William Butler Yeats: Notes (4)
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Plays & Prose
The Winding of the Stair and Other Poems (1929): First publ. by Fountain Press, NY; incl. A Woman Young and Old, preceded by five poems; poems of Words For Music Perhaps [written 1929-32; first issued Sept. 1932] and Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop added to new. edn. (Macmillan 1933); dedicated to Edmund Dulac.
IN MEMORY EVA GORE BOOK AND CON MARKIEVICZ; Yeats wrote to Eva, Your sister & yourself, two beautiful figures among the great trees of Lissadell, are among the dear memories of my youth (Letter, 3 July 1916); besides the architectural sense of gazebo (an artificial arbour in a garden) the Hiberno-Irish phrase, to make a gazebo [a fool of oneself] is cited; not also HI gazebo for thingime-gig. DEATH inspired by assassination of Kevin OHiggins, 10 July 1927; Yeas noted in CP that he regarded OHiggins as the finest intellect in Irish life and I think I may add to some extent my friend; also, writing to Olivia Shakespear, he repeated OHiggins saying to his wife, Nobody can expect to live who has done what I have (Letter, April 1933); cf. Blood and the Moon (in New Edn. of the Poems, ed. Finneran).
DIALOGUE OF SELF AND SOUL, written July-Dec. 1927, acc. Mrs. Yeats, though Yeats related in his Collected Poems that it was written in the Spring of 1928, during a long illness, indeed finished the day before a Cannes doctor told me to stop writing (p.537); Bishu Osafumé Motoshgé, maker of the sword, c.1394-1428; note that Richard Ellmann characterises Yeatss cantankerous acceptance of life in this poem as the poets framework for several years to come (Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, 1948, p.262).
BLOOD AND THE MOON, written Aug. 1927; first printed in The Exile (Spring 1928); for notes on Swift, Berkeley, and Burke, see under Prose citations [Yeats Files], and in respective RX files.
OIL AND BLOOD, written Dec. 1927; rev. 1928, 1929; first printed in The Winding Stair; derives from Yeatss reading of several books about St. Teresa; odour of violet from Lady Lovats Life of St Teresa (1911); references to vampires reflect Yeatss reading of Dracula and Sheridan Le Fanus Carmilla.
VERONICAS NAPKIN, written in Portofina, 1929; The Heavenly Circuit is an essay by Plotinus; Bernices Hair, the name of a constellation named by Ptolemy III on marrying Bernice, who rebelled against her mother and her suitor Demetrius, whose death she ordered; pole is the Cross. SYMBOLS, Oct. 1927, related to a passage in Discoveries (Essays & Introductions, pp.291-91); allusions to Satos sword. Spilt Milk, the upshot of my talk upon a metaphor of Lady Ottolines.
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY AND AFTER, composed Jan-Mar. 1929; in a letter to Mrs Shakespear, Yeats wrote out these lines together with the assertion that he had come to feel that the worlds last great poetical period is over but went on the say that the young do not feel like that, instancing George and Pound (Letters, ed. Wade, p.759).
STATISTICS, again reflecting the sense that passion in Shakespeare was a great fish [which] will soon be dead on the shore (prose draft).
THE SEVEN SAGES, composed 30 Jan., 1931; Essays includes a passage suggesting that the body of Grattan should be brought back from its resting-place in Westminster (p.296-97); How much of my reading is to discover the English and Irish originals of my thought, its first language, and, where no such originals exist, its relation to what original did. (Explorations, p.293).
THE CRAZED MOON, composed April 1923; referred by T. R. Henn to Cornelius Agrippa, Occult Philosophy, II, Chap. XXXII, concerning the moon as life of the other stars.
COOLE PARK, 1929, completed at Coole Park, 7 Sept. 1928; first appeared in her Coole (1931); Lady Gregory, Douglas Hyde, John Shaw-Taylor, Hugh Lane.
