Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972)

Contents. Preface [ix]; I. The Cultural Renaissance [3]; II. The Literary Revival [28]; III. Personalities [64]; IV. Politics [101]; V. Humor [151]; VI. The Achievement [172]; Chronology, 1885-1941 [201]; Index [204]. Map of Dublin [15]. Ded. ‘For My Irish Friends’ .

Incls. Acknow. of privilege to record ’my memories of Mrs. James Joyce, of Mr. Gogarty, ever-refreshing font of wisdom and humour, [x] and two notable bibliophiles, the perceptive editor of the Dublin magazine Seamus O’Sullivan, and the patriot-historian P. S. O’Hegarty. To their names I am happy to add those of Constantine Curran, Mrs. Wiliam Butler Yeats, former President Sean T. O’Kelly, President Eamon de Valera, Austin Clarke, Sean O’Faolain, Michael Scott and Niall Sheridan.’ Others mentioned inc. Denis Donoghue, Patrick Henchy, Thomas O’Neill, Alan Denson. [xi]

The Cultural Renaissance
Today the Gaelic League and the Irish Volunteers are as vivid to Dubliners as is the early Abbey Theatres. In fact, Ireland’s political and artistic resurgences coincided. [3] After one hundred years of provincial obscurity Dublin was becoming a lively center as the new century got under way. No other literary movement of the time was attracting so much attention as the Irish renaissance. The theater was bringing to the stage a poetic quality long absent from commercial entertainments of New York’s Broadway or London’s West End. The first American literary visitors began to arrive, the New York patron and collector John Quinn, and the professor from the University of Pennsylvania, Cornelius Weygandt, both coming to Dublin in the summer of 1902. A year later news of the literary revival was given to audiences from Canada to California by William Butler Yeats on his first American speaking tour.

At the same time, Ireland was being reborn as a nation. A sense of mission filled the air. In this period of noble beginnings, the past was rediscovered and the future charted. Plans, literary manifestoes, and political programs aired competing claims of patriotism and culture. In the debates on the creation of a national consciousness, controversy lent zest to the argument. An astonishing number of remarkable men and women emerged. Few countries, regardless of size, have enjoyed such a flowering as that of Ireland during the fifty years of Yeats’s career, from 1889 to 1939. There were Wilde and Shaw (away in London), and Synge as well as Joyce and Yeats, and the most interesting theatre of the time, and enough novelists, poets, and painters to do credit to any nation. Yet Ireland was and is small, its population comparable to that of Iowa or Kentucky in the United States. The country lacks natural resources. It has also suffered from centuries of exploitation. Hence, little more than bare survival might be expected. [4]

The Irish have captured the world’s imagination, and the game of interpreting them has been going on for centuries, often with doubtful results. It seems impossible to distill the essence of the Irish spirit, to analyze its blend of practical and poetic, humorous and fantastic, sentimental and cynical.


[Quotes Sean O’Faolain’s ‘Persecution Mania’, about the ‘victim’ of trying to be Irish:]

He has a notion that the Irish have a gift for fantasy, so he is constantly talking fey. He also has a nation that the Irish have a magnificent gift for malice, mixed up with another idea of the irish as great realists, so that he loves to abuse everybody for not having more common sense. But as he also believes that the Irish are the most kind and charitable people in the world he ends up every tirade with an ‘Ah, sure, God help us, maybe the poor fellow is good at heart.’ (here p.5.)

Irish versatility is exemplified in the activities of George William Russell [...] After cycling from town to town inspecting dairies, he might return to Dublin to supervise the publication of a journal, conduct a meeting of a theosophical society, or act the host to guests spellbound by his conversation. Russell led two lives, or more, under two names, using his own name in his work as publicist and man of affairs and adopting the occult pseudonym ‘AE’ (from [5] ‘aeon’) in his role as poet and painter of the spirit world. (pp.5-6.)

[G. K. Chesterton on the Irish: ‘the men that God made mad’ (p.6); also, remarked on Ireland’s ‘acrid instinct for judging itself.’ (p.25.)]

[On John Carr, The Stranger in Ireland:] The mixture of pedestrian description, prosaic detail, and tedious narrative has served to fill many books before and since Carr’s time. [...] Carr had written successful books on France and the Baltic, but now his subject was Ireland . Within a year an amusing satire appeared, in the form of directions for writing a book like Carr’s. The gibes are delicious. An author is advised to proceed in just the same was as the Englishman [6] had. One must praise other writers and refer to one’s own books. It will make friends and help sales. One must attempt joviality, tell jokes even though they are not very funny, use plenty of platitudes, write elegantly, and be sure to omit nothing tedious or silly. Above all, learn the art of padding. Copy generously, list everything you can - ‘it will make many quarto pages.’

