George Russell: Quotations

Poetry and Prose Views & Comments

[ See George (“AE”) Russell: Some Letters to W. B. Yeats - infra ]

‘After the spiritual powers, there is no thing in the world more unconquerable than the spirit of nationality. ... The spirit of nationality in Ireland will persist even though the mightiest of material powers be its neighbor.’ (The Economics of Ireland and the Policy of the British Government, 1921.)

‘Spirituality is the power of apprehending formless spiritual essences, of seeing the eternal in the transitory, and in the things which are seen the unseen things of which they are the shadow.’ (Religion and Love, 1904, p.47; quoted in Ulysses, ed. & annot. Sam Slote, Alma Books 2015, U9.49 [Gabler Corrected Edition. 1984].)

“The Breath of Light”
“By the Margin of the Great Deep”
Poem on Ireland
“The City”
“Ireland’s soul”
“On Behalf of Some Irishmen Not Followers of Tradition”
Salutation: To [...] Some [...] Who Loved Ireland

See full-text copys of The Nuts Of Knowledge (1903) and By Still Waters (1906) - attached

Candle of Vision (1918)
Song and Its Fountains
he Avatars (1933)
“Nationality and Imperialism” (1901)
The National Being (1916)
The 1913 Lock-Out
“Art and National Life”,
“The Censorship Bill”
New Songs (1904)   Collected Poems (1913)
On Irish Writers & Artists
Standish O’Grady
W. B. Yeats
J. M. Synge
James Stephens
Patrick Pearse
James Joyce
General remarks
On Nationality
English art
Irish imagination
World culture
“Art and National Life”
Irish national culture
Congested districts
Irish genius
Our own ideals
We (Anglo-)Irish
Ne plus ultra
Limits of patriotism
Providence & Ulster

Links to RICORSO Library holdings
[as html in this frame] [downloading as .docx] [downloading as .docx]
“Nationality and Imperialism” (1901)
“Open Letter to the Masters of Dublin (1913)
The National Being (1916) [extracts]
The National Being (1916)
Imagination and Reveries (1916)
Collected Poems (1926)
Letters from AE, ed. Denson (1962)
—via RICORSO Library Index

‘Civilisations were let down from heaven in the dawn of history, and we find the laws of Moses and Manu and other primitives all whisphers from heaven to earth. Then kings began to put themselves in place of heaven, and after the kings came the aristocracies, and after the aristocracies the oligarchies of the wealthy, and now there appears a place in the sun for the average man moulding his own destiny in harmony with his neighbours, and that is what the world has long awaited and been in travail to get, and if we can inspire Irishmen in this fever of the world to co-operate, to work together to save their country, we may may Ireland a country worth living in ...’ (AE, “Notes of the Week”, in The Irish Homestead, 19 May 1917, pp.588-89; quoted as epigraph to Declan Foley, ed., The Only Art: Letters of John Butler Yeats to His Son Jack, Lilliput Press 2009.)
‘The strength of Irish culture lies, I believe, in plurality rather than uniformity. The view that “national culture” is a guarantor of homogeneous identity is no longer tenable. A living culture fosters a multiplicity of voices. It keeps history ticking over, encouraging us always to think and imagine otherwise. Authentic culture is not a matter of ourselves alone.’ (Q. source; quoted in Richard Kearney, Navigations: Collected Irish Essays 1976-2006, Dublin: Lilliput 2006, Preface, p.xi; see The Irish Book Review, Summer 2006, p.13.)

‘A.E. once said: “We have often thought a book surpassing the Arabian Nights might be made by a writer of genius who would weld into a continuous narrative the tales of the Gods, the Fianna and the Red Branch, so full of beauty, mystery and magnificence that, as the raw material for romance, there is hardly anything to equal them in the legendary literature of other countries.”’ (Quoted in Myles Dillon, ‘Tochmarc Étaín’, in Irish Sagas [RTÉ/Thomas Davis Lectures], ed. Dillon, Cork: Mercier Press, 1968, p.19.) Note that Dillon later quotes a lengthy passage from Russell’s oral narration of the opening of the ‘Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel’ featuring an encomium of Étaín, as recalled by Dillon (pp.25-26).


“On Behalf of Some Irishmen Not Followers of Tradition”: ‘They call us aliens, we are told, / Because our wayward visions stray / From that dim banner they unfold, / The dreams of worn-out yesterday. [...] But yet our lips would gladlier hail / The firstborn of the Coming Race / Than the last splendour of the Gael. [...].’ (Collected Poems, 1926, pp.229-30; see full version, infra.)

Co-operation and Nationality 1912; with Sophie Bryant): ‘Isolate your man from obligations to a social order and in most cases his soul drops into the pit like a rotten apple from the tree of life [...] In congested Ireland every job which can be filled by the kith and kin of the gombeen kings and queens, is filled accordingly...round the gombeen system reels the whole drunken, congested world, and underneath this revelry and jobbery the unfortunate peasant labors and gets no return for his labours.” Just as cooperative banking would undermine the gombeen man’s business, cooperation would strengthen rural life.’ (See Irish Philosophy website; accessed 02.06.2018.)