COOLE PARK AND BALLYLEE, 1931, composes Feb. 1931; whats water but the generated soul?, referred to Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs, p.15-18; Yeats wrote to his wife that he was turning the introductory verses of Coole in a poem of some length (3 Feb. 193; murdered with a drop of ink refers to a novel by Villiers de lIsle Adam called M. Triboulat Bonhomet (1887) in which the title-character conveys such information; Yeatss extended description of Coole Park occurs in Dramatis Personae (Autobiographies, 388-91); that high horse is Pegasus; note that Denis Donoghue interprets romantics thus: The we to whom Yeats refers are probably best taken as Lady Gregory, Synge, and Yeats, to begin with, and then such of their associates at Coole and the Abbey Theatre as maintained the true Irish themes. They were the last romantics in the sense that they attended upon Romantic Ireland, kept the sense of it alive by sustaining in themselves and a few others the desire for such glory and elevation. According to this sense, traditional sanctity and loveliness are the property of gods, giants and fighting me, the book of the people, some chaps. of which Yeats and Lady Gregory collected by talking to the few people left in the neighbourhood who still had memories and fidelities. Homer is Yeatss example partly because his unchristened heart had a place for gods, giants, and beautiful women. (Romantic Ireland, in We Irish, 1986, pp.26-27). Note that The Choice, infra [Perfection of the life or of the work / Man has to choose ... was first composed as a stanza of this poem.
FOR ANNE GREGORY, composed Sept. 1930.
SWIFTS EPITAPH, composed Coole 1929, and finished Sept. 1930, published in Dublin Magazine (Oct.-Dec. 1931).
AT ALGECIRAS: A MEDITATION UPON DEATH, composed Nov. 1928, dated 4 Nov. 1929 in A Packet for Ezra Pound [later in A Vision], and Nov. 1928 in Collected Poems; Newtons metaphor concerns his account of himself as a searcher after pretty pebbles on the seashore while the ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me (Brewster, Isaac Newton, 1855).
THE CHOICE, written Feb. 1931, and orig. penultimate stanza of Coole Park and Ballylee 1931 [which Yeats wisely removed - acc. Richard Ellmann (Identity of Yeats, p.327).
MOHINI CHATTERJEE, 23 Jan. & 9 Feb. 1929 (but erroneously dated 1928 in Collected Poems); Bengali Brahmin who visited Dublin in 1885-86.
BYZANTIUM, composed Sept. 1930; Subject for a poem ... Death of a friend. Describe Byzantium as it is in the system towards the end of the first Christian millennium. A walking mummy. Flames at the street corners where the soul is purified, birds of hammered gold singing in the golden trees, in the harbour [dolphins] offering their backs to the wailing dead that they may carry them to Paradise ./ These subjects have been in my head for some time, especially the last. (Explorations, p.190); see also Vision (B), p.279 [copied infra]); explanatory material cited by Jeffares includes W. G. Homes, The Age of Justinian and Theodora; passages from Mythologies; and critical interpretations by Jon Stallworthy, G. R. S. Mead, and Edward Engelberg; the dolphins form an escort for the soul of the dead, as set out in Mrs. Strongs Apotheosis and the After Life (q.d.); note that Richard Ellmann characterises the poem as this great hymn to the human imagination, commenting that never had he [Yeats] realised so completely the awesome drama of the creative act; he also remarks on Yeatss amazing transformative power, citing the first draft of the first stanza (Ellmann, Yeats, 1948, pp.274-75).
VACILLATION, written in 1931-32; sections published in first printing and subsequent printings with various numerations, e.g., I, II, III (containing stanzas subsequently numbers II and III), III (subsequently IV) ... [&c.]; see commentary in Curtis Bradford, Yeats at Work; Baron Friedrich von Hugel is author of The Mystical Element of Religion, as Studied in St. Catherine of Genoa and her Friends (1908). QUARREL IN OLD AGE, composed Nov. 1931; cf. blind bitter town with this blind bitter land in Words, and blind and ignorant town in To A Wealthy Man ....
THE RESULT OF THOUGHT, written between 18 and 19 Aug. 1931, the acquaintance being unknown and the companion Mrs Shakespear.
