William Butler Yeats: Quotations (7)

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Shakespearean fish swam the sea, far away from land; / Romantic fish swam in nets coming to the hand; / What are all those fish that lie gasping on the strand? (“Words For Music, Perhaps”; Variorum Edn., p.485; quoted in Paul Murray, UU MA Diss., 2004.)

‘I can only set up a secondary or interior personality created out of the tradition of myself, and this personality (alas, only possible to me in my writings) must be always gracious and simple.’ (Autobiographies, 1955; quoted [in part] in Declan Kiberd, ‘Yeats and Criticism’, in The Cambridge Companion to W. B. Yeats, ed. Majorie Howes & John Kelly, Cambridge UP 2006, p.119 [err. ref. to A, p.342 - recte p.463].
‘All our scientific, democratic, fact-accumulating, heterogeneous civilisation [...] prepares not the continuance of itself but the revelation as in a lightning flash, though in a flash that will not strike only in one place, and will for a time be constantly repeated, of the civilisation that must slowly take its place.’ (Preface to Michael Robartes and the Dancer, Dundrum, Cuala Press 1921) [q.p.]; quoted in Aaron Kelly, Twentieth-Century Literature in Ireland: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism, Palgrave Macmillan 2008, p.16.
‘O my dear, I have no solution, none.’ (Letters on the Poetry of W. B. Yeats to Dorothy Wellesley, OUP 1940 [rep. 1964], p.196; quoted in Richard Ellmann, The Man and the Masks, 1948, p.295.)

Irish history
Irish politics
Irish names
Irish writers
Irish Nationalism
Irish Nationalists
Irish Republicans
1916 Rising
The Great War
Irish Loyalty
Class in Ireland
Modern Ireland
War in Ireland
Fascism in Europe
Fascism in Ireland
The Irish Future
Northern Ireland
National cultures
National histories
English Royals
Civil Pension
Literary Gunmen
The Irish Coinage
Letter of condolence
[ Index ]

Irish history: ‘I read a few weeks ago [an article] of Professor Jacks in which he complained that in modern [times] there is an over-production of moral ideas [...] we have intellect but not conviction nor will. He did not notice there are spots where the very opposite is true, where men not only possess will, conviction, but are increasing it in themselves and others. There is Hitler in Germany, Stalin in Russia, Mussolini in Italy, and now we have Ireland passing into a similar [era] in its intensity, in [its] fanaticism. I have tried to explore, for the sake of my own peace of mind, the origin of what seems to me most unique and strange in our Irish excitement. That I may describe it, I must go back two hundred years. The modern Irish nation began when at the end of the seventeen century the victorious Protestant governing class quarrelled with England about the wool trade. In 1705 or 6 Irish intellect declares its separate identity when Berkeley defined the Whig philosophy of Lock and Newton and wrote after his definition “We Irish do not thinks so”. Irishmen of a new sort had been helped into power by sceptics and deists, but they were neither. Swift was their de Valera, their first turbulent self-assertion. Flinders Petrie would probably say the mingling of races, of Norman, of Gael and Scot, was at last complete. The second formative moment came at the close of the eighteenth century. The Irish peasantry, who had obeyed now this master and now that, began under the influence of the French Revolution to assert their will and in the process discovered constitutional agitation and democratic Catholicism. At the close of the nineteenth century came the third moment. I saw it begin almost exactly forty years ago on a stormy autumn morning. [Sect. end.; II] I stood on Kingstown Pier [...] and it [was accident that I saw the arrival of Parnell’s body. [... &c.] (‘Modern Ireland’, Address to American Audience, 1932-33; Irish Renaissance, ed., Robin Skelton and David R. Clark, Dolmen, 1965, pp.12-25; pp.13-14; see also under Liam O'Flaherty, Commentary, supra.)

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Irish politics (I): ‘[A]midst the clash of party against party we have tried to put forward a nationality that is above party, and amid the oncoming roar of a general election we have tried to assert those everlassting principles of love of truth and love of country that speak to men in solitude and in the silence of the night.’ (Address to the Irish Literary Society, 25 November 1892; quoted in David Cairns and Shaun Richards, Writing Ireland, 1988, [q.p.] and quoted in Willy Maley, ‘Varieties of Nationalism: Post-Revisionist Irish Studies’, in Irish Studies Review, No.15, Summer 1996, pp.34-37, p.36.) ‘What I want is that Ireland be kept from giving itself (under the influence of its lunatic faculty for going against everything which it believes England to affirm) to Marxian revolution or Marxian definition of value in any form. I consider the Marxian criterion of values as in this age the spear-head of materialism and leading to inevitable murder. From that criterion follows the well-known phrase, “Can the bourgeois be innocent?”’ (Letter to George Russell, April. 1919; Letters, ed. Wade, p.655-66; quoted in Jeffares, 1984; formerly printed in a shorter version as unpubl. letter in Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Mask, 1948, ftn. p.232.) And note Ellmann’s comment that Yeats attempted in several essays of 1930 to synthesis a kind of ‘intellectual nationalism’ (quoting the phrase in his letter to Olivia Shakespear; Ellmann, Yeats, 1948, p.270.)

