William Butler Yeats: Quotations (6)

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Yeats on Irish fiction
Yeats complained of a ‘loss of manner’ in nineteenth-century Irish fiction after Carleton and the Banims. (Letter to Matthew Russell [ed. Irish Monthly], Dec. 1889, in Collected Letters, Vol. 1 (1865-1895), ed. John Kelly, OUP 1986, pp.198-200; quoted in Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 [...]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary, Cambridge UP 2006, Vol. 1, p.449.)
 
‘First Principles’ (1908): Yeats speaks of dividing ‘what is new, and therefore Irish, what is very old, and therefore Irish, from all that is foreign, from all that is an accident of imperfect culture.’ (In Samhain, 7, 1908; rep. in Explorations, Macmillan 1962, pp.231-44; quoted in Kelleher, op. cit., p.450.) Note Kelleher’s remarks: ‘But, rather than being a sign of aesthetic inferiority (a conclusion not confined to Yeats), such cultural hybridity is instead [450] where much of the richness of nineteenth-century Irish literature lies.’ (Ibid., pp.450-51.)
Yeats commented that storytellers would not necessarily ‘think sufficiently about the shape of the poem or the story’, and that for the oral tradition to become a superior art, it needed writers who could mold [sic] the stories and give them a ‘deliberate form’. (See Rolf Loeber & Magda Loeber, A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2006 [Intro.], p.lii - citing G. D. Zimmerman, The Irish Storyteller, Dublin 2001, p.328; see further under William Wilde, supra.)

Ireland in general
Ireland, UK & US
Irish nationality
National feeling
Irish bitterness
Irish national faults
English nationality
Anglo-Ireland
Nobel winner(s)
Irish places & legends
Irish tradition
The Irish language
[Irish] Catholicism
Religion & Education
The Penal Laws
Psychic Research
Divorce Bill (1929)
Irish Censorship
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Ireland (1): ‘Chance and Destiny have between them woven two-thirds of all history, and of the history of Ireland wellnigh the whole. The literature of a nation, on the other hand, is spun out of its heart. If you would know Ireland - body and soul - you must read its poems and stories. They came into existence to please nobody but the people of Ireland. Government did not make them on the one hand, nor bad season on the other. They are Ireland talking to herself.’ (Pref. to Representative Irish Tales, 1891; quoted [without attribution] in Andrew Carpenter and Peter Fallon, eds., The Writers: Sense of Ireland, O’Brien Press, 1980, q.p.) ‘No country could have a more natural distaste for equality’; ‘From these debates [of a Young Ireland society], from [John] O’Leary’s conversation, and from the Irish books he lent or gave me has come all I have set my hand to since [...’] (Autobiographies, q.p.)

Ireland (2): ‘The sudden certainty that Ireland was to be like soft wax for years to come, was a moment of supernatural insight’ (‘After Parnell’, Autobiographies [note also the use of the phrase ‘soft wax’ in S. J. O’Grady, and Yeats’s re-employment of it, viz.: ‘If ever Ireland again seems molten wax, reverse the process of revolution. Do not try to pour Ireland into any political system. Think first how many able men the country has, how many it can hope to have in the near future, and mold [sic] your system upon those men. It does not matter how you get them, but get them. Republics, Kingdoms, Soviets, Corporate States, Parliaments, are trash. [...] These men, whether six or six thousand, are the core of Ireland, are Ireland itself.’ (On the Boiler, 1939, p.13; quoted in Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, 1948, p.282.)

Ireland (3): ‘In a battle like Ireland’s, which is one of poverty against wealth, we must prove our sincerity by making ourselves unpopular to wealth. We must accept the baptism of the gutter.’ (Dramatis Personae, 1902; Autobiographies p.410.) Cf. ‘One cannot sum up a nation intellectually, and when the summing up is made by half-educated men the idea fills me with alarm.’ (Autobiographies, 1955, p.80.)

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Ireland (4): ‘My experience of Ireland, during the last three years, has changed my views very greatly, & now I feel that the work of an Irish man of letters must be not so much to awaken or quicken or preserve the national idea among the mass of the people but to convert the educated classes to it on the one hand to the best of his ability, & on the other - & this is the more important - to fight for moderation, dignity, and the rights of the intellect among his fellow nationalists. Ireland is terribly demoralised in all things - in her scholourship [sic], in her criticism, in her politics, in her social life. She will never be greatly better until she governs herself but she will be greatly worse unless there arise protesting spirits. I am doing what I can be writing my books with laborious care & studied moderation of style [...].’ (Letter of Sept. 1894 to Alice Milligan on her request for a copy of the poem “Kathleen Ni Houlihan” in Stories of Red Hanrahan [i.e., part of The Secret Rose, 1897] , in Letters, I, p.399; quoted G. J. Watson, Intro., W. B. Yeats, Short Fiction, Penguin 1995, p.xii.)

Ireland (5): ‘Ireland is ruined by abstractions [...] illbreeding of the mind [...] every thought made in some manufactory and with the mark upon it of its wholesale origin. [...] I did not see until Synge began to write that we must renounce the deliberate creation of a kind of Holy City in the imagination, and express the individual.’ (Ibid., 94.) ‘Cast your mind on other days,/That in coming days may be/Still the indomitably Irishry’ (‘Under Ben Bulben’, Collected Poems, p.400.)

Ireland (6): ‘Until the battle of the Boyne, Ireland belonged to Asia.’ (Gonne-Yeats Letters, ed. Jeffares and MacBride, 1992, pp.293-4; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, p.252.)