The Breath of Light”: ‘From the cool and dark-lipped furrows breathes a dim delight / Through the woodland’s purple plumage to the diamond night. / Aureoles of joy encircle every blade of grass / Where the dew-fed creatures silent and enraptured pass: / And the restless ploughman pauses, turns, and wondering / Deep beneath his rustic habit finds himself a king; / For a fiery moment looking with the eyes of God / Over fields a slave at morning bowed him to the sod. / Blind and dense with revelation every moment flies, / And unto the Mighty Mother, gay, eternal, rise / All the hopes we hold, the gladness, dreams of things to be. / One of all thy generations, Mother, hails to thee! / Hail! and hail! and hail for ever: though I turn again / From thy joy unto the human vestiture of pain. / I, thy child, who went forth radiant in the golden prime / Find thee still the mother-hearted through my night in time; / Find in thee the old enchantment, there behind the veil / Where the Gods my brothers linger, Hail! for ever, / Hail!’


How may the past, if it be dead
Its light within the living shed?
Or does the Ever-living hold
Earth's memories from the Age of Gold?
And are our dreams, ardours and fires
But ancient unfulfilled desires?
And do they shine within our clay,
And do they urge us on our way?
As Michael read the Gaelic scroll
It seemed the story of the soul;
And those who wrought, lest there should fail
From earth the legend of the Gael,
Seemed warriors of Eternal Mind
Still holding in a world gone blind,
From which belief and hope had gone,
The lovely magic of its dawn.

—From “Michael” in The Interpreters (London, 1922); quoted as epigraph in R. F. Foster, The Story of Ireland [Inaugural lecture ... Univ. of Oxford, 1 Dec. 1994] (Clarendon Press 1995).

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By the Margin of the Great Deep”: ‘When the breath of twilight blows to flame the misty skies, / All its vaporous sapphire, violet glow and silver gleam, / With their magic flood me through the gateway of the eyes; / I am one with the twilight’s dream. // When the trees and skies and fields are one in dusky mood, / Every heart of man is rapt within the mother’s breast: / Full of peace and sleep and dreams in the vasty quietude, / I am one with their hearts at rest. // From our immemorial joys of hearth and home and love / Strayed away along the margin of the unknown tide, / All its reach of soundless calm can thrill me far above / Word or touch from the lips beside. // Aye, and deep and deep and deeper let me drink and draw / From the olden fountain more than light or peace or dream, / Such primeval being as o’erfills the heart with awe, / Growing one with its silent stream.’ (Given in E. A. Sharp, Lyra Celtica, Edinburgh 1896.)

Poem on Ireland: ‘We hold the Ireland in the heart / More than the land our eyes have seen / And love the goal for which we start / More than the tale of what has been.’ (Quoted by John A Murphy, in ‘Further Reflections on Irish Nationalism’, in The Crane Bag, 2: 1 & 2, 1978; rep. in The Crane Bag Book, 1982, p.311).

The City”: ‘O, stay, departing glory, stay with us but a day / And burning seraphim shall leap from our clay,/And plumed and crested hosts shall shine where men have been, / Heaven hold no lordlier court than earth at College Green.’ (The Irish Review: A Monthly Magazine of Irish Literature, Art and Science, ed. Padraic Colum, Vol. 3, no. 29, 1913.)

Ireland’s Soul (1919): ‘Last year at Easter there were faces pale and bright, / For the Lord had arisen from the grave which was fear. / Hearts were airy, eyes filled with inner light. / It was wrought this miracle among the ruins here. // Among the ruins here last Easter year awoke / The timeless immortal, and for a sheaf of hours / It was fearless, wilful and laughing, though on it broke / The wrath of the Iron Age, the weight of the iron powers. // There were not vanquished. They stars were on their side, / The host of stars that glitter about their heavenly goal:/ They see, as torch from torch is kindled, the fires flash wide, / A host of kindling spirits in the dark of Ireland’s soul.’ (Quoted in Summerfield, That Myriad Minded Man, 1975, p.180.)

On Behalf of Some Irishmen Not Followers of Tradition” (Collected Poems, 1926): ‘They call us aliens, we are told, / Because our wayward visions stray / From that dim banner they unfold, / The dreams of worn-out yesterday. / The sum of all the past is theirs, / The creeds, the deeds, the fame, the name, / Whose death-created glory flares / And dims the spark of living flame. / They weave the necromancer’s spell, / And burst the graves where martyrs slept, / Their ancient story to retell, / Renewing tears the dead have wept. / And they would have us join their dirge, / This worship of an extinct fire / In which they drift beyond the verge / Where races all outworn expire. / The worship of the dead is not / A worship that our hearts allow, / Though every famous shade were wrought / With woven thorns above the brow. / We fling our answer back in scorn: // “We are less children of this clime / Than of some nation yet unborn / Or empire in the womb of time. / We hold the Ireland in the heart / More than the land our eyes have seen, / And love the goal for which we start / More than the tale of what has been.” / The generations as they rise / May live the life men lived before, / Still hold the thought once held as wise, / Go in and out by the same door. / We leave the easy peace it brings: / The few we are shall still unite / In fealty to unseen kings / Or unimaginable light. / We would no Irish sign efface, / But yet our lips would gladlier hail / The firstborn of the Coming Race / Than the last splendour of the Gael. / No blazoned banner we unfold - / One charge alone we give to youth, / Against the sceptred myth to hold / The golden heresy of truth.’ (pp.229-30.)