Irish politics (II) - Banquet address (2 Aug. 1924): ‘I see about me the representatives of nations which have suffered incomparably more than we have, more than we may ever suffer. Our few months of war and civil war must seem in their eyes but a light burden. To them, as to us perhaps, it seems that the world can never be the same. Is it not possible perhaps that the stream has turned backward, and that a dozen generations to come will have for their task, not a widening of liberty, but recovery from its errors; that they will set their hearts upon the building of authority, the restoration of discipline, the discovery of a life sufficiently heroic to live without opium dreams? Certainly whatever happens it is to the older Nations that our new Nation must look for example and guidance’ (Unpubl. speech, printed in Hone with slight vars. from supra; quoted in Richard Ellmann, 1948, p.249; see also under Mussolini and European Fascism, infra.)

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Irish politics (III) - Letter to Ethel Mannin (7 April 1936): ‘Do not try to make a politician of me, even in Ireland I shall never I think be that again – as my sense of reality deepens, and I think it does with age, my horror at the cruelty of governments grows greater, and if I did what you want, I would seem to hold one form of government more responsible than any other, and that would betray my convictions. Communist, Fascist, nationalist, clerical, anti-clerical, are all responsible according to the number of their victims. I have not been silent. I have used the only vehicle I possess - verse. If you have my poems by you look up a poem called “The Second Coming” It was written some sixteen or seventeen years ago & foretold what is happening. I have written of the same thing again & again since. I am not callous, every nerve trembles with horror at what is happening in Europe[:] “the ceremony of innocence is drowned”.’ (quoted in Ellmann, The Identity of Yeats, 1948, p.282; given in David Krause, ‘The De-Yeatsification Cabal’, rep. in Jonathan Allison, ed., Yeats’s Political Identies, Michigan UP 1996, p.298; also quoted [in part] in Tuohy, W. B. Yeats, An Illustrated Biography, 1976 [q.p.].)

Note that Conor Cruise O’Brien, quoting this in brief in connection with Yeats’s refusal to assist Ossietzki to escape from Nazi Germany, writes: ‘This is “the true Yeats” - the true Yeats of a period of political inactivity when he watched, bitterly or sardonically, a game he had no chance of playing.’ (Passion and Cunning and Other Essays, NY: Simon & Schuster 1988, p.44.) [See further under O’Brien - as infra.]

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Irish politics (IV) - Letter to Maud Gonne (29 Sept. 1927 - 82 Merrion Sq.): ‘You are right - I think - in saying I was once a Republican, though like you yourself I would have been satisfied with Gladstone’s bill. [...] I wonder if I ever told you what changed all my political ideas. It was the reading through 1903-4 of the entire works of Balzac. To day I have one settled conviction[:] “Create, draw a firm strong line & hate nothing whatever not even [?] if he be your most cherished belief - Satan himself.” I hate many things but I do my best, & some fifteen years ago, for I think one whole hour, I was free from hate. Like Faust I said “stay moment” but in vain. I think it was the only happiness I have ever known.’ (MacBride White, Letters, 1992, p.434.) Yeats explains in a following letter, ‘The great political service that Balzac did me was that he made authoritative government (government which can, at need, be remorseless, as in his Cathedral Des Médicis) interesting in my eyes - that is what I mean by the “strong line”, a line drawn upon the fluctuating chaos of human hautre - before I had read him only movements for libert - movements led by lyrical idealists - seemed to me interesting.’ (3 Oct. 1927; MacBride, p.436.) Also: ‘How can I, / That girl standing there, / My attention fix / On Roman or on Russian / Or on Spanish politics [...]’ (“Politics”, 23 May 1938; in Last Poems [see Collected Poems, 1950]).

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Irish names: ‘The modern pronunciation, which is usually followed by those who spell the words phonetically, is certainly unlike the pronunciation of the time when classical Irish literature was written, and, as far as I know, no Irish scholar who writes in English or French has made that minute examination of the way the names come into the rhythms and measures of the old poems which can alone discover the old pronunciation. A French Celtic scholar gave me the pronunciation of a few names, and told me that Mr Whitley Stokes had written something about the subject in German, but I am ignorant of German. If I ever learn the old pronunciation, I will revise all these poems, but at present I can only affirm that I have not treated my Irish names as badly as the mediaeval writers of the stories of King Arthur treated their Welsh names.’ (Note in Poems [1895], rev. edn. 1899; quoted in A. N. Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, London: Macmillan 1984, p.520 [Appendix 1].) Jeffares notes that Yeats adopted Lady Gregory's spelling of Gaelic names with two exceptions, retaining “Edain” because it ‘ran too well in [his] verse form [him] to adopt her Etain’ and “Aengus” ‘for some reason unknown to me I have always preferred [it] to her Angus’ - adding: ‘In her Gods and Fighting Men and Cuchulain of Muirthemne she went as close to the Gaelic spelling as she could without making the names unpronounceable to the average reader.’ (Yeats, Collected Poems, 1933; Jeffares, idem.)

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Irish writers (from the masses): ‘I have noticed, by the way, that the writers of this country who come from the mass of the people - or no, I should say, who come from Catholic Ireland, have more reason than fantasy. It is the other way with those who come from the leisured classes. They stand above their subject and play with it, and their writing is, as it were, a victory as well as a creation. The others, Colum and Edward Martyn, for instance, are dominated by their subject with the result that their work as a whole lacks beauty of shape, the organic quality.’ (Letter to letters to Florence Farr, in Clifford Bax, ed., Florence Farr, Bernard Shaw, and W. B. Yeats, Dundrum: Cuala Press 1941; quoted in Frank O’Connor, ‘The Future of Irish Literature’, in Horizon, Jan. 1942; rep. in David Pierce, ed., Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century: A Reader, Cork UP 2000, p.501.)