Mr. Carr, now Sir John, was very unhappy, and doubly so when his suit against the publisher of My Pocket Book was lost in court. Even less fortunate was one Richard Twiss. Ireland was bewildering to him, for there he experienced what he called ‘intellectual regress’; that is, the more he heard, the less he understood! He received a strange commemoration, his picture being used to decorate chamber pots manufactured in Dublin . An indecent epigram on the theme was forthwith written by Lady Clare, the Lord Chancellor’s wife. (p.7.)

Shaw: ‘My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say and then to say it with the utmost levity.’ (Here p.8.)

[...] there were the outrageous bulls of Sir Boyle Roche, ‘the most celebrated and entertaining anti-grammarian in the Irish Parliament’ [Barrington]. Sir Boyle and his hearers [alike] recognised the pertinence of his impertinence. His most famous bull was no more illogical than Ireland’s position under English rule. In commenting on the nation’s imminent loss of its Parliament (abolished by the Act of Union in 1800), he exclaimed: ‘It would surely be better, Mr. speaker, to give up not only a part, but, if necessary, even the whole, of our constitution, to preserve the remainder!’ (Here p.8.)

Quotes author [i.e., John Bush] of Hibernia curiosa (1769): ‘there is a native sprightliness in their general manner, that is conspicuous and engaging, and that cannot fail to recommend them to strangers.’ (p.9.)

Sir Jonah Barrington noted in 1825, Irish political views were something of a puzzle. The Anglo-Irish independent loyalist could drink the healths of the tory Charles I, the Puritan Cromwell, and the whig William III on the same evening. This was incomprehensible, unless one assumed that ‘it was only to coin an excuse for getting loyally drunk as often as possible [16] that they were so enthusiastically fond of making sentiments.’ (here p.17.)

A favourite joke among Dubliners is to explain to visitors that Sir John Gray’s exploits are to be found on the back of his statue in O’Connell Street. When the curious stop to read, they find the pediment blank. (p.17.)

[Ref. to Sir Philip Crampton memorial ‘pineapple’ [in College St.]. (p.17.)]

James Joyce once taunted Yeats for talking like a man of letters rather than a poet. Yeats never forgot the insult, but in fact he did succeed in becoming both. Since the time of Goethe, few writers have shown such amazing vitality in so wide a range of activities. [...] (p.21.)

Yet the achievements of these years were being accomplisted at a cost. Centuries of oppression had left serious [21] scars, and Ireland’s quest for cultural and political identity was carried on amid growing discord. Deep-seated religious and temperamental antagonisms were unloosed. Revolution and Civil War were to come, and more than once the future of the country was in doubt. Even today the island remains divided, with six Northern counties retaining their ties to England.

For forty years armed ‘patriots’ roamed about, committing acts of violence. Finally, in February, 1962, the Irish Resistance Movement suspended its activities. Condemnation by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, increasingly severe penalties by the Irish government, and public apathy at last had their effect. Unable to attract recruits or to get financial support, split by dissension, and failing to win a single seat in the general election, the dwindling remnant of what had once been the most romantic, and the most literary (Behan, O’Casey, O’Connor, O’Faolain, O’Flaherty) of modern armies went out of existence.

An artistic flowering is essentially a process of self-discovery, and Ireland’s attainment of awareness may owe much of its power to the tragic bitterness of these conflicts. There was a rich inheritance to discover, despite bigotry and rancor. The nationalists and the Gaelic enthusiasts often displayed a doctrinaire narrowness, ready to oppose any English or Anglo-Irish tendencies, but themselves splitting on various questions. The Roman Catholic church, in its long struggle for survival against penal restrictions, had developed a harsh intolerance. These tensions brought forth the usual passion and polemic. Every few years a major crisis developed, beginning with the conflict between patriotic loyalty to Parnell and moral disapproval of his domestic life [vide Kain, p.115, infra].

Yeats once reflected on the public indignation that might be aroused ‘if any thoughtful person spoke out all his mind to any crowd.’ Certainly he seemed doomed to be in the midst of controversy, whether among theosophical sects or political groups. More than any of his contemporaries he carried within himself the seeds of these disputes, and it is appropriate that he always stood at the center of the stage, regardless of disrespectful Dubliners who remarked that this was ‘just what you’d expect of Willie.’ No matter how highly respected, or bitterly resented, in his many public roles of theatre manager, playwright, publicist, and poet, he was always prey to self-questioning. Few writers convey such a sense of vitality, because few have maintained throughout their lives the personal tension that imparts energy to poetic statement. From his continual inner debates arose one of his most memorable epigrams: ‘We make out of the quarrels with others, rhet oric, but out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.’ An expert in both modes, he enjoyed dispute as an Irishman should, and wrote poetry of the highest distinction. Each of his literary styles - romantic, satiric, symbolic, realistic - became a vehicle for exalted utterance. To the end of his life, he continued his philosophic quest. Less than a month before his death he summarized his outlook in another notable pronouncement: ‘Man can embody truth but he cannot know it.’