Salutation: To the Memory of Some I Knew Who are Dead and Who Loved Ireland
AE - George Russell (The Irish Times, 19 Dec. 1917)

Their dream had left me numb and cold,
But yet my spirit rose in pride,
Refashioning in burnished gold
The images of those who died,
Or were shut in the penal cell.
Here’s to you, Pearse, your dream not mine,
But yet the thought, for this you fell,
Has turned life’s water into wine.

You who have died on Eastern hills
Or fields of France as undismayed,
Who lit with interlinked wills
The long heroic barricade,
You, too, in all the dreams you had,
Thought of some thing for Ireland done.
Was it not so, Oh, shining lad,
What lured you, Alan Anderson?

I listened to high talk from you,
Thomas McDonagh, and it seemed
The words were idle, but they grew
To nobleness by death redeemed.
Life cannot utter words more great
Than life may meet by sacrifice,
High words were equalled by high fate,
You paid the price. You paid the price.

You who have fought on fields afar,
That other Ireland did you wrong
Who said you shadowed Ireland’s star,
Nor gave you laurel wreath nor song.

You proved by death as true as they,
In mightier conflicts played your part,
Equal your sacrifice may weigh,
Dear Kettle, of the generous heart.

The hope lives on age after age,
Earth with its beauty might be won
For labour as a heritage,
For this has Ireland lost a son.
This hope unto a flame to fan
Men have put life by with a smile,
Here’s to you Connolly, my man,
Who cast the last torch on the pile.

You too, had Ireland in your care,
Who watched o’er pits of blood and mire,
From iron roots leap up in air
Wild forests, magical, of fire;
Yet while the Nuts of Death were shed
Your memory would ever stray
To your own isle. Oh, gallant dead—
This wreath, Will Redmond, on your clay.

Here’s to you, men I never met,
Yet hope to meet behind the veil,
Thronged on some starry parapet,
That looks down upon Innisfail,
And sees the confluence of dreams
That clashed together in our night,
One river, born from many streams,
Roll in one blaze of blinding light.

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New Songs (Dublin: O’Donoghue & Co. 1904), Preface: ‘I have thought these verses deserved a better fate than to be read by one or two, not only on account of the beauty of much of the poetry, but because it revealed a new mood in Irish verse [...]. There may be traces here and there of influence of other Irish poets, but there is no mere echoing of greater voices, while some of the writers have a marked originality of their own.’ ( p.5.)

Collected Poems (1913) - Preface: ‘When I first discovered for myself how near was the King in His beauty I hought I would be the singer of the happiest songs. Forgive me, Spirit of my spirit, for this, that I have found it easier to read the mystery told in tears and understood Thee better in sorrow than in joy; that, though I would not, I have made the way seem thorny, and have wandered in too many byways, imagining myself into moods which held Thee not. I should have parted the true from the false, but I have not yet passed away from myself who am in the words of this book. Time is a swift winnower, and that he will do quickly for me.’

Candle of Vision (1918) - Russell speaks of visions ‘reflected from the spheres above us, from the lives of others and the visions of others’ (p.43), and ‘a memory greater than our own, the treasure-house of august memories in the innumerable being of Earth.’ (p.49; quoted in Kathleen Raine, ‘Hades Wrapped in Cloud’, in George Mills Harper, ed, Yeats and the Occult, London: Macmillan 1976, p.106.)

Candle of Vision (1918) - Russell urges that ‘the powers which were present to the ancestors are establishing again their dominion over the spirit’ (p.151; quoted in Maria Tymoczko, The Irish Ulysses, Calif. UP 1994, pp.314.)

Preface: ‘These retrospects and meditations are the efforts of an artist and poet to relate his own vision to the vision of the seers and writers of the sacred books.’ (COPAC.) [For further quotations, see attached.]

Song and Its Fountains (1932): ‘I do not think I could say of any of my earlier poems that I had learned in experience or suffering here what was transmuted into song. Indeed I would reverse the order and say that we first imagine, and that later the imagination attracts its affinities, and we live in the body what had first arisen in soul. I had the sense that that far-travelled psyche was, in this and other waking dreams, breathing into the new body it inhabited some wisdom born out of its myriad embodiments.’ (p.29; Song and its Fountains, p.41; quoted in T. R. Henn, The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats, London: Methuen [1950] 1965 Edn., pp.151-52.)

Song and its Fountains (1932): ‘I am much disposed to assert the existence of immaterial natures in the world and to place my own soul in the class of these things. It [151] will hereafter, I know not where or when, yet be proved that the human soul stands even in this life in indissoluble connection with all immaterial natures in the spirit world, that it reciprocally acts on these and receives inspiration from them.’ (p.41; quoted in T. R. Henn, The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats, London: Methuen 1950, 1965 [rev. edn.], p.152.)

Song and Its Fountains (1932): ‘I am much disposed to assert the existence of immaterial natures in the world and to place my own soul in the class of these things. It will hereafter, I know not where or when, yet be proved that the human soul stands even in this life in indissoluble connection with all immaterial natures in the spirit world, that it reciprocally acts on these and receives inspiration from them.’ (Ibid., p.41; quoted in Henn, op. cit., p.152.)