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England & America: ‘The people of Ireland have never learned to go to that book-shop, nor have they any brilliant literary journals and magazines to waken their interest in thought and literature. It was with the desire to do what they could to arrest this denationalisation that we founded the “Irish Literary Society[,] London”, and not to do anything so absurd and impossible as to make London “the intellectual centre of Ireland”. Ireland is between the the upper and the nether millstone - between the influence of America and the influence of England, and which of the two is denationalising us more rapidly it is hard to say. Whether we have still to face a long period of struggle, or have come to the land of promise at last, we need all our central fire, all our nationality.’ ([United Irishman [14 May 1892]; quoted in Tom Paulin, Minotaur, Poetry and the Nation State, 1992, p.157; also quoted [in part] in Micheál Ó Suilleabháin, ‘“All Our Central Fire”: Music, mediation and the Irish Psyche’, in A. Halliday & K. Coyle, eds., The Irish Journal of Psychology, ‘The Irish Psyche’ [Special Issue], Vol. 15, Nos. 2 & 3 [Psychological Society of Ireland] 1994, p.351; also in John McGovern, MA Diss. UUC 2002.)

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Irish nationality (1): ‘What is this nationality we are trying to preserve, this thing that we are fighting English influence to preserve? It is not merely our pride. It is certainly not any national vanity that stirs us on to activity. If you examine to the root a contest between two peoples, two nations, you will always find that it is really a war between two civilisations, two ideals of life. First of all, we Irish do not desire, like the English, to build up a nation where there shall be a very rich class and a very poor class. Ireland will always be in the main an agricultural country. Industries we may have, but we will not have, as England has, a very rich class nor whole districts blackened with smoke like what they call in England their “Black Country”. I think that the best ideal for our people, an ideal very generally accepted among us, is that Ireland is going to become a country where, if there are few rich, there shall be nobody very poor. Wherever men have tried to imagine a perfect life, they have imagined a place where men plough and sow and reap, not a place where there are great wheels turning and great chimneys vomiting smoke. Ireland will always be a country where men plough and sow and reap. / And Ireland, too, as we think, will be a country where not only will the wealth be well distributed but where there will be an imaginative and spiritual culture among the people. We wish to preserve an ancient kind of life. Wherever its customs prevail, there you will find the folk song, the folk tale, the proverb and the charming manners that come from ancient culture. In England you will find a few thousands of perfectly cultivated people, but you will find the mass of the people singing songs of the music hall. [...] In Ireland alone among the nations that I know you will find, away on the Western seaboard, under broken roofs, a race of gentlemen keep alive the ideals of a great time when men sang the heroic life with drawn swords in their hands. / Yes, we desire to preserve into the modern life that idea, a nation of men who will [...] remembers always the four ancient virtues as a German philosopher has enumerated them [honesty, courage, generosity, courtesy]. We seek to keep that old life living by keeping Irish living, and we seek to spread it where Irish is lost by putting it into plays and poems for those who only know English [...] We all hope that Ireland’s battle is drawing to an end, but we must live as if it were to go on endlessly. We must so live that we will make that old noble kind of life powerful amongst our people [... ] so that we will pass on into the future the great moral qualities that give men the strength to fight, the strength to labour. It may be that it depends upon us to call up into life the phantom armies of the future. If we keep that thought always before is, if we never allow ourselves to forget those armies, we need have no fear for the future of Ireland.’

(Wolfe Tone Lecture given in New York, 1904; unpub. MS, property of Michael Yeats, quoted by Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Mask, 1948, pp.116-17; also in Torchiana, Yeats and Georgian Ireland, 1966, p.4-5; also [in part] in Peter Costello, The Heart Grown Brutal, 1977, p.28; also in Robert O’Driscoll, ed., The Celtic Consciousness [Papers of 1978 symposium at Toronto] Dublin: Dolmen Press; Edinburgh: Canongate Publ. 1982, p.xix.) Note: Honesty, courage, generosity and courtesy are virtues named by Goethe in Wahlverwandschaft, 1809, ii, 109 and later promulgated by Nietzsche. Goethe included politeness and intellectual integrity in his list. (See Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosoper, Psychologist, Anti-Christ, Princeton UP [1968] 1974), p.110.)

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Irish Nationality (2): ‘I know that my work has been done in every detail with a deliberate Irish aim, but it is hard for those who know it in fragments to know that, especially if the most that they know of me is about some contest with Irish opinion. You have put together the main outline of my work as it most concerns Ireland and have had the self-abnegation to interpret rather than to criticise. Your difficulties have come from my house being still unfinished, there are so many rooms and corridors that I am still building upon the foundations laid long ago [...’] (June 2 1916; Stone Cottage; Wade, ed., Letters, pp.500-01.) Cf., ‘Practical movements are created out of emotions expressed long enough ago to have become general, but literature discovers; it can never repeat. It is an attempt to repeat an emotion because it has been found effective which has made all provincial literature [...] so superficial.’ (Memoirs; quoted in Denis Donoghue, We Irish: Essays in Irish Literature and Society, 1986, p.178 [no ref.].)

‘The greater proportion of my writings have been founded upon the old literature of Ireland. I have had to read it in translations, but it has been the chief illumination of my imagination all my life.’ (Senate speech of 1923; Senate Speeches, p.44.)

‘It seemed as if the ancient world lay about us with its freedom of imagination, its delight in good stories, in man’s force and woman’s beauty, and that all we had to do was to make the town think as the country felt.’ (Nobel Award Speech; p.197.)