Controversy affected Ireland most drastically in the alienation of her superior minds. Each of the major writers reached a breaking point in relation to his homeland. James Joyce was defiant, although he admitted to being ‘self-exiled upon his own ego.’ Before him, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde had followed the long tradition [23]


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The Literary Revival
The romantic historian Standish James O’Grady, father of the revival, pointed out that ’In the rest of Europe there is not a single barrow, dolmen, or cist of which the ancient history is recorded; in Irreland there is harldy one of which it is not.’ (here p.30.)

AE, on reading O’Grady: ’it was the memory of race which rose up within me . and I felt exalted as one who learns he is among the children of kings.’ (p.30.)

As a Trinity undergraduate, Douglas Hyde had astonished a don who inquired whether he knew Irish by his quiet reply: ‘I dream in Irish’. His dreams color the exquisite renderings of the verse, both in poetry and prose paraphrase. In reading the book lady Gregory was delighted to learn that ‘while I thought poetry was all but dead in Ireland the people all about me had been keeping up the lyrical tradition that existed in Ireland before Chaucer lived.’ Hyde’s prose translations have that enchanting idiom, now so familiar to readers of modern literature in Ireland : ‘I think it long from me the highroads are,’ or ‘it is courteously, mannerly, beautiful, she said to me.’ Later to be name d’Kiltartan’, from the locality near Coole where Lady Gregory collected folklore, the dialect became a self-conscious prose poetry in her plays and in those of Synge. George Moore, who could not abide Lady Gregory, said in Hail and Farewell, that the idiom ‘consisted of no more than a dozen turns of speech dropped into the pages of English so ordinary’ as to ‘appear in any newspaper without attracting [32] attention.’ It was clever and malicious, as Moore usually was. When yeats, who could not abide Moore , turned to writing his own autobiography, he claimed for the style, ‘Gaelic in idiom and Tudor in vocabulary’, a high place indeed. (p.31-32.)


The Celtic dream demanded only the most general commitments, and Yeats had no difficulty in echoing the fashionable enthusiasms of the time. Ireland was, in his opinion, a land of literary promise, its literature still young, and on all sides there were ‘Celtic tradition and Celtic passion crying for singers.’ So long as his faith remained untested by experience, it could accommodate pagan as well as Christian themes. Thus he reported in an essay to the Boston Pilot in 1891 that ‘the doctrines I have just been studying in Pater’s jewelled paragraphs - the Platonic theory of spiritual beings having their abode in all things without and within us, and thus uniting all things’ were related to current Irish thought. Alas, he would soon discover that even though all things might be united, a special problem was posed by the Irish.

For the time being it was conveniently simple to accept prevailing political clich6s. Even taste could be temporarily blurred, and Yeats let himself praise mediocre poets: ‘I knew in my heart that the most of them wrote badly, and yet such romance clung about them, such a desire for Irish poetry was in all our minds, that I kept on saying, not only to others but to myself, that most of them wrote well, or all but well.’ Yet he was able to forestall [35] the London Irish Literary Society from passing a resolution to the effect that ‘the time has come- for Ireland to produce a dramatist comparable to Shakespeare. In the midst of his patriotic euphoria he did notice that few could refuse buying ‘a pepper-pot shaped to suggest a round tower with a wolf-dog at its feet,’ and that most writers favored ‘harp and shamrock and green cover’ for their volumes. Forthwith Yeats had his label for such enthusiasts - “Harps and Pepper-Pots.”; (pp.35-36.)


The Gaelic revival raised a myriad of problems. How feasible is it to adopt a national language for a small country dependent on its trade with English-speaking neighbors? How suitable is that language for the expression of modern ideas? How viable are the ancient legends as vehicles for modern literary themes? Can these tales express the nuances of modern sensibility? Finally, how valid are the claims for the Celtic genius?

So much controversy has raged over these questions that only an intrepid or a foolish man would venture an opinion. He would find himself in a veritable Donnybrook, where those deadliest of snipers, the philologists, fire at each other from their ambushes of footnotes. He would hear the age-old insults about Irish laziness and untrustworthiness. Another Swinburne might appear to mock the amateur Celts as ‘Saxon if not sane!’ Tired of all this, he might conclude with Rayner Heppenstall that since the word ‘Celt’ has no precise meaning, ‘Life in these islands might be ... more sensible if this alibi were wholly abandoned.’ In his article, printed in the London Times Literary Supplement, Heppenstall traced ‘Celtomania’ to L’antiquité de la nation et de la langue des Celtes (1703) by a Cistercian monk named Pezron. Pezron described the tribe as the children of Gomer, the eldest son of Japhet, a genealogy which was completed by his translator three years later, who identified the Celts with ‘our ancient Britons.’ A dictionary of ‘Celtick’ appeared in Edward Lhuyd’s Archeologia Britannica (1707). In 1740, William Stukeley’s book on Stonehenge attributed the monument to Celts and Phoenicians, who had preserved the religion and language of the time of Abraham.