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Irish Nationalism [IV]: ‘I am no Nationalist, except in Ireland for passing reasons; State and Nation are the work of the intellect, and when you consider what comes before and after them they are, as Victor Hugo said of something or other, not worth the blade of grass God gives for the nest of the linnet.’ (General Introduction, 1937, Essays and Introductions, p.526 [end]; quoted in Herbert Read, ‘What Yeats Believed’, review of Essays and Introductions, in Listener, 9 March, 1961.) Further: ‘To transmute the anti-English passion into a passion of hatred against the vulgarity and materialism wheron England has founded her worst life and the whole life that she sends us, has always been a dream of mine.’ (Dramatis Personae, pp.49-50.) Cf. ‘We must keep propaganda out of our blood because three important persons know nothing of it - a man modelling a statue, a man playing a flute, and a man in a woman’s arms.’ (Preface, Oxford Book of Modern Verse.)

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Irish Nationalism [V]: ‘What a sad business this non-nationalism has been! It gave to Lever and Lover their shallowness, and still gives to a section of Dublin Society its cynicism! Lever and Lover and Allingham alike, it has deprived of their true audience. Many much less endowed writers than they have more influence in Ireland. Political doctrine was not demanded of them, merely nationalism. They would not take the people seriously - these writers of the Ascendancy - and had to go to England for their audience. To Lever and Lover Ireland became merely a property shop and to Allingham a half serious memory.’ (Letters to the New Island, p.173.)

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Irish Nationalists (I): ‘[M]en who had risen above the traditions of the countryman, without learning those of cultivated life, or even educating themselves and who because of their poverty, their ignorance, their superstitious piety, are much subject to all kinds of fear’ (quoted in Conor Cruise O’Brien, Passion and Cunning, in Jeffares, ed., In Excited Reverie, 1965, p.223.)

Irish Nationalists (I): ‘I often wonder if my talent will ever recover from the heterogeneous labour of these last few years. The younger Hallam says that vice does not destroy genius but that the heterogeneous does. I cry out vainly for liberty and have ever less and less inner life. [...] I thought myself loving neither vice nor virtue; but virtue has come upon me and given me a nation [...] Has it left me any lyrical faculty: Whatever happens I must go on that there may be a man behind the lines already written; I cast the die long enough and must be true to the cast.’ (“Journal”, 25 Feb. 1909; quoted in Curtis Bradford, Yeats at Work, 1965, p44; cf. Estrangement XXXVIII).

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Irish Nationalists (III): Discussing the failure of adequate audiences and support for the Abbey Theatre: ‘[T]he explanation is that our upper class cares nothing for Ireland except as a place for sport, that the rest of the population is drowned in religion and political fanaticism [...] The mob reigned. If that reign is not broken our public life will move from violence to violence, or from violence to apathy [...] It will be broken when some government seems unity of culture not less than economic unity, welding to the purpose, museum, school, university, learned institution. A nation should be like an audience in some great theatre - watching the sacred drama of its own history; every spectator finding self and neighbour there, finding all the world there, as we find the sun in the bright spot under the burning glass. We know the world through abstractions, statistics, time tables, through images that refuse to compose themselves into a clear design. Such knowledge thins the blood. To know it in the concrete we must know it near at hand; religion itself during our first impressionable years in the dramatis personae of our own narrow stage; I think of those centuries before the great schism had divided East and West accepted by Catholic and Protestant alike. Into the drama must enter all that have lived with precision and energy [...] the Ascendancy, considering its numbers as fruitful of will and intellect as any stock on earth, not less than those Wilde geese, those Catholic gentlemen who, in the words of Swift, carried into foreign service “a valour” above “that of all nations”. [/.../] If any Government or party undertake this work it will need force, marking men (the logic of fanaticism, whether in a woman or a mob is drawn from a premise protected by ignorance and therefore irrefutable.) it will promise not this or that measure but a discipline, a way of life; that sacred drama must to all native eyes and ears become the greatest of parables. There is not such government or part today; should either appear I offer these trivial songs and what remains to me of life.’ (‘Commentary on Three Songs’, in Poetry [mag.], Chicago, Dec. 1934; also in The King of the Great Clock Tower.)

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Irish Nationalists (IV) [on the Free State senators]: ‘[...] typical elected men, hot and vague, always disturbed, always hating something or other ... [they] had destroyed a system of election and established another, made terrible decisions ... signed the death-warrant[s] of [their] dearest friend[s]. ... Yet their descendants, if they grow rich enough for the travel and leisure that make a finished man, will constitute our ruling class, and date their origins from the Post Office as American families date theirs from the Mayflower.’ (On the Boiler; rep. in Explorations, Macmillan 1962, p.413; quoted in R. F. Foster, ‘Protestant Magic: W. B. Yeats and the Spell of Irish History’ Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish History and English History, London: Allen Lane/Penguin 1993, pp.212-32; rep. in Jonathan Allison, ed., Yeats’s Political Identities, Michigan UP 1996, pp.83-105; here p.88.)

