greece as made to Leda, remembering that they showed in a Spartan temple, strung up to the roof as a holy relic, an unhatched egg of hers; and that from one of her eggs came Love and from the other War. But all things are from antithesis, and when in my ignorance I try to imagine what older civilisation that annunciation rejected I can see but bird and woman blotting out some corner of the Babylonian mathematical starlight. A Vision (B), 268; cited A. N. Jeffares, New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, 1984, 1984, p.413).
ON A PICTURE OF A BLACK CENTAUR ..., written Sept. 1920, appearing in Seven Poem (1922) entitled Suggested by a Picture of a Black Centaur; see the account of its composition given by Cecil Salkeld, in J. M. Hone, W. B. Yeats (1942), particularly emphasising Yeatss obsession with the phrase mummy wheat.
AMONG SCHOOL CHILDREN, written 14 June 1926; printed in The Dial (Aug. 1927), and London Mercury; involves Platos parable of the lost halves of Love in search of unity is in the Symposium; What youthful mother ... (stanza) indebted to Gentiles The Reform of Education, which Yeats read in translation with a foreword by Croce (1923); honey of generation, from neo-Platonist Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs (trans. 1917); paradigm is part of the Platonic vocabulary of Thomas Taylor, whose translations of Plato Yeats used; golden-thighed [orig. showed him his golden thigh] is likewise from Taylors translation of Iamblichus, The Life of Pythagoras; on dance, note A Vision: The Thirteenth Cone is a sphere because sufficient to itself; but as seen by Man it is a cone. It becomes conscious of itself as so seen, like some great dancer, the perfect flower of modern culture, dancing some primitive dance and conscious of his or her own life and of the dance. [... &c.] (A Vision (B), p.240; cited in Jeffares, Commentary, p.329.) See also prose-draft: Topic for poem - Schoolchildren and the thought that life will waste them perhaps that no possible life can fulfil our dreams or even out teachers hope. Bring in the old thought that life prepares us for what never happens. (Also quoted in Thomas Parkinson, W. B. Yeats: The Later Poetry, California UP 1964, rep. 1966 [269pp.], p.93.)
Note (1) - completed lines: Plato imagined all existence plays / Among the ghostly images of things; / Solider Aristotle played the taws / Upon the bottom of the King of Kings; World famous, golden thighed Pythagoras ... See Letter of 24 Sept. 1926 to Olivia Shakespear: Here is a fragment of my last curse on old age. It seems that even the greatest of men are owls, scarecrows, by the time their fame has come. Aristotle, remember, was Alexanders tutor, hence the taws (form of birch). (Jeffares, p.253.) See Sunil Kumar Sarker, W. B. Yeats: Poetry and Plays (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers 2002), p.254.
Note (2): But Thomas Parkinson points out that the ealiest version of the poem refers to Caesar Augustus in this capacity, not Aristotle: Caesar Augustus that made all the laws / And he ordering of everything / Plato that learned geometry and was / The foremost man at the souls meaning ... (Parkinson, W. B. Yeats: The Later Poetry, California UP 1964, rep. 1966, p.101.) Not that 'played the taws' was 'laid the taws' in an interim version (Parkinson, op. cit., p.103 - available online.)
"Among School Children" - topic for poems - school children and the thought that life will waste them, perhaps that no possible life can fulfill their own dreams or even their teacher's hope. Bring in the old thought that life prepares for what never happens.'
COLONUS PRAISE, translation of chorus by Sophocles, from Yeatss Oedipus at Colonus, written c. 24 March 1927; first printed in The Tower (1928); based on French trans. by Paul Masqueray.
WISDOM, [date of composition unknown]; first printed in On the Boiler (1939); See Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks (1948): [When] his beloved (Maud Gonne) told of an incident in her school days, they had seemed suddenly, momentarily blended together by sympathy into a sphere or yolk and white of one shell. ... [I]n the final stanzas the poet imagines heavenly glory a place, or more likely, a state, where body and soul are united as he and his beloved seemed united on that day long before. Triumphing in his theme, he changes in the last stanza from declarative statement to apostrophe or secular adoration of the completed symbol of heavenly glory (p,.255-56).
[THE HERO, THE GIRL, AND THE FOOL, in Albright, edn. 1992].
THE FOOL BY THE ROADSIDE, date of composition unknown [lines 18-29 only printed in Collected Poems; see supra; omitted from Albright, 1992 Edn.].
OWEN AHERNE AND HIS DANCERS, begun at Ashdown Forest Hotel, 24 Oct.-27 Oct. 1917; first printed in The Dial (June 1924), entitled by sections The Lover Speaks, and The Heart Replies.
A MAN YOUNG AND OLD, poems written in 1926, 1927; I-IV first printed in London Mercury (May 1927), entitled Four Songs from the Young Countryman; nos. 6, 7, 8, and 10 appeared as More Songs from an Old Countryman, in London Mercury (April 1926); V, IX appeared as Two Songs from the Old Countryman; death of the hare, written 3 Jan. 1926, refers to Iseult and prob. her marriage to Francis Stuart; From Oedipus at Colonus, written one or before 13 March 1927;
the three Monuments, written prob. prior to 11 June 1925; first printed in On the Boiler (1939); I think it is likely that there will be yet another series upon the old man & his soul as he slowly comes to understand that the mountains are not solid, that all he sees is a mathematical line drawn between hope & memory. (Yeats, in a letter to Olivia Shakespear on completing part of this poem, 7 Dec. 1926; printed as unpubl. in Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, 1948, p.263].
[THE GIFT OF HARUN AL-RASHID added in Albright Edn. of Poems, 1992].
ALL SOULS NIGHT, written Nov. 1920; Yeats wrote, I have moments of exaltation like that in which I wrote All Souls Night (A Vision [A], p.xii); Horton, an Irvingite, author of The Way of the Soul (1910); his lady, Audrey Locke (d.1916); Florence Emery, taught in Buddhist institution, Ranathan College, Ceylon; d. 29 April 1917; MacGregor Mathers, author of Kabbala Unveiled; mummy-cloth, see mummy wheat.