The mid-eighteenth century was eager for ‘noble savages,’ and few could be nobler than these Biblical vestiges, brave and fair-haired. One of them, Thomas Gray’s Welsh hero in The Bard, threw himself from the crags to avoid capture. More popular was the melancholy Ossian, whose poems were translated and created by one of the most successful of literary forgers, James Macpherson. In 1760 the young Scottish schoolmaster issued a small volume, Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands. Success was immediate, and there was more poetry where that had come from. The author had forged in his smithy an irresistible blend of Gaelic, Homeric, Miltonic, and Biblical echoes. His settings were equally appealing. The tired blood of rationalism could relax in the funereal gloom of misty glens. Oscar Wilde must have been right in saying that nature follows art as well as it can. If so, the Hebrides were invented by Macpherson:

Dost thou not behold, Malvina, a rock with its head of heath? Three aged pines bend from its face; green is the narrow plain at its feet; there the flower of the mountain grows, and shakes its white head in the breeze.

Grand enough, to be sure, but scarcely superseding Homer, as Goethe once thought. And scarcely Celtic either. Yet what did authenticity matter? Here was Celtic gloom and a heroic home for lost causes. ‘They came forth to battle, but they always fell,’ was the famous line, later adopted by Matthew Arnold as an epigraph for his Study of Celtic Literature (1867). No better example of circular logic [42] can be found than Arnold’s argument: the tone of Ossian showed that the Celt was melancholy; the melancholy of Ossian showed that the poem was Celtic.

With Ernest Renan and Matthew Arnold the Celt emerges in full glory. Renan’s essay on Celtic poetry is a tender elegy for a once powerful race ‘now concentrated on the very confines of the world,’ who, turned inward by defeat, had solaced themselves ‘in taking dreams for realities and in pursuing visions.’ The essay proved to be unusually popular in the English-speaking world as well as in France, and earned its fraction of an inch in President Eliot’s ‘Five-Foot Shelf’ ’ of the Harvard Classics. Renan has been criticized as being a romancer rather than a scholar, and such he admitted himself to be. The Essais de morale et de critique (1859), in which the study appeared, constituted a search for an ideal past. ‘In a time like ours,’ he wrote, ‘when every personality of distinction has so little room to move around in, dreaming of an ideal past has become a necessary diversion.’ In his recent study of the essays, Richard M. Chadbourne has characterized Renan as ‘an Idealist in the Age of Lead and Tin,’ whose pessimism was a creative search for a way of life.

Himself of Breton extraction, Renan found these people blessed with the gracious gifts of imagination, chivalry, and religious feeling. ‘Nowhere has the eternal illusion clad itself in more seductive hues,’ he exclaimed, and in poetry ‘no race equals this for penetrative notes that go to the very heart.”

Arnold’s lectures at Oxford ‘On the Study of Celtic Literature,’ delivered in 1865 and 1866, were deeply indebted to Renan, but he made the introverted race a bit more extrovert. As Frederic E. Faverty has noted in Matthew [43] Arnold the Ethnologist (1951), the Frenchman’s Celts were a douce petite race naturellement chrétienne,’ but the Englishman’s Celts tended ‘to aspire ardently after life, light, and emotion, to be expansive, adventurous, and gay. To each his own Celt.

Legends die slowly, if ever, when they serve an emotional need. In the case of Celts, it was a national need as well. In his interesting introduction to The Irish Tradition (1947), Robin Flower found little evidence for Ossianic gloom in early Irish literature. The poetry reflects the outlook of an active, vigorous people, its main features being ‘the concrete cast of language, the epigrammatic concision of speech, the pleasure in sharp, bright colour.’ Thus a quatrain concerning the terrors of barbarian raids is almost imagistic:

Fierce and wild is the wind tonight,
It tosses the tresses of the sea to white;
On such a night as this I take my ease;
Fierce Northmen only course the quiet seas.

A poetry of nature this, of wind in trees, of birds overhead, of sunlight in meadows. But it is not merely descriptive. Mr. Flower points out that these writers evoked a supernal beauty because of their ability to see their environment with eyes ‘washed miraculously clear by a continual spiritual exercise.”