Irish Nationality (3): ‘In answer to Miss Horniman’s request for exclusive right to present his plays in England: ‘I have thought carefully over your proposal of yesterday and have decided that it is impossible so far as I am concerned. I am not young enough to change my nationality - it would really amount to that. Though I wish for a universal audience, in playwriting there is always an immediate audience also. If I am to try and find the immediate audience in England I would fail through lack of understanding on my part, perhaps through lack of sympathy. I understand my own race and in all my work, lyric or dramatic I have thought of it. If the theatre fails I may or may not write plays - but I shall write for my own people - whether in love or hate of them matters little - probably I shall not know which it is. Nor can I make any permanent allocation of my plays while the Irish theatre may at any moment need my help [...].’ (Letters; early 1908.)

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National feeling (3): “Autobiography”, in Memoir, ed. Denis Donoghue (London: Macmillan 1972): ‘There is a sinking away of national feeling which is very simple in origin. You cannot keep the idea of a nation alive where there are no national institutions to reverence, no national success to admire, without a model of it in the mind of the people. You can call it “Kathleen-ni-Houlihan” or the “Shan Van Vocht” in a mood of simple feeling, and love that image, but for the general purposes of life you must have a complex mass of images, making [183] up a model like an architect’s model. The Young Ireland poets created this with certain images rather simple in their conception that filled the mind of the young - Wolfe Tone, King Brian, Emmet, Owen Roe, Sarsfield, the Fisherman of Kinsale. It answered the traditional slanders on Irish character too, and started an apologetic habit, but its most powerful work was this creation of sensible images for the affections, vivid enough to follow men on to the scaffold. As was necessary, the ethical ideas involved were very simple, needing neither study nor unusual gifts for the understanding of them. Our own movement began by trying to do the same thing in a more profound and enduring way. When I was twenty-five or twenty-six I dreamed of writing a sort of Légende des Siècles of Ireland, setting out with my Wanderings of Oisin and having something of every age. Johnson’s work and, later, Lady Gregory’s work carried on the dream in a different form; and it was only when Synge began to write that I saw that our movement would have to give up the deliberate creation of a kind of Holy City in the imagination, a Holy Sepulchre, as it were, or Holy Grail for the Irish mind, and saw that we must be content to express the individual. The Irish people were not educated enough to accept as an image of Ireland anything more profound, more true of human nature as a whole, than the schoolboy thought of Young Ireland. When the attack began on Lady Gregory’s style, because of the peasant elements, I was confirmed in this. You can only create a model of a race which will inspire the action of the race as a whole, as apart from exceptional individuals, if you share with it some simple moral understanding of life. Milton and Shakespeare inspire the active life of England, but they do it through exceptional individuals whose influence on the rest is indirect. We must not try to create a school. We have no understanding of life we can teach to others. If we could create a conception of the race as noble as Aeschylus and Sophocles had of Greece, it would be attacked on some trivial ground and the crowd would follow either some mind which copied the rhetoric of Young Ireland, or the obvious sentiments of popular English literature with a few Irish thoughts and feelings added for conscience’ sake. / Meanwhile the need of a model of the nation, of some moral [184] diagram, is as great as in the early nineteenth century when national feeling was losing itself in a religious feud over tithes and emancipation. Neither the grammars of the Gaelic League nor the industrialism of the Leader, nor the attacks on the Irish Party in Sinn Féin give any sensible image for the affections. Yet from Lady Gregory almost always, from parts of Synge, from Katharine Tynan, and Lionel Johnson, from O’Grady, from my own work, could be taken material that would enable a school of journalists with very simple moral ideas to budil up an historical and literary nationalism as power as the old and nobler. they could then bid the people love and not hate.’ (pp.184-85.)

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National feeling (4): ‘To the greater poets everything they see has its relation to the national life, and through them to the universal and divine life: nothing is an isolated artistic moment; there is a unity everywhere; everything fulfils a purpose that is not its own; the hailstone is a journeyman of God; the grass blade carries the universe upon its point. But to this universalism, this seeing of unity everywhere, you can only attain through what is near you, your nation, or, if you be no traveller, your village and the cobwebs on your walls.’’ (Early review; Letters to the New Island, p.174; quoted in Peter Ure, Yeats [Writers & Critics], Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1963, p.30; prev. quoted in Richard Ellmann, The Identity of Yeats, 1954, 1964 [Chap. II: “The Search for Limits” - Sect. 1: ‘Becoming Irish’], p.15-16, continuing: ‘You can no more have the greatest poetry without a nation than religion without symbols. One can only reach out to the universe with a gloved hand - that glove is one’s nation, the only thing one knows even a little.’ ([Article of 2 Sept. 1889; n. source]. Cf. the preceeding quotation: ‘[When first I wrote I went here and there for my subject as my reading led me, and] preferred to all other countries Arcadia and the India of romance, but presently I convinced myself [...] that I should never go for the scenery of a poem to any country but my own[, and I think that I shall hold to that conviction to the end].’ (Ellmann, op. cit., p.13; the parenthetical phrases being quoted at Poetry Foundation [online] and cited by Stephen Osborne, MA Dip, UU, 2011.)