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Irish Republicans: ‘We are on the edge of a general election [...] if the Republicans come into power we shall have a few anxious months while they discover where they have asked the impossible, and then they in their turn will govern. An Irishman is wild in speech, the result of centuries of irresponsible opposition, but he casts it off in the grip of fact with a contempt beyond the reach of sober-speaking men.’ (‘Ireland, 1921-31’, Spectator 30 Jan. 1931; Frayne, ed., Uncollected Prose, Vol. 2, 1975, pp.487.)

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1916 Rising (I): ‘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 rebellin. 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 all the work of years has been overturned, all the bringing together of classes, all the freeing of Irish literature and criticism from politics.’ (Letter to Lady Gregory, 11 May 1916; Letters, ed. Wade, 1954, p.612-13.)

1916 Rising (II): ‘This Irish business has been a great grief. We have lost the ablest and most fine-natured of our young men. A world seems to have been swept away. I keep going over the past in my mind and wondering if I could have done anything to turn those young men in some other direction.’ (Letter to John Quinn, 23 May 1916; Wade p.614.) ‘A bunch of martyrs [men of 1916] were the bomb and we are living in the explosion.’ (Letter to Olivia Shakespear, Oct.9, 1922 [q. source].)

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1916 Rising (III): ‘Sometimes I am told in recommendation, if the newspaper is Irish, in condemnation if it is English, that my movement perished under the firing squads of 1916; sometimes that those firing squads made our realistic movement possible. If that statement is true, and it so only so in part, for romance was everywhere receding, it is because in the imagination of Pearse and his fellow soldiers the Sacrifice of the Mass had found the Red Branch in the tapestry; they went out to die calling upon Cuchulain: “Fall, Hercules, from Heaven in tempests hurled / To cleanse the beastly stable of the world”.’ In one sense the poets of 1916 were not of what the newspapers call my school. The Gaelic League, made timid by modern popularisation of Catholicism sprung from the aspidistra and not from the root of Jesse, dreaded intellectual daring and stuck to dictionary and grammar. Pearse and MacDonagh, and others among the executed men would have done, or [515] attempted, in Gaelic, what we did or attempted in English.’ (‘General Introduction for My Work’, 1937, rep. in Essays and Introductions, 1961, &c., p.516).

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The Great War: ‘We should not attribute a very high degree of reality to the Great War’. (Quoted in W. J. McCormack, reviewing Fran Brearton, The Great War in Irish Poetry: W. B. Yeats to Michael Longley, Oxford OUP, 316pp.) Note that McCormack calls Derek Mahon ‘a defector to the South’.

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Oath of Loyalty: ‘Ireland will not be a pennyworth more loyal because Ireland has taken the Oath ... Personally I have no objection to the Oath. I have taken it myself, but a considerable part of our population object to it, and it is very difficult for us to keep the peace in Ireland until everybody feels that he can safely enter the Dail and agitate for his rights. As long as we have the Oath we shall have little revolutionary bodies disturbing the peace. It is as much, therefore, in the interests of Great Britain as of Ireland that we be rid of the Oath or modify it.’ (“No Question of Disloyalty: Mr Yeat’s on Objection to the Oath’, The Times, 4 April 1932, p.14; here p.225.]

Class in Ireland (I) - Leisure-class v. working-class: ‘Leisure, wealth, privilege were created to be a soil for the most living’ [1909; q. source]. [Yeats wanted Ireland to] ‘recreate the ancient arts as they were understood when they moved a whole people and not a few, who have grown up in a leisured class and made this understanding their business.’ (‘Ireland in the Arts’, in United Irishman, 1901.) Cf., ‘I dislike the working-man revolutionists, their perpetual over-statement and above all their attacks on religion.’ (Memoirs, ed. Denis Donoghue, 1972, p. 21.)

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Class in Ireland (I) - On the Sligo gentry (in discussing John Sherman): ‘I have an ambition to be taken as an Irish novelist not as an English or cosmepolitan [sic] one choosing Ireland as a background. I studied my characters in Ireland & described a typical Irish feeling in Sherman’s devotion to Ballagh. A West of Ireland feeling I might almost say for like that of Allingham for Ballyshannon it is local rather than national. Sherman belonged like Allingham to the small gentry who in the West at any rate love their native places without perhaps loving Ireland. They do not travell [sic] & are shut off from England by the whole breadth of Ireland with the result that they are forced to make their native town their world. I remember when we were children how intense our devotion was to all things in Sligo & still see in my mother the old feeling.’ (Letter to Katharine Tynan, in Letters, I, pp.274-75; quoted in G. F. Watson, Intro., W. B. Yeats, Short Fiction, Penguin 1995, p.xii). Cf., ‘Here [London] one gets into one’s minority among the people who are like oneself. Down at Sligo one sees the whole world in a day’s walk, every man is a class. It is too small for minorities.’ (Letter to Katharine Tynan, March 9 1889; Hone, ed., Letters, p.116).

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Class in Ireland (II) [Aristocrats, poets & peasants]: ‘Three types of men have made all beautiful things. Aristocracies have made beautiful manners, because their place in the world puts them above fear of life, and the countrymen have made beautiful stories and beliefs, because they have nothing to lose and so do not fear, and the artists have made all the rest, because Providence has filled them with recklessness. All these look backward to a long tradition, for, being without fear, they have held to whatever pleased them. The others being always anxious have come to possess little that is good in itself.’ (‘Poetry and Tradition’, in Essays and Introductions, p.251; also Selected Criticism, p.160.)