Enthusiasm invites mockery, especially in a divided country. The historian Lecky, reflecting the supercilious attitude of Anglican Ireland, once exclaimed to Lady Gregory, ‘What silly speeches your Celtic people have been making! - Yet Lecky did subscribe to the sitpport of the Irish theatre. Other Trinity professors were less amenable, and the opposition of the college to the rising Irish movement continued, with both political and religious motivations - Lecky himself resigned in protest against the nationalistic activities of Moore Martyn, and Yeats. In 1899, Professor Mahaffy testified, during an inquiry into secondary education, that the revival of Gaelic was ‘a retrograde step, a return to the dark ages.’ Not content with this, he added, in a newspaper interview published in the Dublin Daily Express of February 16, 1900, the sneering suggestion that Home Rulers plead in Irish at Westminster, which ‘would not only be logical, but would save the House of Commons from a good deal of incompetent oratory.’ (p.45.)

There are amusing anecdotes, of course, which arise from the ignorance and nalvet6 of the Gaelic converts. There was the playwright who said that if he had known the correct pronunciation of Cuchulain (“Coo-hoo-lin’ ) he would have characterized that hero entirely differently. And there was Gogarty’s poem “Valparaiso”; - which, translated into Irish, was accepted as a fine lyric in that tongue, and thenceforth retranslated into English. George Moore is the butt of many of these tales, sometimes with his own acquiescence. He and Yeats reached such an impasse in collaborating on the play Diarmuid and Grania that Moore, in exasperation. suggested that he write it in French, and Lady Gregory or Yeats translate it into English, after which it could be translated into Gaelic and thence to English againl Moore’s stories of The Untilled Field first appeared in Irish translations, a year before the retranslated English version, which the author found much improved after the ‘bath in Irish.’ Three years earlier, in London, Moore had reflected it was strange [45] that his country had produced no literature, ‘for there is a pathos in Ireland, in its people, in its landscapes, and in its ruins.’ To him the idea of a serious theatre in Dublin seemed ‘like giving a mule a holiday,’ and as for the language, he ‘thought nobody did anything in Irish except bring turf from the bog and say prayers.’ Very well, then, he would bring culture to Ireland. He made Wildean pronouncements: ‘I came to give Ireland back her language.’ He sentimentalized over Breton sailors on the quays. When he asked one whether it didn’t ‘seem odd to hear Celtic speech while you are climbing the ship’s rigging high above the stormy seas of Cape Horn’ he was somewhat deflated by the common-sense answer, ‘Not at all, sir; all of us are Bretons.’ He had the effrontery to entitle his volume of short stories about Ireland The Untilled Field (1903), although, to give the devil his due, they are very fine stories. Learning the language was another matter. No doubt it is difficult; Stephen MacKenna admitted gracefully, ‘I always swore I’d die a fluent speaker of bad Irish.’ But when Moore, following in Hyde’s footsteps, publicly proclaimed the future of the language, then lamely admitted that he would not learn it himself but would recommend it to his nephews, the satirist Susan Mitchell found her cue. In her delightful verses, ‘George Moore Comes to Ireland,’ she impersonates the novelist’s swaggering egotism:

I’ve puffed the Irish language, and puffed the Irish soap;
I’ve used them-on my nephew-with the best results, I hope;
For with this older, dirtier George, I have no heart to cope.

And so on, for several pages. We are also treated to comparable odes on Moore’s joining the Church of Ireland, becoming a high sheriff (“hangin’ men and women down in Ballaghadereen’ ), and announcing himself ‘The priest of Aphrodite.’ Her volume of satires lives up to the promise of its title: Aids to the Immortality of Certain Persons in Ireland, Charitably Administered (1905).

As an impudent college graduate Joyce ridiculed the Gaelic aspect of the revival. In a review of Lady Gregory’s Poets and Dreamers, printed in the Dublin Daily Express, March 26, 1903, “J.J.”; finds native folklore hopelessly senile. Irish life reverses the normal process of maturing; children, sent to work at an early age, have some sense, but adults seem muddleheaded. If this tendency continues, ‘little boys with long beards will stand aside and applaud, while old men in short trousers play handball against the side of a house.’ However right, this was scarcely tactful, especially since Lady Gregory apparently got joyce the job as occasional reviewer. Buck Mulligan refers to the incident in Ulysses, noting that Longworth, the editor, was ‘awfully sick’ about it, and concluding with a gibe at Yeats’s rumored financial dependence on Lady Gregory:

O you inquisitional drunken jew jesuit! She gets you a job on the paper and then you go and slate her drivel to jaysus. Couldn’t you do the Yeats touch?