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National feeling (5): ‘There is a sinking away of national feeling which is very simple in origin. You cannot keep the idea of a nation alive where ther are no national institutions to reverence, no national success to admire, without a model of it in the mind of the people. You can call it “Kathleen-ni-Houlihan” or the “Shan Van Vocht” in a mood of simple feeling, and love that image, but for the general purposes of life you must have a complex mass of images, making [183] up a model like an architect’s model. The Young Ireland poets created this with certain images rather simple in their conception that filled the mind of the young - Wolfe Tone, King Brian, Emmet, Owen Roe, Sarsfield, the Fisherman of Kinsale. It answered the traditional slanders on Irish character too, and started an apologetic habit, but its most powerful work was this creation of sensible images for the affections, vivid enough to follow men on to the scaffold. As was necessary, the ethical ideas involved were very simple, needing neither study nor unusual gifts for the understanding of them. Our own movement began by trying to do the same thing in a more profound and enduring way. When I was twenty-five or twenty-six I dreamed of writing a sort of Légende des Siècles of Ireland, setting out with my Wanderings of Oisin and having something of every age. Johnson’s work and, later, Lady Gregory’s work carried on the dream in a different form; and it was only when Synge began to write that I saw that our movement would have to give up the deliberate creation of a kind of Holy City in the imagination, a Holy Sepulchre, as it were, or Holy Grail for the Irish mind, and saw that we must be content to express the individual. The Irish people were not educated enough to accept as an image of Ireland anything more profound, more true of human nature as a whole, than the schoolboy thought of Young Ireland. When the attack began on Lady Gregory’s style, because of the peasant elements, I was confirmed in this. You can only create a model of a race which will inspire the action of the race as a whole, as apart from exceptional individuals, if you share with it some simple moral understanding of life. Milton and Shakespeare inspire the active life of England, but they do it through exceptional individuals whose influence on the rest is indirect. We must not try to create a school. We have no understanding of life we can teach to others. If we could create a conception of the race as noble as Aeschylus and Sophocles had of Greece, it would be attacked on some trivial ground and the crowd would follow either some mind which copied the rhetoric of Young Ireland, or the obvious sentiments of popular English literature with a few Irish thoughts and feelings added for conscience’ sake. / Meanwhile the need of a model of the nation, of some moral [184] diagram, is as great as in the early nineteenth century when national feeling was losing itself in a religious feud over tithes and emancipation. Neither the grammars of the Gaelic League nor the industrialism of the Leader, nor the attacks on the Irish Party in Sinn Féin give any sensible image for the affections. Yet from Lady Gregory almost alwys, from parts of Synge, from Katharine Tynan, and Lionel Johnson, from O’Grady, from my own work, could be taken material that would enable a school of journalists with very simple moral ideas to budil up an historical and literary nationalism as power as the old and nobler. they could then bid the people love and not hate. (“Journal” [12 March 1909], in Denis Donoghue, ed., W. B. Yeats: Memoirs, London: Macmillan pp.184-85.)

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Irish bitterness (1): ‘But the bitterness still lived in the Irish air, and was bred into the Irish bone. The grass, the skies, the rivers and towers served the early novelists as double emblems of hatred and love. Each writer was driven into despairing silence only when the possibility of meaningful choice was removed [...] In the years which followed 1850, the despair was universal. To have supposed during those decades that Ireland possessed the ability to choose its own destiny would have been to indulge the conjectures of sentimentalists or fanatics, and it was those decades that the tradition of the Irish novel withered.’ (q.p.) (Preface, Representative Irish Tales.) Cf., ‘“We of our bitterness have left no trace / But Munster grass and Connemara skies.” [Coll. Poems.]

Irish bitterness (2): ‘Rereading The Tower, I was astonished at its bitterness and long to live out of Ireland that I may find some new vintage. Yet the bitterness gave the book its power and its is the best book I have written.’ ([?]Letter to Dorothy Wellesley). Cf., ‘When I look back at my Irish propaganda of those years I see little but its bitterness.’ (Quoted in Cullingford, Yeats, Ireland and Fascism, 1981, p.31.)

Irish bitterness (2) [on raising children in Ireland: ‘I could not bring them to Ireland, where they would inherit bitterness, nor leave them in England where, being Irish by tradition, and by family and fame, they would be in an unnatural condition of mind and grow, as so many Irishmen who live here do, sour and argumentative.’ (Letters, ed. Wade, p.675).

Irish bitterness (3): ‘[T]he generation which had to endure the bitterness of the agrarian revolution, is still in a fume of political excitement, and cannot consider any Irish matter without this excitement... Ireland will have no dispassionate opinion on any literary or political matter until that generation had died or fallen into discredit.’ (Quoted in Hazard Adams ‘Yeats and Antithetical Nationalism’, in Jonathan Allision, ed., Yeats’s Political Identities, Michigan UP 1996, p.315.)

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National faults: ‘When I come over her from London or cross over to London I am always struck afresh by the difference between the cultivated people in England and the cultivated people - alas! too few - here in Ireland.’ Yeats further characterises productions such as [Denis Florence] McCarthy’s “Fardiah,”, [Robert Dwyer] Joyce’s “Blanid”, as ‘mostly crude and uninteresting’, others such as [P. W.] Joyce’s “Deirdre” and Samuel Ferguson’s “Congal” as and occasionally crude and interesting; also, Ferguson’s “Conary” and ‘his better known “Vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley” as being ‘beyond all praise and all imitation’, before concluding: ‘We must feel and know our national faults and limitations no less than our national virtues, and care for things Gaelic and Irish, not because we hold them better than things Saxon and English, but because they belong to us, and because our lives are to be spent among them, whether they be good or evil [...]’. (‘Hopes and Fears for Irish Literature’, in United Ireland, 15 Oct. 1892; rep. in John Frayne, ed., Uncollected Prose, [Vol. 1] London 1970, p77.)