Class in Ireland (III): ‘[I]t [The Secret Rose] ‘it is at any rate an honest attempt towards that aristocratic esoteric Irish literature, which has been my chief ambition. We have a literature for the people but nothing yet for the few.’ (Unpub. letter, NLI; printed in Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, 1948, p.151.) Cf., ‘To think like a wise man, but express oneself like the common people’ (Introduction to Fighting the Waves, an expression attributed by Yeats to Lady Gregory; Explorations, p.371).

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Class in Ireland (IV) - the middle class: ‘Against all this we have but a few educated men and the remnants of an old traditional culture among the poor. Both were stronger forty years ago, before the rise of our new middle class which made its first public display during the nine years of the Parnellite split, showing how base at moments of excitement are minds without culture.’ (Poems, Variorum Edn., 1989, p.819; quoted in Vivian Mercier, ‘Irish Literary Revival’, in A New History of Ireland: Ireland under the Union II, 1870-1921, ed. W. E. Vaughan, Vol. VI, Clarendon Press 1996, [Chap. XIII,] p.359).

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Class in Ireland (V): ‘The root of it all is that the political class in Ireland - the lower-middle class from which the patriotic associations have drawn their journalists and their leaders for the last ten years – have suffered through the cultivation of hatred as the one energy of the movement, a deprivation which is the intellectual equivalent of a certain operation [i.e., emasculation]. Hence the shrillness of their voices. They contemplate all creative power as the eunuhcs contemplate Don Juan as he passes through Hell on the white horse’ (Autobiographies, 1955, p.486; quoted [in part] in C. L. Innes, Women and Nation in Irish Literature, 1993; reviewed in Irish Literary Supplement, Fall 1994; also in T. R. Henn, The Lonely Tower, 1966 [q.p.], and thus cited in Kiel Cathers, ‘Yeats and the Changing Nation’, UG Essay, UUC 2009.)

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Class in Ireland (V) [eugenics]: ‘To oppose the new ill-breeding of Ireland, which may in a few years destroy all that has given Ireland a distinguished name in the world - “Mother of the bravest soldiers and the most beautiful women”, cried [George] Borrow, or some such words, remembering the hospitality shown to him, a distributor of Bibles, by the Irish Monks of Spain - I can only set up a secondary or interior personality created out of the tradition of myself, and this personality (alas, only possible to me in my writings) must be always gracious and simple. It must have that slight separation from interests which makes charm possible, while remaining near enough for passion. Is not charm what it is because an escape from mechanism? So much of the world as is dominated by the contest of interests is a mechanism. The newspaper is the roar of the machine. Argument, the moment acknowledged victory is sought, becomes a clash of interests. One should not - above all in books, which sigh for immortality - argue at all if not ready to leave to another apparent victory. In daily life one becomes rude the moment one grudges to the clown his perpetual triumph.’ (Autobiographies, 1955, p.463.)

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Class in Ireland (VI) - ‘In our age it is impossible to create, as I had dreamed, an heroic and passionate conception of life worthy of the study of men elsewhere and at other times, and to make that conception the special dream of the Irish people. The Irish people till they are better educated must dream impermanent dreams, and if they do not find them they will be ruined by the half-sirs with their squalid hates and envies.’ (Memoirs, ed. Denis Donoghue, London: Macmillan, 1972, p.185.)

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Independent Ireland (I): ‘We are on the edge of a general election and nobody in either party is confident, for it is hard to foretell anything about an election held under a scheme of proportional representation except that neither side will have more than a bare majority. If the Republicans come into power we shall have a few anxious months while they discover where the may have asked the impossible, and then they in their turn will govern [...] the government of the Free State has been proved legitimate by the only effective test; it has been permitted to take life [...] They executed more than seventy and not a vote changed [...] But I am less grateful to the Government for hat it has done than because its mere existence delivered us from obsession [...] Now that Ireland is substituting traditions of government for the rhetoric of agitation.’ (Frayne and Johnston, ed., Uncollected Prose, Vol. II, 1975, p.487). ‘Here one works at the slowing exciting work of creating the institutions of a new nation - all coral insects but with some design in our heads of the ultimate island. Meanwhile the country is full of arms & explosives ready for any violent hand to use. Perhaps all our slow growing coral may be scattered but I think not - not unless Europe takes to war again, & starts new telepathic streams of violence and cruelty.’ (Letter to Olivia Shakespeare, 22 March 1922; printed as unpubl. in Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, 1948. p.247.) ‘My work in the Senate interests me, a new technique which I am learning in silence - I have only spoken once and then but six sentences & shall not speak again perhaps till I am (if I shall ever be) at ease with it.’ (Letter to Olivia Shakespeare, 18 Dec. 1922; printed as unpubl. in Ellmann, 1948. p.247.)