Song and Its Fountains (1932): ‘I have often thought the great masters, the Shakespeares and Balzacs, endowed more generously with a rich humanity, may, without knowing it, have made their hearts a place where the secrets of many hearts could be told; and they wove into drama or fiction, thinking all the while that it was imagination or art of their own, characters they had never met in life, but which were real and which revealed more of themselves in that profundity of being than if they had met and spoken day by day where the truth of life hides itself under many disguises.’ (p.42; quoted in Kathleen Raine, op. cit., 1976, p.106.)

The Avatars: A Futuristic Fantasy (1933) - Preface: ‘The Avatars has not the spiritual gaiety I desires for it. The friends with whom I once spoke of such things are dead or gone from me. If they were with me, out of dream, vision and intuition shared between us, I might have have the narrative to glow. As it is, I have only been able to light my own way with my own flickering lantern.’ (p.vii; quoted in Maria Tymoczko, The Irish Ulysses, California UP 1994, idem.)

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Nationality and Imperialism” [article-chap.], in Ideals in Ireland, ed., Lady Gregory (1901): ‘The idea of the national being emerged at no recognisable point in our history. It is older than any name we know. It is not earth born, but the synthesis of many heroic and beautiful moments, and these it must be remembered are divine in their origin. Every heroic deed is an act of the spirit, and every perception of beauty is vision with the divine eye, and not with the mortal sense. The spirit was subtly intermingled with the shining of old romance, and it was no mere phantasy which shows Ireland at its dawn in a misty light thronged with divine figures, and beneath and nearer [138] to us, demigods and heroes fading into recognisable men. The bards took cognisance only of the most notable personalities who preceded them; and of these only the acts which had a symbolic or spiritual significance; and these grew thrice refined as generations of poets in enraptured musings along by the mountains or in the woods, brooded upon their heritage of story until, as it passed from age to age, the accumulated beauty grew greater than the beauty of the hour, the dream began to enter into the children of our race, and their thoughts turned from earth to that world in which it had its inception. [...; for longer extract, go to RICORSO Library, “Literary Classics” - via index, or direct.) [Cont.]

Nationality and Imperialism” [article-chap.], in Ideals in Ireland, ed., Lady Gregory (1901) - on reading James Standish O’Grady: ‘When I read O’Grady I was as such a man who suddenly feels ancient memories rushing at him, and knows he was born in a royal house, that he had mixed with the mighty of heaven and earth and had the very noblest of his companions. It was the memory of race which rose up within me as I read, and I felt exalted as one who learns he is among the children of kings.’ (’Nationality and Imperialism’, in Ideals in Ireland, ed. Lady Gregory, p.15; quoted in Ulick O’Connor, Celtic Dawn: A Portrait of the Irish Literary Renaissance, London: Black Swan 1985, p.170; cited in Patrick MacBride, UG Diss., UUC 2011.)

Nationality and Imperialism” (1901): ‘The national spirit is [...] shy, hiding itself away in remote valleys, or in haunted mountains, or deep in the quiet of hearts that do not reveal themselves.’ (Nationality and Imperialism, in Ideals in Ireland, [ed. Lady Gregory] 1901, p.22; cited in Sam Slote, annot., Ulysses Alma Books 2015, re chap. 9 [“Scylla and Charybdis” Gabler Corrected Edn. 1984, U9.105.)

The National Being (1916; rep. Irish Academic Press, 1982); [In 1914] the birth of the infant state of Ireland was announced [...] Battles threatened between two hosts [... 1] twin serpents of sectarianism ready to strangle this infant state of ours if its guardians were not watchful [...] [At first] in Ireland our ideas will be borrowed from the Mother of Parliaments [2] After a time, if there is anything in the theory of Irish nationality, we will apply original principles as they are from time to time discovered to be fundamental in Irish character. [2] National ideals are the possession of a few people only [2; see also 137]. We must rely on the ideas common among our people, and on their power to discern among their countrymen the aristocracy of character and intellect. [3]. (Cont.)

The National Being (1916; rep. 1982) - cont.: [T]he nation was not conceived of as a democracy freely discussing its laws, but as a secret society with political chiefs meeting in the dark and issuing orders [...] Men who love Ireland ignobly brawl about her in their cups, quarrel about her with their neighbour, allow no freedom of thought of her or service of her other than their own, take cudgel and rifle, and join the sectarian orders or lodges in their own ignoble image [...] A nation is but a host of men [...] until that master idea is manifested to us [... 7] it is necessary to create national ideals [...] Unless this is done Ireland will be like Portugal, or any of the corrupt little penny-dreadful nationalities which so continually disturb the peace of the world with internal revolutions and external brawlings, and we shall only have achieved the mechanism of nationality, but the spirit will have eluded us. [...] we have yet to settle fundamentals [9] united by ideals to a harmony of art and architecture and literature. [11] national ideal [began as] tribal deity [...] some great hero Cuchulain [12 [...] ] it is the great defect of our modern literature that it creates few such types [heroes] How hardly could one of our modern public men be made the hero of an epic. [13] (Cont.)