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English nationality: ‘[The Saxon] is full of self-brooding. Like his own Wordsworth, most English of poets, he finds his image in every lake and puddle. He has to burden the skylark with his cares before he can celebrate it. He is always a lens coloured by self.’ (Article on John Todhunter, in Providence Sunday Journal, 1899; quoted in Louis MacNeice, Yeats, 1944, p.48.) ‘The English are an objective people; they have no longer a sense of tragedy in their theatre; pity, which is fed by observation instead of experience, has taken its place; their poets are psychological, looking at their own minds from without.’ (‘On the Boiler’, Explorations, 1962, p.428; quoted in Una Kealy, ‘The Return of Radical Innocence in the Plays of W. B. Yeats’ [UUC MA 1999], p.70.) ‘But as Lord Tennyson’s ideal women will never find a flawless sympathy outside the upper English middle class, so this Deirdre will never, maybe, win entire credence outside the limits - wide enough they are - of the Irish race.’ (The Poetry of Sir Samuel Ferguson - II’, Dublin Univ. Review, Dec. 1886; rep. in Frayne, ed., Uncollected Prose, 1970, p.95.) English literature: ‘England is old and her poets must scrape up the crumbs of an almost finished banquet, but Ireland has still full tables.’ (Boston Pilot, 23 April 1892; rep. in Letters to the New Island as ‘The Rhymers’ Club, and quoted in Frayne, 1970, p.52), and cf. ‘Hopes and Fears for Irish Literature’, in United Irishman, 15 Oct. 1892: ‘Here in Ireland we are living in a young age, full of hope and promise - a young age which has only just begun to make its literature. It is only yesterday that we cut from the greenhillside the staff which is to help its steps upon the long road. There is no carving upon the staff, the rough bark is still there, and the knots are many upon its side.’ (Frayne, Uncollected Prose, 1970, p.249.) ‘No Irish voice [...] has been lifted up in praise of that imperialism which [...] is but a mere painted and [flaunting] materialism; because Ireland has taken sides forever with the poor in spirit who shall inherit the earth.’ (‘The Union of the Gael in ‘98’, Centennial Assoc. of Great Britain and France, Report of Speeches, Dublin 1898; quoted in Cullingford, Yeats, Ireland and Fascism, 1981, p.24.)

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Anglo-Ireland (I): [Protestants in Ireland] ‘lacked hereditary passion’ [continuing: they were open to bribery, cynicism, apathy]. (Autobiographies, p.419). ‘Of course it [modern Ireland] is Anglo-Irish. When Chaucer was writing and English literature was being founded, there were people the historians call Anglo-Norman; they became the English people. Anglo-Ireland is already Ireland. [..]. We have not only English but European thoughts and customs in our heads and our habits. We could not, if we would, give them up. You may revive the Gaelic language, you cannot revive the Gaelic race. There may be pure Gaels in the Blasket Islands but there are none on the Four Courts, in the College of Surgeons, at the Universities, in the Executive Council, at Mr Cosgrave’s headquarters [...] But I hate all hyphenated words. Anglo-Irish is your word, not mine. [...] Henceforth I shall say the Irish race. The pure Englishman came to Ireland under Cromwell and married into the mixed Irish race. The pure Gael from the Blasket Islands comes to Dublin and goes into the civil service; he will marry into that race in his turn. The Irish people are as much a unity as the German, French, or English people, though many strands have gone to the making of it, and any man who says that we are not talks mischievous nonsense.’ [NLI, Yeats Microfilms, p.7,540; vide Daniel Corkery in Anglo-Irish Literature in Synge and the Anglo-Irish Literature, infra.)

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Anglo-Ireland (II): ‘Ireland is not more theirs than ours. We must glory in our difference, be as proud of it as they are of theirs.’ (Irish Statesman, 1925; quoted in Léon Ó Bróin, Protestant Nationalism in Revolutionary Ireland, 1985; with the comment: ‘These declarations would have given great heart to the Anglo-Irish community generally. The Stopfords, the Prices, the Hydes, the Hobsons, and all the others who recognised their special role in the Irish community, would have rejoiced at it, even if some of them would have preferred the occasion of it not to be a debate about divorce’; Ó Bróin, op. cit., 1985, p.212). Note that Yeats’s obituary for John Shawe-Taylor extols men ‘whose good looks are the image of their faculty; and these men, copying hawk or leopard, have an energy of swift decision, a power of sudden action, as if their whole body were their brain.’ (1911; quoted in Frank Tuohy, Yeats: An Illustrated Biography, Macmillan 1976, p.136.)

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Anglo-Ireland (III) [on Berkeley & Burke]: ‘There are two great classics of the eighteenth century which have deeply influenced modern thought, great Irish classics too difficult to be taught to children of any age, but some day those among us who think that all thins should begin with the nation and with the genius of the nation, may press them upon the attention of the State. It is impossible to consider any modern philosophical or political question without being influenced knowingly or unknowingly by movements of though that originated with Berkeley, who founded the Trinity College Philosophical Society, or with Burke, who founded the Historical. It would be but natural if they and those movements were studied in Irish Colleges, perhaps especially in those colleges where our teachers themselves are trained [...] In Gaelic literature we have something that the English-speaking countries have never possessed - a great folk literature. We have in Berkeley and in Burke a philosophy on which it is possible to base the whole life of a nation. That, too, is something which England, great as she is in modern scientific thought and every kind of literature, has not, I think. The modern Irish intellect was born more than two hundred years ago when Berkeley defined in three or four sentences the mechanical philosophy of Newton, Locke, and Hobbes, the philosophy of England in his day, and I think of English up to our day, and wrote after each, “We Irish do not hold with this”, or some like sentence. Feed the immature imagination upon that old folk life, and the mature intellect upon Berkeley and the great modern idealist philosophy created by his influence, upon Burke who restored to political thought its sense of history, and Ireland is reborn, potent, armed and wise. Berkeley proved that the world was a vision, and Burke that the State was a tree, no mechanism to be pulled in pieces and put up again, but an oak tree that had grown through centuries. (Speech to Irish Literary Society, 30 Nov. 1925; in Senate Speeches, p.171-72.)