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Modern Ireland (I): ‘When I stand on O’Connell Bridge in the half light and notice that discordant architecture, all those electric signs, where modern heterogeneity has taken physical form, a vague hatred comes up out of my own dark and I am certain that wherever in Europe there are minds strong enough to lead others the same vague hatred will have issued in violence and imposed some kind of rule of kindred. I cannot know the nature of that rule, for its opposite fills the light; all I can do to bring it nearer is to intensify my hatred. I am no Nationalist except in Ireland for passing reasons; State and Nation are the work of the intellect, and when you consider what comes before or after them they are, as Victor Hugo said of something or other, not worth the blade of grass God gives for the nest of the linnet’ (from General Introduction for my Work, [unpub.] 1937; in Essays and Introductions, 1961, p.526; quoted in Conor Cruise O’Brien, ‘Passion and Cunning’, in Jeffares, ed., In Excited Reverie, 1965, and rep. in Passion and Cunning and Other Essays, NY: Simon & Schuster 1988, pp.8-61, p.53.)

Modern Ireland (II): ‘Go anywhere in Ireland and you will hear the same complaint. The children, everyone will tell you, are individually intelligent and friendly, yet have so little sense of their duty to the community and neighbour that if they meet an empty house in a lonely place they will smash all the windows.’ (‘The Child and the State’, address to Irish Literary Society, 30 Nov. 1925.)

Modern Ireland (V) [the writers]: ‘All Irish writers have to decide whether they will write as the upper classes have done, not to express but to exploit this country, or join the intellectual movement which has raised the cry that was heard in Russia in the seventies, the cry “to the people”. Moses was little good to his people until he had killed an Egyptian; and for the most part a writer or a public man of the upper classes is useless to this country till he has done something that separates him from his class.’ (Samhain, October 1901, p.9; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, p.137.)

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War in Ireland: ‘The situation here is very curious - a revolt against democracy by a small section. Under the direction of an Englishman Childers they burn houses that they may force the majority to say “It is too expensive to remain Free State, let us turn republican.” At any rate that is believed to be the policy. I have met some of the ministers who more and more seem too sober to meet the wildness of these enemies: and everywhere one notices a drift towards Conservatism, perhaps towards Autocracy. I always knew that it would come, but not that it would come in this tragic way. One wonders what prominent man will live through it. One meets a minister at dinner, passing his armed guard on the doorstep, and one feels no certainty that one will meet him again. We are entering on the final and most dreadful stage. Perhaps there is nothing so dangerous to a modern state, when politics take the place of theology, as a bunch of martyrs. A bunch of martyrs [men of 1916] were the bomb and we are living in the explosion.’ (Letter to Olivia Shakespear, Oct.9, 1922.)

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Fascism (in Europe): ‘We do not believe that war is passing, and we are not certain that the world is growing better. We even tell ourselves that the idea of progress is quite modern, that it has been in the world but two hundred years, nor are we as stalwart as we used to be in our democratic politics. [...] A great popular leader [Mussolini] has said to an applauding multitude ‘We will trample upon the decomposing body of the Goddess of Liberty” [...] is it not possible perhaps that the stream has turned backward [... dreams?’; as supra] (Tailteann speech, quoted in Tuohy, Yeats: An Illustrated Biography, Macmillan 1976, p.185.)

Fascism (in Ireland) (I): Introductory note to ‘Three Songs to the Same Tune’: ‘In politics I have one passion and one thought, rancour against all who, except under the most dire necessity, disturb public order, a conviction that public order cannot long persist without the rule of educated and able men. That order was everywhere their work, is still as much a part of their tradition as the Iliad or the Republic of Plato; their rule once gone, it lies an empty shell for the passing fool to kick in pieces [recte ‘to pieces’] (Denis Donoghue, We Irish, 1986, p.57; quoting Torchiana, Yeats & Georgian Ireland, 1966, p.312.)

Fascism (in Ireland) (II): ‘Some months ago that passion paid hold of me with the violence which unfits the poet for all politics but his own. While the mood lasted, it seemed that our growing disorder, the fanaticism that inflamed it like some old bullet embedded in the flesh, was about to turn our noble history to an ignoble farce. For the first time in my life I wanted to write what some crowd in the street might understand and sing. [...; &c.] (Spectator, 23 Feb. 1934.)

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The Irish Future: ‘We have struggled to keep from being identified with any party, and I think we have succeeded. [...] The political movement which has just passed away did some things that had to be done, but it left Ireland rent in pieces and full of intense scepticism. It was utilitarian, and the Celt, never having been meant for utilitarianism, has made a poor business of it. [...] Ireland is coming into her own and better self. She is turning to the great men of her past - to Emmet and Wolfe Tone, to Grattan and Burke, to Davis and Mitchel, and asking for their guidance. She is turning, too, to subtler sources of national feeling than are in politics. [There are signs everywhere of the new grass that is growing under the old rotting hay. (Coll. Letters, vol. II, p.702)] [...]; We hated at first the ideals and ambitions of England, the materialisms of England, because they were hers, but we have come to hate them with a nobler hatred. We hate them now because they are evil. We have suffered to long from them, not to understand, that hurry to become rich, that delight in mere bigness, that insolence to the weak are evil and vulgar things. No Irish voice, trusted in Ireland, has been lifted up in praise of that Imperialism [i.e.. Boer War] which is so popular just now, and is but a more painted and flaunting materialism; because Ireland has taken sides for ever with the poor in spirit who shall inherit the earth .. We are building up a nation which shall be moved by noble purposes and to noble ends. A day will come for her, though perhaps, in our day. [Tells story of Manannaan] so it is with nations, a flaming hand is laid suddenly upon the tiller.’ (Address to Wolfe Tone Banquet, Holborn Restaurant, London; Wed., 13 April, 1898; Report of Speeches [...] &c., Dublin: Bernard Doyle 1989), pp.8-10; quoted in Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Mask, 1948, pp.114-15.)