The National Being (1916; rep. 1982) - cont.: The gods departed, and the half-gods also, hero and saint after that, and we have dwindled down to a petty peasant nationality, rural and urban life alike mean in their externals. [...] There is stIll some incorruptible spiritual atom in our people. We are still in some relation to the divine order; and while that incorrupted spiritual atom still remains all things are possible if by some inspiration there could be revealed to us a way back or forward to greatness, an Irish polity in accord with national character. [14] a theocratic state we shall have no more [...] the practical dominance of one religious idea would let loose illimitable passions, the most intense the human spirit can feel. the way out of the theocratic State was by the drawn sword and was lit by the martyr’s fires. The way back is unthinkable for all Protestant fears or Catholic aspirations. [15] If we build our civilisation without integration labour into its economic structure, it will wreck civilisation, and will do so more swiftly than two thousand years ago because there is no longer the disparity of culture between high and low which existed in past centuries. [18] Ireland must begin its imaginative reconstruction of a civilisation by first considering that type which, in earlier civilisations of the world, has been slave, serf, or servile, working either on land or at industry, and must construct with reference to it. These workers must be the central figures, and how their material, intellectual, and spiritual needs are met must be the test of value of the social order we evolve. [See longer extracts in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, via index, or direct; also full-length version [unpag.] in separate window [245KB.)

[ See remarks on Standish O’Grady under O’Grady > Commentary - supra. ]

1913 Lock-Out: ‘Open Letter to the Masters of Dublin’, in The Irish Times (7 Oct. 1913), objecting to Lock-Out: Sirs - I address this warning to you, the aristocracy of industry in this city: like all aristocracies, you tend to grow blind in long authority, and to be unaware that you and your class and its every action are being considered and judged day by day by those who have power to shake or overturn the whole Social order, and whose restlessness in poverty today is making our industrial civilisation stir like a quaking log. You do not seem to realise that your assumption that you are answerable to yourselves alone for your actions in the industries you control is one that becomes less and less tolerable in a world so crowded with necessitous life. Some of you have helped Irish farmers to upset a landed aristocracy in this island, an aristocracy richer and more powerful in its sphere than you are in yours, with its roots deep in history. They, too, as a class, though not all of them, were scornful or neglectful of the workers in the industry by which they profited; and to many who knew them in their pride of place and thought them all powerful they are already becoming a memory, the good disappearing together with the bad. If they had done their duty by those from whose labour came their wealth they might have continued unquestioned in power and prestige for centuries to come. The relation of landlord and tenant is not an ideal one, but any relations in a social order will endure if there is [197] infused into them some of the spirit of human sympathy which qualified for immortality. Despotisms endure while they are benevolent, and aristocracies while noblesse oblige is not a phrase to be referred to with a cynical smile. Even an oligarchy might be permanent if the spirit of human kindness, which harmonises all things otherwise incompatible, is present. [...] The men whose manhood you have broken will loathe you, and will always be brooding and scheming to strike a fresh blow. The children will be taught to curse you. The infant being moulded in the womb will have breathed into its starved body the vitality of hate. It is not they - it is you who are blind Samsons pulling down the pillars of the social order. You are sounding the death knell of autocracy in industry. There was autocracy in political life, and it was superseded by democracy. So surely will democratic power wrest from you the control of industry. The fate of you, the aristocracy of industry, will be as the fate of the aristocracy of the land if you do not show that you have some humanity still among you. Humanity abhors, above all things, a vacuum in itself, and your class will be cut off from humanity as the surgeon cuts the cancer and alien growth from the body. Be warned ere it is too late. Yours etc. “AE” (Carolyn Mary Pollard, ed., The Political Writings of George Russell (AE) During the 1913 Dublin Lock Out, 1987; for longer extract go to in RICORSO Library, Irish Classics, via index or direct; also in separate window - as attached.)

Art and National Life”, in Irish Statesman (21 May 1928), pp.226-27 - in response to Censorship Bill, 1928: ‘Let beauty fade, and in some mysterious way, public spirit, sacrifice, enthusiasm, also vanish from society. Its foundations of its morale have been obstructed. If we destroyed in Ireland our National Gallery, our Abbey Theatre, our Feis Ceoil, and our poetic and imaginative literature, the agencies by which the mysterious element of beauty filters into national consciousness, we are certain that in fifty years the nation would be corrupt or dead.’ (Quoted in Nicholas Allen, ‘Free Statement: Censorship and the Irish Statesman’, in Last Before America : Irish and American Writing: Essays in Honour of Michael Allen, ed. Fran Brearton & Eamonn Hughes, Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2001, p.86; see also Allen’s remarks under Commentary, supra.)

The Censorship Bill”, in (Irish Statesman, 25 Aug. 1928) - in response to Censorship Bill: Russell asked in the ‘recognised associations’ cited in the Bill were ‘associations of fanatics, the associations which have been clamouring for a censorship and seizing and burning excellent journals like the Observer and Sunday Times?’ Further: ‘We have to be very precise in our definitions. There are thousands of books we read without approving their ideas. But a disapproval to lead to suppression - that would be revolutionary. Men would conspire against the orthodoxies of opinion the State would impose on them.’ (p.487; quoted in Allen, op. cit., 2001, p.89.)