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Anglo-Ireland (IV) [on Castle & College]: ‘As Dublin Castle with the help of the police keeps Ireland for England, so Trinity college with the help of the schoolmasters keeps the mind of Ireland for scholasticism with its accompanying weight of mediocrity. All noble life, all noble thought, depends primarily upon enthusiasm, and Trinity College, in abject fear of the national enthusiasm which is at her gates has shut itself off from every kind of ardour, form every kind of frenzy and exultant life [...].’ (1892; ‘Dublin Scholasticism and Trinity College’, in United Ireland; quoted in Torchiana, Yeats and Georgian Ireland, 1966, pp.10-11; also quoted in part in John P. Frayne, Uncollected Prose, Vol. I, 1970, Pref., p.41.)

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Anglo-Ireland (V): ‘Nelson’s Pillar should not be broken up. It represented the feeling of Protestant Ireland for a man who helped to break the power of Napoleon. The life and work of the people who erected it is part of our tradition. I think we should accept the whole past of this nation and not pick and choose.’ (Evening Telegraph, 25 Aug. 1923.)

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Nobel winner(s) [Nobel Award for Literature, acceptance speech:] ‘When your King gave me medal and diploma, two forms should have stood, one at either side of me, an old woman sinking into the infirmity of age and a young man's ghost. I think when Lady Gregory's name and John Synge's name are spoken by future generations, my name, if remembered, will come up in the talk, and that if my name is spoken first their names will come in their turn because of the years we worked together.' (Quoted in Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972, p.75.) Note Roy Foster's remarks, in a Yeats Summer School lecture of 2007, that Lady Gregory was insensed by the account of her here - and had still many years and an affair with John Quinn to go before she died.

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Irish places & legends: ‘For years to come I was in my thoughts as in much of my writings to seek alone to bring again imaginative life to the old sacred places [...] Slieve Knocknarea all that old reverence that hung above all conspicuous hills. [...]’ (Unpub. MS, in A. N. Jeffares, Yeats: A Biography, 1984.) ‘Knocknarea is in Sligo, and the country people say that Maeve, still a great queen of the western Sidhe, is buried in the cairn of stones upon it. I have written of Clooth-na-Bare in The Celtic Twilight. She went all over the word seeking a lake deep enough to drown her faery life, of which she had grown weary, leaping from hill to hill, and setting up a cairn of stones wherever her feet lighted, until, at last, she found the deepest water in the world in little Lough Ia, on the top of the bird mountain, in Sligo. I forget where I heard this story, but it may have been from a priest at Collooney.’ [idem.] ‘Of all the things the past bequeaths to the future, the greatest are the great legends; they are the mother of nations.’ [129]; ‘we Irish should keep these [legendary] personages much in our ears, for they lived in the places where we ride and go marketing, and sometimes they have met one another on the hills that cast there shadows upon our doors at evening. If we will but tell these stories to our children the land will begin again to be a Holy Land, as it was before men gave their hearts to Greece and Rome and Judea’ [q. source]. ‘Lacking sufficient recognised precedent, I must needs find some reason for all that I did. I knew almost from the start that to overflow with reasons was to be not quite well-born; and when I could I hid them, as men hide a disagreeable ancestry; and that there was no help for it seeing that my country was not born at all.’ (Autobiographies, p. 166; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, p.123.)

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Irish tradition: ‘The Irish peasant believes the whole world to be full of spirits, but then the most distinguished men have not thought otherwise. Newspapers have lately assured us that Lord Tennyson believes the soul may leave the body, for a time, and communicate with the spirits of the dead. The Irish peasant and the most serene of Englishmen are at one. Tradition is always the same. The earliest poet of India and the Irish peasant in his hovel nod to each other across the ages and are in perfect agreement. There are two boats going to sea. In which shall we sail? There is the little boat of science. Every century a new little boat of science starts and is shipwrecked; and yet again another puts forth, gaily laughing at its predecessors. Then there is the great galleon of tradition, and on board it travel the great poets and dreamers of the past. It was built long ago, no body remembers when. From its masthead flies the motto, semper eadem’ (From Letters from the New Island, quoted in Tuohy, Yeats: An Illustrated Biography, Macmillan 1976, p.68.)

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Irish language [1]: ‘In Ireland, where the Gaelic tongue is still spoken, and to some little extent where it is not, the people live according to a tradition of life that existed before commercialism, and the vulgarity founded upon it; and we who would keep the Gaelic tongue and Gaelic memories and Gaelic habits of mind would keep them, as I think, that we may some day spread a tradition of life that makes neither great wealth nor great poverty, that makes the arts a natural expression of life, that permits even common men to understand good art and high thinking, and to have the fine manners these things can give. [...] Almost everyone in Ireland, on the other hand, who comes from what are called the educated and wealthy classes [...] seeks [...] to establish a tradition of life, perfected and in part discovered by the English-speaking peoples, that has made great wealth and great poverty, that would make the arts impossible if it were not for the sacrifice of a few who spend their lives in the bitterest of protest [...] (Postscript, in Ideals in Ireland, ed. Lady Gregory, London 1901; rep. in Essays and Controversies [sic Kiberd?; not Essays and Introductions; perhaps Plays and Controversies?], p.10; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, London 1995, p.139.) [See further under Quotations [3], supra.]

Irish civilisation: ‘The civilisation that existed in the Irish language when they could spread if they could spread the Irish language, was an older and better civilisation.’ (Oct. 1890; q.source.)