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Young Ireland: ‘Young Ireland had sought a nation unified by political doctrine alone, a subservient art and letters aiding and abetting. The movement of thought [...] had created a new instrument of Irish politics [...] to recommend this method of writing as literature without much reservation and discrimination I contended was to be decieved or to practise deception.’ (Autobiography, p.136-37; quoted in Dominic Manganiello, Joyce’s Politics, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, p.215.) [Yeats ‘I] must renounce the deliberate creation of a kind of Holy City in the imagination and express the individual. The Irish people were not educated enough to accept images more profound, more true to human nature, than the schoolboy thoughts of Young Ireland. You can only create a model of a race to inspire the action of that race as a whole, apart from exceptional individuals, when you and it share the same simple moral understanding of life. Milton and Shakespeare inspire the active life of England, but they do it through exceptional individuals. Having no understanding of life that we can teach to others, we must not seek to create a school.’ (Autobiographies, pp.493-94; quoted in Emer Nolan, James Joyce and Irish Nationalism, Routledge 1995, p.49.)

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Northern Ireland: ‘I generally dislike the people of Ulster and want to keep them out.’ (Quoted in James Cahalan, The Irish Novel, 1988, p.xviii.) ‘I have no hope of seeing Ireland united in my time, or of seeing Ulster won in my time; but I believed it will be won in the end, and not because we fight it but because we govern this country well’; ‘We can do that, if I may be permitted as an artist and a writer to say so, by creating a system of culture which will represent the whole of this country and which will draw the imagination of the young towards it.’ (Senate Speech, 17 Oct. 1924; Pierce, ed., Senate Speeches, 1960, p.87.)

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National Cultures: ‘A moment comes in every country when its character expresses itself through some group of writers, painters, or musicians, and it is this moment, the moment of Goethe in Germany, of the Elizabethan poets in England, of the Van Eycks in the Low Countries, of Corneille and Racine in France, of Ibsen and Bjornson in Scandinavia, which fixes the finer elements of national character for generations. [...] Generally up to that moment literature has tried to express everybody’s thought, history being considered merely as a chronicle of facts, but now, at the instant of revelation, writers think the world is but their palette, and if history amuses them, it is but, as Goethe says, because they would do its personages the honour of naming after them their own thoughts. [...] Just as they use the life of their own times, they use past literature - their own and that of other countries - selecting here and there under what must always seem, until their revelation is understood, an impulse of mere caprice.’ (Explorations, NY 1962, pp.236-37; quoted in Ronald Schleifer, ed., The Genres of Irish Literary Revival Wolfhound 1980, Intro., p.3.)

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National histories: ‘The history of a country is not in parliaments and battlefields, but in what people say to each other on fair days and on high days and how they farm and marry and quarrel and go on pilgrimages.’ (Q. Sources; quoted in Michael MacMahon, Catalogue of Irish local history. (Quoted in Michael MacMahon, Intro. to Maurice O’Keeffe, Irish Life and Lore CD Archive (see website).

English Royals (1): Letter to The Freeman’s Journal (20 March 1900), on Queen Victoria’s visit: ‘Dear Sir, Let any Irishman, who believes the Queen’s visit to Ireland to be non-political, buy the current number of Punch. He will there find a cartoon representing the Irish members gazing, in various attitudes of terror, at a proclamation announcing this visit, while a picture of President Kruger, who is made to look as much like a chimpanzee as possible, lies at their feet, having fallen from the shaking hands of one of them. The Irish members are made as hideous as President Kruger is made and the whole is inspired by national hatred. The advisers of the Queen have not sent into Ireland this woman of eighty-one, to whom all labours must be weariness, without good reason, and the reason is national hatred - hatred for our individual national life, and, as Mr. Moore has said, “to do the work her recruiting-sergeants have failed to do”, “with a shilling between her finger and thumb and a bag of shillings at her girdle”; and it is the duty of Irishmen, who believe that Ireland has an individual national life, to protest with as much courtesy as is compatible with vigour.’ (quoted in Nancy Carduzo, Maud Gonne, 1979, p.85; here John McGovern, MA Diss. UUC 2002.)

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English Royals (2): ‘Her [Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland have indeed been unfortunate for English power, for I see all around me, a new awakened inspiration and resolve. It is for the best that the young men who hold the coming years in their hands sould have two loyalties, loyalty to Victoria, and loyalty to her we call “Kathleen Ni Houlihan” so they may choose with clear eyes the harder way, fo men become wise along by deliberate choise and deliberate sacrifice.’ (United Irishman, 21 April 1900; also in McGovern, op. cit., 2002.) Also, ‘The advisers of the Queen have not sent into Ireland this woman of eighty-one, to whom all labours must be weariness, without good reason, and the reason is national hatred - hatred for our individual national life [...] she is the official head and symbol of an empire that is robbing the South African Republics of their liberty, as it robbed Ireland of hers.’ (Quoted in Anthony Jordan, The Yeats Gonne MacBride Triangle, Westport 2000, p.17; Yeats was answered in the Express by a letter calling his ‘poet laureate to the court of Miss Maud Gonne’ and ‘a crypto-Boer, unable to write English’.)