GRATITUDE TO THE UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS, composition date unknown; refers to Mrs Yeatss automatic writing.
REMORSE FOR INTEMPERATE SPEECH, written 28 Aug. 1931; hatred that is commonplace here - It lays hold on our class I think more easily than upon the mass of the people. it finds more complicated and determined conscience to prey upon. (Letter to Mrs Shakespear, 7 Sept. 1927).
STREAM AND SUN AT GLENDALOUGH, written 23 June 1932, refers to the neighbourhood (associated with St. Kevin and the round tower) near Laragh, where Francis Stuart and Iseult Gonne had moved to live.
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A Woman Young and Old [series written 1926-29)]
FATHER AND CHILD, written 1926 or 1927, it poem concerns Anne Yeats and Fergus Fitzgerald; cf. George Herbert, The Collar.
BEFORE THE WORLD WAS MADE, written Feb. 1928, also in Winding Stair; concerns a woman looking for an ideal face, poss. sourced in Platos Republic, p.597; Timaeus, 28, or Phaedrus (where Socrates speaks of earthly copies of higher things).
A FIRST CONFESSION, June 1927 (acc. Ellmann, IY); incl. in letter to Olivia Shakespear from Thoor Ballylee, 23 June 1927, introduced as an innocent little song - one of the first [of] my woman series to balance The Young and Old Countryman (Letters, 725); Winding Stair (NY edn.) annotates this as a womans love as the struggle of the darkness to keep the sun from rising from its earthly bed.
HER TRIUMPH, written 29 Nov. 1926, an MS version beginning I am not evil now, until you came/[...] appears in Jeffaress Commentary, p.326; see among others (e.g., Ferrara Cathedral) the picture of St. George and the Dragon ascribed to Berdone, in National Gallery, Dublin; Yeats has a copy of Perino del Vagas Andromeda and Perseus from Papal aparts. in Castel S. Angelo.
CONSOLATION, prob. written June 1927, cf. for crime of being born, see the crime of death and birth in A Dialogue of Self and Soul.
CHOSEN, prob. written early 1926 and orig. called Choice; see Yeatss letter to Prof. Grierson in which he claims to have used the arrangement of Donnes Nocturnall upon S Lucies Day for a poem of his own (Hone, ed., p.710); I have symbolised a womans love as the struggle of the darkness to keep the sun from rising from its earthly bed. In the last stanza of Choice I changed the symbol to that of the souls of man and woman ascending through the Zodiac. In some Neoplatonist or Hermatist - whose name I forget - the whorl changes into a sphere at one of the points where the Milky Way crosses the Zodiac. (The Winding Stair, 1929); note the same expanded in Winding Stair (1933 Edn.), and also remarks on the Thirteenth Sphere, in A Vision (B), pp.210-11, and 240; copied in Jeffares, Commentary, p.328-29).
PARTING, written Aug. 1926; poss. echo of Romeo and Juliet, While his loud song reproves/The murderous stealth of day (III, v.). HER VISION IN THE WOOD, written Aug. 1926; wounded man prob. Adonis, beloved of Aphrodite and slain by the boar (beast, infra) or Diarmuid; Mantegna (d.1506), painter of Agony in the Garden, etc.; bitter-sweet, see loves bitter mystery (Who Goes with Fergus?); blood and mire, cf. do., in The Gyres, and sim. in Byzantium. A
LAST CONFESSION, MSS dates June, 23 July, and Aug. 1929; Jeffares cites T[homas] R. Henns account of Yeatss remark to John Sparrow that perpetual virginity is the tragedy of the soul (Henn, The Lonely Tower, [rev. edn.] 1965, p.267; Jeffares, New Commentary, 1984, p.330); see also comments on a bird of day in Henn, Lonely Tower (Methuen [rev. edn.] 1965): Perhaps it is linked to the golden bird of Byzantium, something permanent and spiritual and mocking, beside loves ecstasy. (p.59; Jeffares, A New Commentary, 1984, p.330).