Irish language [2]: ‘Can we not build up a national tradition, a national literature, which shall be none the less Irish for in spirit for being English in Language? Can we not keep the continuity of the nation’s life not be doing what Dr. Hyde has practically pronounced impossible [i.e., reviving the Irish language] but by translating or re-telling in English, which shall have an indefinable Irish quality of rhythm and style, all that is best of the ancient literature.’ (letter to United Ireland, 17 Dec. 1892; John P Frayne, Uncollected Prose, Vol. I, 1970, p.57; quoted in Alan Warner, Anglo-Irish Literature, Dublin 1981, p.6; also in Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures, Cork UP 1996, p.142; also given in James Pethica, Yeats's Poetry, Drama and Prose, NY: Norton & Co. 2000), p.388; and see longer version [from Frayne, op. cit. 1970], as supra.)

Irish language [2]: ‘Again and again I am asked why I do not write in Gaelic. [...] I begged the Indian writers present to remember that no man can think or write with music and vigour except in his mother tongue. I turned a friendly audience hostile, yet when I think of that scene I am unrepentent and angry. / I could no more have written in Gaelic than can those Indians write in English; Gaelic is my national language, but it is not my mother tongue.’ (p.520). Note also: ‘I might have found more of Ireland if I had written in Irish, but I have found a little, and I have found all myself.’ (Autobiographies, q.p.)

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[Irish] Catholicism (1): ‘I had noticed that Irish Catholics among whom had been born so many political martyrs had not the good taste, the household courtesy and decency of the Protestant Ireland I had known, yet Protestant Ireland seemed to think of nothing but getting on in the world.’ (Authobiographies, p.102; quoted in Denis Donoghue, Yeats, Fontana/Collins 1971, p.23.) ‘Can you read an Irish propagandist newspaper, all those threatenings and compellings, and not see that a servitude, far longer than any England has known, has bred into Irish bones a stronger subconscious desire than England ever knew to enslave and be enslaved?’ (dialogue on compulsory Gaelic; Tuohy, 1976, p.186.)

[Irish] Catholicism (2): ‘We are Catholics, but of the school of Pope Julius the Second and the Medicine Popes [...] We proclaim that we can forgive the sinner, but abhor the atheist, and that we count among atheists bad writers and Bishops of all denominations. [...] What decent man can read the Pastorals of our Hierarchy without horror at the style rancid, coarse and vague, like that of the daily papers? [...] We dismiss all demagogues and call back the soul to its ancient sovereignty, and declare that it can do whatever it please, being made, as antiquity affirmed, from the unperishable substance of the stars.’ (Yeats, contributing to To-morrow, 1924, though signed by Francis Stuart and Blanaid Salkeld; quoted in Tuohy, 1976, p.186.)

Also: ‘Have not my thoughts run through a like round, though I have not found my tradition in the Catholic Church, which was not the Church of my childhood, but where the tradition is, as I believe, more universal and more ancient?’ (Epilogue to Per Amica Silentia Lunae, in Mythologies, p.368-69; quoted in Denis Donoghue, Yeats [Fontana Modern Masters], London: Collins 1971, p.30.)

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Religion & Education (1): ‘The education given by the Catholic schools seems to me to be in all matters of general culture a substituting of pedantry for taste. Men learn the dates of writers, the external facts of masterpieces, and not sense of style and feeling for life. I have never met a young man from an Irish Catholic school who did not seem to me injured by the literature and the literary history he had learned at it. The arts have nothing to give but that joy of theirs which is perhaps the other side of sorrow. They are always an exhausting contemplation, and we are very ready in our youth, before habits have been formed, to turn from it to pedantry, which offers to the mind a kind of sensual ease. The young men and women who have not been through the Secondary Schools seem to me upon the other hand much more imaginative than Protestant boys and girls and to have better taste. My sisters have the same experience. Catholic education seems to destroy the qualities which they get from their religion. Provincialism destroys the nobility of the Middle Ages.’ (“Journal”, 14 March [1909]; in Memoirs, ed. Denis Donoghue, Macmillan 1972, p.186 [item 99]; quoted [in small part] in Tuohy, Yeats: An Illustrated Biography, Macmillan 1976, p.185.) Further, ‘This pedantry destroys religion as it destroys poetry, for it destroys all direct knowledge. We taste and feel and see the truth. We do not reason ourselves into it.’ (Memoirs, 1972, p.195-96; quoted in R. F. Foster, ‘Protestant Magic: W. B. Yeats and the Spell of Irish History’ [1990], rep. in Jonathan Allison, ed., Yeats’s Political Identities (Michigan UP 1996), p.91.)

Religion & education (2): ‘The proper remedy is to teach religion, civic duty and history as all but inseparable [...] I would have each religion Catholic or Protestant, so permeate the whole school life so taught [...] that it may be part of history and of life itself, a part, as it were, of the foliage of Burke’s tree’ (‘The Child and the State’, Senate speech; quoted in Tuohy, 1976, p.187.) Yeats spoke of hearing from Lady Gregory ‘what marriage coars[en]ed the Moore blood’, and gave Frank O’Connor the impression that ‘for the most part Catholics were not to be trusted.’ (Tuohy, W. B. Yeats: An Illustrated Biography, Macmillan 1976, p.206).