Note: Allen remarks that Russell does not mention the fact that the journals which he named had been illegally destroyed because they published information on birth control which was already illegal in Ireland.

Letter to Mrs. T. P. Hyatt (1895), in the Canadian Theosophist, 20, 1 (1939).

There are heaps of things I would like to do, but there is no time to do them. The most gorgeous ideas float before the imagination, but time, money, and alas! inspiration to complete them do not arrive, and for any work to be really valuable we must have time to brood and dream a little over it, or else it is bloodless and does not draw forth the God light in those who read. I believe myself, that there is a great deal too much hasty writing in our magazines and pamphlets. No matter how kindly and well disposed we are when we write we cannot get rid of the essential conditions under which really good literature is produced, love for the art of expression in itself; a feeling for the music of sentences, so that they become mantrams, and the thought sings its way into the soul. To get this, one has to spend what seems a disproportionate time in dreaming over and making the art and workmanship as perfect as possible.
 I could if I wanted, sit down and write steadily and without any soul; but my conscience would hurt me just as much as if I had stolen money or committed some immorality. To do even a ballad as long as The Dream of the Children, takes months of thought, not about the ballad itself, but to absorb the atmosphere, the special current connected with the subject. When this is done the poem shapes itself readily enough; but without the long, previous brooding it would be no good. So you see, from my slow habit of mind and limited time it is all I can do to place monthly, my copy in the hands of my editor when he comes with a pathetic face to me.
 If the Gods would only inspire me a little more vigorously I would write no end, but as it is I have to sweat over my work, such as it is, and often groan that I never have a chance to do it properly.
Given on Wikiquotes Russell page - online; accessed 11.09.2011.

Views & Comments
W. B. Yeats: ‘[Eglinton] may not be familiar with the transcendental philosophy which Mr Yeats [...] has adopted, to which the spirit in man is not a product of nature, but antecedes nature, and is above it as sovereign, being of the very essence of that spirit which breathed on the face of the waters, and whose song, flowing from the silence as an incantation, summoned the stars into being out of chaos’. Further, ‘To sum it all up, Mr. Yeats, in common with other literary men, is trying to ennoble literature by naming it religious rather than secular, by using his art for the revelation of another world rather than to depict this one.’ (‘Literary Ideals in Ireland’ [sic], in Literary Ideals in Ireland, ed. John Eglinton, 1899, p.53).

Letter to W. B. Yeats (2 June, 1896): ‘I am not going to bother you about any damned thing this time but simply tell you some things about the Ireland behind the veil. You remember my writing to you about the awakening of the ancient fires which I knew about. Well it has been confirmed and we are told to publish it. ‘The gods have returned to Erin and have centred themselves in the sacred mountains and blow fires through the country. They have been seen by several in vision, they will awaken the magical instinct everywhere, and the universal heart of the people will turn to the old druidic beliefs. I note thoroughout the country the increased faith in faery things. The bells are head from the mounds and sounding in the hollows of the mountains. A purple sheen in the inner air, perceptible at times in the light of day, spreads itself over the mountains. All this I can add my own testimony to. Furthermore, we are told that though now few we would soon be many, and that a branch of the school for the revival of the ancient mysteries to teach real things would be formed here soon [var. ‘in time’]. Out of Ireland will arise a light to transform many ages and peoples. There is a hurrying of forces and swift things going out and I believe profoundly that a new Avatar is about to appear and in all spheres the forerunners go before him to prepare. It ill be one of the kingly avatars, who is at once ruler of men and magic sage. I had a vision of him some months ago and will know him if he appears. [Believes the Avatar to live in whitewashed cottage in Donegal or Lingo.] He is middle-aged, has a grey golden beard and hare (more golden than grey), face very delicate and absorbed. Eyes have a curious golden fire in them, broad forehead ... Don’t spread this about.’ (Quoted [as unpub.] in Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, 1948, p.125; also in Frank Tuohy, Yeats, 1976, p.87-88, and in A. N. Jeffares, W. B. Yeats, A New Life, London: Hutchinson 1988, p.95.)

[For Russell’s remarks on the West of Ireland in a letter to J. M. Synge, see under Synge, Commentary, infra.]

J. M. Synge: [writing to supply Yeats’s address in London:] ‘Dear Mr Synge [...] This wild country here has imposed such a melancholy into my blood that I have not had the heart to write to him or anybody else if I could help it. I had nothing to say except accounts of the distress here which is a disgrace to humanity and that is not a cheerful subject matter for a letter. Yours sincerely, George Russell.’ (Addressed from (Erris Hotel, Belmulet, Co. Mayo [Christmas 1897]; in Letters From AE, ed. Alan Denson, London: Abelard Schuman 1961, p.23.)