MEETING, written prob. 1926. FROM THE ANTIGONE, prob. completed Dec. 1927; concerns dg. of Oedipus, who is immured buried by Creon and commits suicide, as does Haemon, his son, on her grave; based on translations by Richard Jebb, Lewis Campbell, and Paul Masqueray, the last named being the one he used when writing the poem as he did for Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus. All the foregoing poems published in Winding Stair, though written according to Yeats before the publication of The Tower and left out for some reason I cannot tell (Note in Collected Poems, p.536; Jeffares, New Commentary, 1984, p.325.)
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Words for Music Perhaps (1932); composed 1929-32; Yeats wrote in Introduction to The Winding Stair: life has returned to me as an impression of the uncontrollable energy and daring of the great creators; it seemed to me that but for journalism and criticism, all that evasion and explanation, the world would be torn to pieces. I wrote Mad as the Mist and Snow, a mechanical little song, and after that almost all the group of poems, called in memory of those exultant weeks Words for Music Perhaps; also, I want them to be all emotion and all impersonal (Letter to Mrs Shakepear, Rapello, 2 March 1929; Letters, 758); I am writing more easily than I ever wrote and I am happy, whereas I have always been unhappy when I wrote and worked with great difficulty (Letter to Mrs Shakespeare, 29 March 1929; Letters 760-61); For Music is only a name, nobody will sing them (to same, 13 Sept. 1929; Letters, 769); on the Crazy Jane poems: the little group of love poems that follow are, I think, exciting and strange. Sexual abstinence fed their fire - I was ill and yet full of desire. They sometimes came out of the greatest mental excitement I am capable of. (17 Aug. 1929; Letters, 814 [sic Jeff., 1984]); also, to his wife: [I wanted to] exorcise that slut, Crazy Jane, whose language has become unendurable (Winter 1932; quoted in Gloria Kline, The Last Courtly Lover, Michigan: UMI Research Press 1983, p.133; quoted in Elsie Gaw, UUC MA, 1999); Crazy Jane prob. based on Cracked Mary, living nr. Gort; a local satirist and a terrible one ... she had an amazing power of audacious speech; there is a Crazy Jane ballad by Lewis, Matthew Gregory [Monk] (1775-1818 ODNB), and a Jane in The Limerick Rake. Albright (Poems, 1990 Edn.) notes that the free-floating emotions of the lyrics are Moods in Yeatss sense; the bishop is a feeble specimen compared to Soul in Dialogue of Self and Soul; Yeats wrote: In Dublin I ahd often seen old women walking with erect heads and gaunt bodies, talking to themselves with load voices, mad with drink and poverty ... they belonged to romance. Da Vinci had drawn women who looked so, and
so carried their bodies. (Autobiographies, 1955, p.155).
CRAZY JANE AND THE BISHOP, written 2 March 1929, publ. in New Republic, 12 Nov. 1930, and in London Mercury, Nov. 1939; blasted oak, draft chapel wall; Jack the Journeyman prev. in The Pot of Broth (1902), a play-title that Yeats associated with the song sung by Cracked Mary.
CRAZY JANE REPROVED, publ. 12 Nov. 1930 (&c.) as Cracked Mary Reproved; glossed as meaning that Zeuss transformation was a lovers game compared with the creation of a shell; cf. Is it not certain that the Creator yawns in earthquakes and thunder and other popular displays, but toils in rounding the delicate spiral of a shell? (Ireland After Parnell, Autobiographies, p.249); thunderstone, for thunderstorm, after all dreaded thunder-stone (Cymbeline, IV, 2. 271); cf. with thunder ... God ... speaks His angry mind (Wanderings of Oisin, II, 205-06).
CRAZY JANE ON THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT, written Nov. 1930; Sir William Rothenstein quoted Yeatss remark that the tragedy of sexual intercourse is the perpetual virginity of the souls (Since Fifty, p.242).