In one of his multi-level puns Joyce debased the ‘cultic twalette,’ yet even he fell under the spell of at least one Irish influence, describing the Book of Kells to his old Dublin friend Arthur Power as ‘the most purely Irish thing we have’ and ‘the fountainhead of Irish inspiration,’ including that of his own work. And certainly the intricately [47] allusive language of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake has its source in a fantastic richness of imagination similar to that which, one thousand years before Joyce, found expression in the curiously decorated margins of that treasured manuscript.

Like his contemporaries, Joyce dreamed of creating ideals for Ireland. His first consideration of the role of the artist - his favorite subject - reflects the spirit of dedication in the Dublin of 1904. An essay, “A Portrait of the Artist,”; written in January of that year, was rejected by the editors of the new magazine Dana, and has only recently been published (in the Spring, 1960, issue of the Yale Review). Its peroration envisages a utopian future of socialistic enlightenment. Even though Ireland remains ‘under joint government of Their Intensities and Their Bullockships,’ the artist proclaims the goal:

To those multitudes, not as yet in the wombs of humanity but surely engenderable there, he would give the word: Man and woman, out of you comes the nation that is to come, the lightening of your masses in travail: the competitive order is employed against itself, the aristocracies are supplanted; and amid the general paralysis of an insane society, the confederate will issues in action.

Here are the grandiloquence and the vagueness of youth. Joyce is about to choose exile, and years of frustration are to leave their mark. Yet the familiar words which conclude his A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) still resound with idealism. Although Joyce’s own soured hopes were beginning to find release in ironic mockery, he once shared the aspirations of his fictional counterpart, Dedalus: [48]

I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.


The fullest account remains to be published - the voluminous diary of the architect and playgoer Joseph Holloway, whose 221 manuscript ledgers provide a daily record of Dublin events from 1895-1944. Holloway, the eternal bystander, was always looking in on rehearsals, attending lectures and plays, hearing all the gossip. Whatever the occasion, he wrote it down with Boswellian detail. And few things escaped him. Unafraid of his own opinion, however commonplace it be-and usually was-he regarded dubiously the attempts of Yeats and Lady Gregory to create an art theatre. A good wholesome comedy or melodrama was his cup of tea, and his comments on the notables of the time are refreshingly downright.

In the task of creating a national consciousness, Ireland carried on strenuous debates about literary aims. As one reviews these battles he cannot but be impressed by the persistence with which Yeats maintained his leadership of the Irish movement. The controversy over the play [49] which opened the Irish Literary Theatre in 1899 is a case in point. It may be reviewed here, not with the intent of irritating old wounds, but merely to show the complexities of the socio-politico-religious-literary maze in which the Theatre arose. The intent of Yeats’s The Countess Cathleen was patriotic, even sentimentally so, with its Faustian theme of the heroine’s selling her soul to aid starving peasants. Seldom has any play been so thoroughly reviewed before its performance. With that ineptitude which seems to accompany so many noble experiments, everyone in Dublin had heard of the play and had made up his mind about it before it appeared. One Catholic clergyman attacked it without reading it, and Yeats promptly secured tentative approval by two other church authorities. In a broadside, Souls for Gold, Frank Hugh O’Donnell, an old enemy of Maud Gonne’s and of Yeats’s, charged that the play was blasphemous. Arthur Griffith’s The United Irishman, while protesting ‘the merciless methods of Mr. O’Donnell, who tomahawks with the savage delight of a Choctaw,’ immediately disregarded its own precept of delaying judgment by advising that ‘we want the poets to inspire and lift up the people’s hearts, not to mystify them.”

The performance itself made literary history. A group of undergraduates from the Royal University formed a claque to jeer, and submitted a petition to the newspapers-an immature protest which became a brief memory in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist. The diarist Holloway dismissed the claque as ‘twenty brainless, beardless, idiotic-looking youths,’ but the disturbance was an omen of future troubles. Yeats and the theatre were to be subjected to constant criticism from without and within, for the patriotism [50] of what Joyce termed ‘the rabblement’ does not admit of subtleties. The journal of the Gaelic League attacked the play for being in English, and for being acted and produced under English auspices; it was delighted at the ‘manful protest of clean, sane, cultured young Irishmen.’ One Padraic Pearse, later to become leader of the 1916 Rising, feared that the theatre might be more harmful than the despised Trinity College. In his position as ‘a mere English poet of the third or fourth rank’ Yeats was harmless, ‘but when he attempts to run an ‘Irish’ Literary Theatre it is time for him to be crushed.’ Publicists were given to strong words in those days, and actually Pearse was later to be indebted to Yeats for staging amateur performances at the Abbey Theatre for the benefit of the schools he had founded.