James Stephens - see “The Poetry of James Stephens”, in Imaginations and Reveries (NY: Macmillan [1916]: ‘There are poets who cannot write with half their being, and who must write with their whole being, and they bring their poor relation, the body, with them wherever they go, and are not ashamed of it. They are not at warfare with the spirit, but have a kind of instinct that the clan of human powers ought to cling together as one family. With the best poets of this school, like Shakespeare and Whitman, one rarely can separate body and soul, for we feel the whole man is speaking. With Keats, Shelley, Swinburne, and our own Yeats, one feels that they have all sought shelter from disagreeable actualities in the world of imagination. James Stephens, as he chanted his Insurrections, sang with his whole being. Let no one say I am comparing him with Shakespeare. One may say the blackbird has wings as well as the eagle, without insisting that the bird in the hedgerows is peer of the winged creature beyond the mountain-tops. But how refreshing it was to find somebody who was a poet without a formula, who did not ransack dictionaries for dead words, as Rossetti did to get living speech, whose natural passions declared themselves without the least idea that they ought to be ashamed of themselves, or be thrice refined in the crucible by the careful alchemist before they could appear in the drawing-room. Nature has an art of its own, and the natural emotions in their natural and passionate expression have that kind of picturesque beauty which Marcus Aurelius, tired, perhaps, of the severe orthodoxies of Greek and Roman art, referred to when he spoke of the foam on the jaws of the wild boar and the mane of the lion. / There were evidences of such an art in Insurrections, the first book of James Stephens. In the poem called “Fossils,” the girl who flies and the boy who hunts her are followed in flight and pursuit with a swift energy by the poet, and the lines pant and gasp, and the figures flare up and down the pages. The energy created a new form in verse, not an orthodox beauty, which the classic artists would have admitted, but such picturesque beauty as Marcus Aurelius found in the foam on the jaws of the wild boar.’ (See full-text - as attached.)

Patrick Pearse: ‘What was in Patrick Pearse’s soul when he fought in Easter Week but an imagination, and the chief imagination which inspired him was that of a hero who stood against a host [...] I who knew how deep was Pearse’s love for the Cuchulain whom O’Grady had discovered or invented, remembered Easter Week that he had been solitary against a great host in imagination with Cuchulain, long before circumstance permitted him to stand for his nation with so few companions against so great a power.’ (“AE”, The Living Torch, ed. Gibbon, pp.134-44; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, pp.196-97.)

James Joyce - in “Some Characters of the Irish Literary Movement”: ‘When Yeats returned to Dublin the famous poet and the unknown youth met. Yeats asked Joyce to read him some of his poems. “I do so since you ask me”, said Joyce, “but I attach no more importance to your opinion than to anybody one meets in the street.” Yeats made some compliments on the verses, which were charming. But Joyce waived [sic] aside the praise. “it is likely that both you and I will soon be forgotten.” he then questioned Yeats about some of his later poetry. Yeats began an elaborate and subtle explanation the essence of which was that in youth he had thought everything should be perfectly beautiful but now he thought one might do many things by way of experiment. “Ah,” said the boy, “that shows how rapidly you are deteriorating.” He parted from Yeats with a last shaft, “We have met too late. You are too old for me to have any effect on you.” (Quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.106, and therein called ‘an unpublished manuscript’. End notes ascribes the information - i.e., the text - to Alan Denson.)

Note: Russell ended his interview with Joyce with the famous remark: ‘You have not enough chaos in you to make a world.’ (Ellmann, op. cit ., p.103; see further under James Joyce, Commentary, infra.)

On Nationality (contrib. to An Claideamh Soluis; q. title): ‘There is here an opposition of two things which are on totally different planes - nationality and political autonomy. The Irish language is an essential of Irish nationality. It is more, it is its chief depository and safeguard. When the Irish language disappears, Irish nationality will ipso facto disappear, and for ever. Political autonomy, on the other hand, can be lost and recovered, and lost again and recovered again.... Now, if Ireland were to lose her language - which is, remember, an essential of her nationality - there might conceivably me a free state in Ireland at some future date; but that state would not be the Irish nation, for it would have parted from the body of traditions which constitute Irish nationality. The people which would give up its language in exchange for political autonomy would be like the prisoner who would sell his soul to the Evil One that he might be freed from his bodily chains.’ (Quoted by Frederick Ryan as an example of ‘that metaphysical habit of regarding politics which I am afraid is one of our constitutional vices in this country’, citing Pearse’s response to his own earlier article in The United Irishman; extract in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 1991, Vol. 2, p.1000.)

Irish imagination: ‘Nobody in Ireland writes with good nature about those who differ with them. Our imagination is so active, our vision so penetrating, that we see where the other man’s error will carry him and his nation, so that we boil him in the hottest oil of words we can at once, and we rarely reflect that even the most erring man has a spirit in himself which will prevent him from going the whole hog in his errors, and will finally bring him back to humanity as the gyroscope brings the engine to the level. [... &c.] (AE, The Irish Homestead, 31 Dec. 1921; rep. in Henry Summerfield, ed., Selections from the Contributions to the Irish Homestead (Colin Smythe 1978), Vol. 2, p.786; cited in Intro. to Gerald Dawe & Edna Longley, eds., Across a Roaring Hill, The Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland (1985), p.vii.

English art: ‘[T]here is little to distinguish the work of the best English writers or artists from that of their continental contemporaries [...]. If nationality is to justify itself in the face of all this, it must be because the country which a preserves its individuality does so with the profound conviction that its peculiar ideal is nobler than that which the metropolitan spirit suggests.’ (Russell, in Eglinton, et al., Literary Ideals in Ireland, London 1899, pp.81-82; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, p.157.)