CRAZY JANE AND JACK THE JOURNEYMAN, written Nov. 1931; Jeffares refers the reader to a massage on the Anima Mundi: ... I do not doubt that they make love in that union that Swedenborg has said is of the whole body and seems from far off an incandescence. Hitherto shade has communicated with shade in moments of common memory that recur like the figures of a dance in terror or joy, but now they run together like to like, and their covens and fleets have rhythm and pattern. This running together and running of all to a centre, and yet without loss of identity, has been prepared for by their exploration of their moral life, of its beneficiaries and its victims, and even of all its untrodden paths, and all their thoughts have moulded the vehicle and become event and circumstance. (Mythologies, 355-56).
CRAZY JANE ON GOD, written 8 July 1931; in A Vision, Yeats remembers Iseult Gonne dancing and singing, Oh god, let something remain (p.220); all lit up: i.e., a haunted; Jeffares refers to lengthy passage in Intro. to Words Upon the Window-Pane (1931) recounting how some Anglo-Irish ladies who did find themselves in the garden of the Petit Trianon with Marie Antoinette and her courtiers (Exploration, pp.368-89).
CRAZY JANE TALKS WITH THE BISHOP, written Nov. 1931; cf. Synges trans. of Villons A Old Womans Lamentation (Poems and Translations, 1909, p.44); place of excrement, cf. Blake, For I will make their places of love and joy excrementitious (Spectre, in Jerusalem).
CRAZY JANE GROWN OLD LOOKS AT THE DANCERS, written 6 March 1929, publ. New Republic, 12 Nov. 1930; based on dream in which male dancer swings rope over female, not knowing if she will be killed, reflecting Blakes old thought sexual love is founded on spiritual hate (Letter to Mrs Shakespear, 2 March 1929; Letters, 758); and cf. Blake, spiritual Hate, from which springs Sexual Love as iron chains (Jerusalem 54:12); Albright considers instances of Yeatss theory of opposites and tragic joy, viz., Love is war and there is hatred in it (The Shadowy Waters).
GIRLS SONG, written 17 April 1929. YOUNG MANS SONG, written post-29 March 1929, publ. in New Republic, 22 Oct. 1930.
HER ANXIETY, written post-17 April 1929, publ. in New Republic, 22 Oct. 1930.
HIS CONFIDENCE, written 29 March 1929, publ. in New Republic, 22 Oct. 1930. Loves Loneliness, written 17 April 1929, publ. in New Republic, 22 Oct. 1930.
HER DREAM, post-29 March 1929; publ. in New Republic, 22 Oct. 1930; Jeffares refers to passage on dreams: the soul cannot have much knowledge till it has shaken off the habit of time and of place, but till that hour it must fix its attention upon what is near, thinking of objects one after another as we run the eye or the finger over them. Its intellectual power cannot but increase and alter as its perceptions grow simultaneous. Yet even now we seem at moment to escape from time in what we call prevision, and from place when we see distant things in a dream and in concurrent dreams ... When everybody has some story or some experience of the sudden knowledge in sleep or waking of some event, a misfortune for the most part, happening to some friend far off. (Mythologies, 358).
HIS BARGAIN, written 29 March, in New Republic, 22 Oct. 1930; bargain with that hair refers to the story of Hafiz, narrated in Essays and Introductions (p.290).
THREE THINGS, written March 1930, publ. in New Republic, 2 Oct. 1929); stretch and yawn poss. from lines of Arnault Daniel, expressive of sexual desire, trans. in Pounds Spirit of Romance (1910).
LULLABY, written 20 or 27 March 1929; publ. New Keepsake (1931), based on Frank OConnors trans. of Grania (rep. in Kings , Lords and Commons, 1959), the myth; among classical references here, Eurotas is a river in Sparta, where Paris persuaded the wife of Menelaus to elope with him.
AFTER LONG SILENCE, written Nov. 1929; prob. concerning Mrs. Shakespear; prose draft in Ellmann (Identity, 1954, p.280): Your hair is white / My hair is white / Come let us talk of love / What other themes do we know ...; extensive note by Yeats to 1929 version of the poem recounting his difficulties during convalescence at Rapello and Portofina Vetta.