The ‘incomparable’ Max Beerbohm, successor to George Bernard Shaw as drama critic for the Saturday Review, traveled to Dublin for the performance. Buoyed up by his romantic assignment, - to see and describe the revival of a certain form of beauty’ in Ireland, he was brought to earth by the morning newspaper, which reminded him that he was in the land, not merely of tears and dreams, but of wigs on the green. Yeats’s verse seemed ‘made to be chanted,’ and even though most of the cast were ‘terrified amateurs,’ the stage cramped and the scenery tawdry, Beerbohm felt that ‘a beautiful play was being enacted.”

The argument was only beginning, and the confused directions of opinion can be seen in the pages of Griffith’s newspaper, which wound up agreeing with no one, not even with itself. It could not join ‘the hollow shout’ of approval from the Irish Independent, nor, on the other [51] hand, could it assent to the Gaelic League’s charge that only plays in Irish were acceptable. The narrowness of the objectors was apparent, yet the editor could not ‘condemn the warm-souled youths,’ who, however warm-souled, had yet ‘mistaken what Mr. Yeats distinctly stated to be a purely symbolic play for a pseudo-historic one.’ Even so, the story is not concluded, for the next week’s issue contained an attack on Yeats by Fred Ryan. The author should have either ignored his opponents or ‘proclaimed his right to think for himself,’ instead of securing the approval of two Catholic priests - ‘Really, we are too timid.’ And as for the young men, Ryan was not so hopeful as the editor: ‘We know these young men - the people who are always prepared to throw the example of the dead pioneers at the heads of the living ones,’ but who would have been the first to attack the leaders of other days.

Looking ahead to November, 1901, we see Arthur Griffith picking up an essay by James Joyce as a stick to beat the censors, though disagreeing with the young Royal University graduate’s attack on the theatre. In reviewing The Day of the Rabblement, privately printed after its rejection by the college magazine, St. Stephen’s, Griffith hoped for a ‘large sale, if only to convince blooming Censors and budding Censors that this is the twentieth century, and that it is a holy and wholesome thing for men and women to use the minds God gave them.’ Indeed, ‘why the Censor strove to gag Mr. Joyce is to me as profound a mystery as why we grow Censors at all .... Turnips would be more useful.’ Yet Joyce himself, in Griffith’s opinion, ‘adopts a rather superior attitude,’ and, since sneering at Yeats, Moore, and Martyn had become so common, one wonders why Mr. Joyce should fall so low.’ It seems that ‘those [52] who write and talk so glibly about what the Irish Literary Theatre ought to do and ought not to do’ - that is, all but the staff of the United Irishman - ‘have no idea of the difficulties’ that a theatre meets. The editor concludes with an injunction: ’Patience, Mr. Joyce, and your desires for the masterpieces may have fulfillment.’ Thus ends one of the earliest press notices Mr. Joyce received.

Although tempers undoubtedly ran high at times, discussion of the new literature made for lively interest. Some of the issues are still relevant. Problems of national literature and of popular art were raised; the rival demands of realism and symbolism were voiced. The aesthetics of realism, deriving from Wordsworth and Tolstoy, centered art in human experience. Symbolism claimed sanction as an expression of man’s eternal spiritual aspirations. Two small volumes emerged from such debates. Literary Ideals in Ireland (1899) included essays by John Eglinton, Yeats, AE, and William Larminie which had appeared in the literary columns of the Dublin Daily Express. The similarly named Ideals in Ireland was edited by Lady Gregory two years later.

John Eglinton had opened the first discussion by expressing doubts concerning the suitability of Irish legend for contemporary drama. He suggested that ancient myths ‘obstinately refuse to be taken up out of their own environment,’ and that what is needed for a vital literature is simply a strong interest in and capacity for life. In reply, Yeats made an eloquent defense of poetic idealism. He predicted that the current ‘renewal of belief’ would increasingly free the arts from practical concerns: ‘I believe that all men will more and more reject the opinion that ’poetry is a criticism of life’ and be more and more [53] convinced that it is a revelation of a hidden life.’ Indeed, the arts may eventually replace religion, becoming ‘the only means of conversing with eternity left to man on earth.”

Actually Eglinton was not far behind Yeats in his respect for the arts. He concluded with an assertion of the artist’s independence that seems to have appealed to Joyce, then a first-year student at the Royal University (now University College, Dublin). ‘In all ages,’ Eglinton wrote, ‘poets and thinkers have owed far less to their countries than their countries have owed to them.’ Joyce remembered the thought some fifteen years later. In Trieste, on the eve of World War I, he wrote the sixteenth chapter of Ulysses (one of the first to be put on paper). It is after midnight, and the weary poet Stephen Dedalus is bored by his garrulous companion Leopold Bloom. The disillusioned young man hears, ‘over his untasteable apology for a cup of coffee,’ the tiresome words ‘patriotism,’ and ‘work,’ and ‘Ireland.’ Stephen bewilders his well-meaning companion with his reply, ‘But I suspect ... that Ireland must be important because it belongs to me.”