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English Royals (3): ‘Queen Victoria visits the city, and Dublin Unionists have gathered together from all Ireland some twelve thousand children and built for them a grandstand, and bought them sweets and buns that they may cheer. A week later Maud Gonne marches forty thousand children through the streets of Dublin, and in a field beyond Drumcondra, and in the presence of a priest of their Church, they swear to cherish towards England, until the freedom of Ireland has been won, an undying enmity. / How many of these children will carry a bomb or rifle when a little under or a little over thirty?’ (Autobiographies, 1955 p.368; quoted in part in McGovern, op. cit. 2002.)

English Royals (4): Remarking the date of the Queen’s departure from Windsor on 2 April, Yeats proposes ‘a great meeting’ in the Rotunda with John O’Leary as chairman to protest against the Union; quoting John Mitchel: “The Articles of Union [...] were now brought forward as terms proposed by the Lords and Commons of Ireland in the form of resolutions; and on April 2, 1800, the duke of Portland communicated to the House of Lords a message from the King, and at the same time presented to them, as documents, a copy of the Irish address to this resolution.” [...] If the people are left to organise their own protest, as they did on Jubilee night, there will be broken glass and batoned crowds. [... &c.]’ (Wade, Letters, p.336f.)

English Royals (5): Edward VI’s visit to Ireland in 1903, Yeats wrote: ‘I see nothing good in this Royal visit, with their pageantry, their false rumours of concession, their appeal to all that is superficial and trivial in society, theya re part of the hypnotic illusion by which England seems to take captive the imagination of this country.’ (Freeman’s Journal, 9 April. 1903; quoted in McGovern, op. cit. 2002.)

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His Civil Pension: ‘It was given at a time when Ireland was represented in parliament and voted out of the taxes of both countries. It was not voted annually, my surrender of it would not leave a vacancy for anybody else ... The second time it was offered it was explained to me that it implied no political bargain.... I consider that I have earned that pension by services done to the people.’ (Letter to Ethel Mannin, 11 Dec. 1936; Wade, ed., Letters, pp.872-73; quoted in Brenda Maddox, Yeats’s Ghosts: The Secret Life of W. B. Yeats (NY: HarperCollins 1999, p.324.)

Literary gunmen: On one occasion Frank O’Connor and Seán O’Faolain sought to get Ernie O’Malley elected to the IAL. O’Connor relates, ‘Yeats chuckled and asked, “What do you two young rascals mean by trying to fill my Academy with gunmen?”’ (My Father’s Son, p.106; quoted in Patrick Walsh, UUC DPh. Diss., p.6.) Further, O’Connor made contact with AE in the 1920s and was drawn by him into writing for the Irish Statesman; “You”, Yeats said to O’Connor, “will save the Abbey Theatre and O’Faolain will save the Academy.” (See S. O’Faolain, Vive Moi, 1964, p.275; quoted in Patrick Walsh, idem.).

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Irish Coinage [Report of Chairman:] ‘As the most famous and beautiful coins are the coins of the Greek Colonies, especially those in Sicily, we decided to send photographs of some of these and one coin of Carthage to our selected artists, and to ask them, as far as possible, to take them as a model. But the Greek coins had two advantages that ours could not have, one side need not balance the other, and either could be stamped in high relief, whereas ours must pitch and spin to please the gambler, and pack into roll to pleas the banker.’ He resisted religious and patriotic emblems, writing: ‘... to find a deliberately religious coin one must go back to pagan times so much abhorred by those critics themselves, when Zeus and Aphrodite, and other disreputable characters, adorned the money of the Greeks.’ ‘The most beautiful Greek coins are those that represent some god or goddess, as a boy or girl, or those that represent animals or some simple object like a wheat-ear. Those beautiful forms, when they are renamed Hibernia or Liberty, would grow empty and academic, and the wheat-ear had been adopted by several modern nations. If we decided upon birds and beasts, the artist, the experience of centuries has shown, might achieve a masterpiece, and might, or so it seemed to us, please those that would look longer at each coin than anybody else, artists or children. Besides, what better symbols could we find for this horse-riding, cattle-raising country?’ (“What We Tried to Do”, in The Coinage of Saorstat Eireann, Dublin 1928.) (Given in W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition, IAP 1976; 1984, pp.126-27; see also Stanford, ‘Yeats in the Irish Senate’, in A Review of English Literature, IV 3 (July 1963), pp.71-80.

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Letter of condolence (1894): ‘I have heard with the deepest sympathy of your great sorrow & for some days the desire to write & tell you so has competed in my mind with the fear that you might think [me] sufficiently intimate a friend & find my words intrusive. When we are in the presence of death there is nothing to be said except what has been said from the beginning of the world; our new philosophies, our new sureties leave us & we have nothing but the old faith that the dead are happier than the living & that they are always some where near us. / Bleive [sic] me yours with utmost sympathy / W B Yeats.’ (Letter to Richard le Gallienne, 28 May [894], on the death of RLG’s wife; in John Kelly, et al., eds., Letters, Vol. 1, p.389 [ALS Texas].)

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