MAD AS MIST AND SNOW, written 12 Dec. 1929; Yeats reflected, in his own period of uncreativity, that creativity has gone with history: it seemed to me when I was ill that great genius was mad as mist and snow ... Civilisation slept in the masses, wisdom in science. Is it criminal to sleep; I do not know; I do not say it. (On the Boiler).
THOSE DANCING DAYS ARE GONE, written 8 march 1929; publ. New Republic, 23 Nov. 1930, and London Mercury, Nov. 1930; I carry the sun in a golden cup taken from Pounds Canto XXIII, part of the drafts (17-27) that Yeats read in the 1928 edition.
I AM OF IRELAND, written Aug. 1929; traced by Ellmann to Frank OConnors reading aloud of the fourteenth century lyric (Icham of Irlande / Aut of the hold lande of Irlande / God sir pray ich ye / For of saynte charite / Come and daunce wyth me, / in Irlande; in Collected Poems, Yeats refers to a lyric of that century that somebody repeated to me a few years ago, but Jeffares was referred by Mrs. Yeats to St John D[relincourt] Seymours Anglo-Irish Literature 1200-1582 , who in turn cites the above version from J. E. Wells, Manual of Middle English Writing; the song is put in the mouth of an Irish girl and presumably sung by an Anglo-Irish minstrel; Wells calls it the earliest extant dance English music; in lyric, only one man listens; commented in Ellmann, Identity of Yeats, 1954, p.280-1).
THE DANCER AT CRUACHAN AND CRO-PATRICK, written Aug. 1931; Croagh Patrick nr. Westport, Co. Sligo; one who is perfect, a phrase used by Yeats in Discoveries (Was it Columbanus or another that wrote, There is one among the birds that is perfect, and one perfect among the fish?, Essays and Introductions, p.291); and again in An Indian Monk (There is one among the birds that is so perfect, one among the fish, one perfect among men, Essays and Introductions, p.431); I, proclaiming ..., St. Cellach, the pagan, as narrated in Samuel Fergusons Congal (1872, p.132).
TOM THE LUNATIC, written 27 July 1931; Bedlam is St. Mary of Bethlehem, London; Huddon, Duddon, and Daniel OLeary appeared in poem (... delighted me as a child ... hard living men and men of thought/Burn their bodies up for nought,/I mock at all so burning out.) in A Vision (B, 32); Jeffares bibl., Joseph Jacobs, Huddon, Duddon, and Donald [sic] OLeary, Celtic Fairy Tales, 1892, pp.47-55).
TOM AT CRUACHAN, written 29 July 1931. OLD TOM AGAIN, written Oct. 1931, described as a reply to the Dancers Song in letter to Mrs. Yeats.
THE DELPHIC ORACLE UPON PLOTINUS, written 19 Aug. 1931; based on Porphyrys Life of Plotinus in which the story of Ameliuss consultation to discover where the Plotinuss soul had gone after death: emancipated from the body, we are told how he entered the celestial circle where all is friendship, tender delight, happiness, and loving union with God, where Minos and Rhadamantus and Aeacus, the sons of God, are enthroned as judges of souls ... [with] Plato, Pythagoras, and all the people of the Choir of Immortal Love, there where the blessed sprits have their birth-home and live in days made happy by the Gods. [MacKenna, Plotinus, Porphyrys Life of Plotinus, rev. edn. 1946, p.16; see further under MacKenna]; Plotinus (205-270), studied at Alexandria; the Golden race encompasses Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, great brethren of the golden race of Zeus in Porphyry; tossed in the welter, salt blood, &c., signify the condition of life from which Plotinus is now raised; note that Yeats echoes this phraseology in his essay on Berkeley: the wave-washed shore ... the golden race of mighty Zeus ... the just Aeacus, Plato, stately Pythagoras, and all the choir of immortal love (Essays and Introductions, p.409).