World culture?: ‘We believe we want world culture, world ideas, world science, otherwise Ireland would not be a nation but a parish. We believe ourselves that the ideal of Irish culture relying upon its own resources is impossible, but a culture more vital is possible, indeed certain, by the wedding of Gaelic culture to world culture.’ (Irish Statesman, Jan. 1924; quoted in R. L. McCartney, Liberty and Authority in Ireland [Field Day Pamphlet No. 9], Field Day 1985, p.13.)

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Congested districts: ‘All the local appointments are in their [the gombeen-men’s] gift, and hence you get drunken doctors, drunken rate collectors, drunken J.P.’s, drunken inspectors, - in fact, round the gombeen system reels the whole drunken congested world, and underneath this revelry and jobbery the unfortunate peasant labours and gets no return for his labour. Another enters and takes his cattle, his eggs, his oats, his potatoes, his pigs, and gives what he will for them, and the peasant toils on from year to year, being doled out Indian meal, flour, tea, and sugar, enough to keep him alive. He is a slave almost as much as if he were an indentured native and had been sold into the slave market.’ (Report from Galway Express, 15 April 1911; quoted in Patrick Sheeran, The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty, Dublin: Wolfound 1976, p.43; alaso in Patrick Sheeran, Do., as NUI/UCG PhD Diss., 1972, pp.36-37.)

Irish genius: ‘The Irish genius is coming out of its seclusion and Yeats, Synge, Moore, Shaw, Joyce and others are forerunners. The Irish imagination is virgin soil and virgin soil is immensely productive when cultivated.’ (Quoted in Seamus Deane, Editorial, The Crane Bag, 3, 1, 1979, p.339-40.)

Our own ideals: ‘We are [seeking] the liberty of shaping the social order in Ireland to reflect our own ideals, and to embody that national soul which has been slowly incarnating in our race from its cloudy dawn.’ (Ideals in Ireland, p.18; quoted in Robert O’Driscoll, ed., The Celtic Consciousness [papers of 1978 symposium at Toronto], Dublin: Dolmen Press; Edinburgh: Canongate Publ. 1982, pp.xix.)

We (Anglo-)Irish: ‘We of the Anglo-Irish have a dual character partly quickened by the aged thought of the world and partly inherited from an Irish ancestry. Ireland was never part of the ancient Roman Empire, and the imagination of its people had never been disciplined by philosophy or dialectic or science as other European peoples had been in whose minds something of the thought [of] Plato or Aristotle had incarnated. Our Irish ancestors continued for long centuries to live by imagination which was I think the culture of the world before the Grecian mind became dominant. I think imagination has its own truth, a relation of image, myth or symbol to deep inner being, the truth which is in religion or poetry or the relations the drama of dream may have to our waking desires or to being in the world beyond dream. When imagination does not fly so high as the spirit it indulges in fantasy. [N]o literature is fuller of imagination or fantasy undisciplined by philosophy than the Irish […]. (In The Sunset of Fantasy, uncompleted autobiography, ed. Peter Kuch, in Warwick Gould, ed., Yeats Annual, 10, London: Macmillan 1993, pp.188-203.)

Ne plus ultra: ‘People tell me that the countryside must always be stupid and backward, and I get angry, as if it were said that only townspeople had immortal souls, and that it was only in the city that the flame of divinity breathed into the first men had an unobscured glow. The countryside of Ireland could blossom into as much beauty as the hillsides in mediaeval Italy if we could only get rid of our self-mistrust. We have all that any race ever had to inspire them, the heavens overhead, the earth underneath, and the breadth of life in our nostrils. I would like to exile the man who would set limits to what we can do, who would take the crown and sceptre from the human will and [mark] out some petty enterprise as the limit: “Thus far we can go and no farther”.’ ( ‘The Ideals of the New Rural Society’, in Imaginations and Reveries, Maunsel 1915; cited in MacManus, op. cit., 1952, p.135.) Note implicit allusion to the 1885 Cork speech of C. S. Parnell.

Limits of patriotism: ‘Ireland as a nation I have no further interest in. Indeed, I have no interest in nations at all. I feel I belong to a spiritual world whose embers are scattered all over the world and these are my kinsmen. And I would sacrifice any nation, my own quite readily, to promote the interest of that spiritual clan.’ (Letter of April 1932; quoted in Pamela Travers, ‘The Death of AE: Irish Hero and Mystic’, in Robert O’Driscoll, ed., The Celtic Consciousness (Dolmen/Cannongate 1981), pp.471-82: p.473; see Commentary, supra.)

Providence & Ulster: ‘’I was born in Lurgan [...] and have never been sufficiently grateful to Providence for the mercy shown to me in removing me from Ulster, though I like the people I cannot breathe in the religious and political atmosphere of the North East corner of Ireland.’ (Letter to Frank Harris, printed in Summerfield, That Myriad Minded Man, 1975, p.4.)

Futurescope: ‘We would no Irish sign efface / But yet our lips would gladlier hail / The first born of the Coming Racec / Than the last splendour of the Gael.’ (Epigraph in Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, Vol. 1, 1980, q.pp.)

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