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Penal Laws: ‘[T]he robbery of the lands of Father O’Hart was one of those incidents which occurred at times, though rarely, during the time of the penal laws. Catholics, who were forbidden to own landed property, evaded the law by giving some honest Protestant nominal possession of their estates. There are instances on record in which poor men were nominal owners of unnumbered acres’ (gloss in Countess Kathleen.) ‘[N]o people, Lecky said at the opening of his Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, have undergone greater persecution, nor did that persecution altogether cease up to our own day’ (Essays and Introductions, p.519.) Notes to ‘Parnell’s Funeral’ in The King of the Great Clock Tower: ‘[...] Armed with this new power, they were to modernise the social structure, with great cruelty but effectively, and to establish our political nationality by quarrelling with England over the wool trade, a Protestant monoply [sic for ‘monopoly’]. At the base of the social structure, but hardly within it, the peasantry dreamed on in their medieval sleep; the Gaelic poets sang of the banished Catholic aristocracy; ‘My fathers served their fathers before Christ was crucified’ sang one of the most famous. [...] The influence of the French Revolution awoke the Irish peasantry from their medieval sleep, gave them ideas of social justice and equality, but prepared for a century disastrous to the national intellect. &c.; see continuation under Yeats’s remarks on Berkeley, infra] (Quoted more fully in A. N. Jeffares, New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, 1984, p.333.)

Psychic Research: ‘I think that one should deal with a control on the working hypothesis that it is genuine. This does not mean that I feel any certainly on the point, but even if it is a secondary personality that should be the right treatment.’ (Yeats’s Vision Papers, Vol. 1, p.75; quoted in Brenda Maddox, Yeats’s Ghosts, 1999, p.11.)

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Divorce Bill (Senate Speech of 11 June, 1925): ‘[...] on behalf of that small Protestant band which had so often proved itself the chivalry of Ireland [...] I think it tragic that within three years of this country gaining independence we should be discussing a measure which a minority of this nation considers to be grossly oppressive. I am proud to consider myself a typical man of that minority. We against whom you have done this thing are no petty people. We are one of the great stocks of Europe. We are the people of Burke; we are the people of Grattan, we are the people of Swift, the people of Parnell. We have created most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence. Yet I do not altogether regret what has happened. I shall be able to find out, if not I, my children will be able to find out whether we have lost our stamina or not. You have defined our position and given us a popular following. If we have not lost ouor stamina then your victory will be brief, and your defeat final, and when it comes this nation may be transformed.’ (Senates Speeches, p.99; quoted in part in Tuohy, Yeats: An Illustrated Biography, Macmillan 1976, p.188; and more extensively in Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Mask, 1948, pp.252-53; also quoted in Peter Costello, The Heart Grown Brutal, 1977, p.250.)

Divorce Bill (Senate, 11 June 1926): ‘If you show that this country, Southern Ireland, is going to be governed by Catholic ideas and by Catholic ideas alone, you will never get the North. You will create an impassable barrier between South and North, and you will pass more and more Catholic laws, while the North will gradually assimilate its divorce and other laws to those of England.’ (Quoted in Denis Donoghue, ‘Another Complex Fate’, in We Irish: Essays on Irish Literature and Society, California UP 1986, p.145, with the comment that Yeats’s ‘no petty people’ speech was ‘more embarrassing to his friends than to his opponents’ [p.144]).

Divorce Bill (Senate Speech of 11 June, 1925): ‘For a long time there has been a religious truce in Ireland, men like myself have kept silent about all those matters that divide one religion from another, but President Cosgrave has broken that truce and I will avail myself of the freedom he has given me. Marriage is not to us a Sacrament, but, upon the other hand, the love of man and woman, the inseparable physical desire, are sacred. This conviction has come to us through ancient philosophy and modern literature, and it seems to us a most sacrilegious thing to persuade two people who hate one another because of some unforgettable wrong, to live together, and it is to us no remedy to permit them to part if neither can re-marry.’ [451; ...]

Divorce Bill (Senate Speech of 11 June, 1925): ‘I do not think my words will influence a single vote here [...] Fanaticism having won this victory, and I see nothing that can prevent it unless it be proved to have overstepped the law, will make other attempts upon the liberties of minorities. I want these minorities to resist, and their resistance may do an overwhelming service to this country, they may become the centre of its creative intellect and the pivot of its unity. For the last hundred years Irish nationalism has had to fight against England, and that fight has helped fanaticism, for we had to welcome everything that gave Ireland emotional energy, and had little use for intelligence so far as the mass of the people were concerned, for we had to hurl them against an alien power. The basis of Irish nationalism has now shifted, and much that once helped us is now injurious, for we can no longer do anything by fighting, we must persuade, and to persuade we must become a modern, tolerant, liberal nation. I want everything discussed, I want to get rid of the old exaggerated tact and caution. As a people we are superficial, our Press provincial and trivial, because as yet we have not considered any of those great political and religious questions which raise some fundamental issue and have disturbed Europe for generations. It must depend upon a small minority which is content to remain a minority for a generation, to insist on those questions being discussed. Let us use the weapons that have been put into our hands.’ (‘An Undelivered Speech’, printed in John P. Frayne, ed., Uncollected Prose, Vol. 1, 1970, pp.449-552.) Note that Col. Maurice Moore charged Yeats with ‘an absolute sectarian view of this matter’ in reaction to the speech of 11 June 1925.)

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Irish censorship: ‘the old regime left Ireland perhaps the worst educated country in Northern Europe [...] We were helots, and where you have the helot there the zealots reigns unchallenged.’ (Manchester Guardian, 22 Sept. 1928.) they do not understand that you cannot unscramble eggs, that every country passing out of automatism passes through demoralisation, and that it has no choice but to go on into intelligence. I know from plays rejected by the Abbey Theatre that the idealist political movement has after achieving its purpose, collapsed and left the popular mind to its own lawless vulgarity. Fortunately, the old movement created four or five permanent talents.’ (‘The Irish Censorship’, The Spectator, 29 Sept. 1928)

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