Discussion is not literature, of course, and one may regret that Yeats found it necessary to descend to the arena so often for the purposes of explanation or defense, even though it was to prove a firm foundation for his creative effort. Manifestoes are often important preludes, and in Ireland they were part of the search for an inheritance. The continuity of its own culture had been drastically severed, and for several centuries Ireland remained a provincial outpost. Irish artists and men of letters had inevitably been swallowed up by the dominant English tradition, and one of the necessary steps for the reversal of [54] that tendency was the establishment of a rival culture. In this quest for identity, the factors of race, language, religion, and nationality played important roles-a difficult task, indeed, yet not without compensations. The lack of any strong tradition left Ireland free to respond to the currents of contemporary life, and the work of joyce and Yeats, while rooted in native experience, is far from provincial.

Yeats’s poetic achievement has absorbed the attention of literary historians at the expense of a consideration of his pioneering work as a critical exponent of symbolism. His interpretations of Blake and Shelley and his explorations into the significance of the creative process are landinarks in modern criticism. Much of his early work remains uncollected, but the essays in the 1903 volume, Ideas of Good and Evil, contain classic statements of the value of symbolism.

The Abbey Theatre and its predecessors have been Ireland’s mother of genius, sometimes her bad boy, and sometimes her too respectable matron. The story has been told by many of the major participants, with more or less personal bias - by Lady Gregory and by George Moore in his reminiscences, by Yeats in his autobiography and in the essays collected as Plays and Controversies (1923). There have, indeed, been almost as many controversies as plays. There were quarrels over organization, over play selection and direction, over touring policy. And the public was sometimes better heard than the cast, notably in the famous week in January, 1907, when Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World ran for night after night amid jeers and catcalls. There were episodes and escapades, such as Yeats’s sly publication of Where There Is Nothing in [55] Griffith’s United Irishman, which George Moore would be powerless to attack, for fear of appearing unpatriotic.

In view of all this, the opening prospectus has a somewhat ironic ring today, with its expectation that ‘We hope to find in Ireland an uncorrupted and imaginative audience trained to listen by its passion for oratory.’ The theatre planned to produce ‘Celtic and Irish plays,’ which, regardless of quality, would be written ‘with a high ambition.’ In her account of Our Irish Theatre (1913), Lady Gregory smiled at the use of the word ‘Celtic.’ Confessing that ‘I myself never quite understood the meaning of the ’Celtic Movement,- she gave her own interpretation: ‘... to persuade the Scotch to begin buying our books, while we continued not to buy theirs.”

In spite of vicissitudes, the Abbey Theatre did bring poetic drama and poetic acting to a country which had long been forced to subsist on a diet of road shows from England, with their tired and tried slapstick and melodrama. The Theatre’s powers of revival have been amazing. Time and again it has been prpnounced dead, only to turn up with more gifted playwrights. George Moore and Edward Martyn retired early, but they were immediately followed by Synge and Lady Gregory. The completely inexperienced mistress of Coole Park revealed an unexpected gift for comedy, and her sketches of Irish life have been among the Abbey favorites. The Theatre might have seemed doomed at the time of Synge’s death in igog, but then appeared Lord Dunsany and Lennox Robinson, and after them, Sean O’Casey.

Yeats was active in every phase of the dramatic movement. He wrote some of the finest poetic and symbolic plays of this century, and, ever the expert publicist, reiterated [56] the ideals of the literary theatre in essays and speeches. He raised money for the company by lectures and private ivadings, and often had to undergo criticism as a snob or an English sympathizer for his appearances in country houses. Exhausting and time-consuming as these activities must have been, they gave to the poet a grounding in human experience that brought the solidity of life to his poetry. (49-57.)


When he reviewed Douglas Hyde’s translations of the Love Songs of Connacht (1893), Yeats had spoken wistfully about the freshness of these expressions of sorrow or ecstasy by forgotten Gaelic singers. He had closed the book ‘with much sadness,’ aeare as he was of the loss of innocence [57] which separated that early time from the present. ‘The soul then had but to stretch out his arms to fill them with beauty,’ but now ‘we stand outside the wall of Eden.’ To readers of a later day the early years of the century seem to retain something of the pastoral simplicity for which Yeats was even then yearning.

The sapphire and amethyst hues of AE’s verse have faded, and little of his once greatly admired poetry retains vitality. He confessed to Sean O’Faolain that he wrote as though he were actually ‘on the slopes of death,’ and that he was deeply gratified when it brought comfort to others. His sweetness and spirituality are apparent, and one may only regret that his visions are so intangible. Few of his lines are memorable, largely because they seem to dissolve into the insubstantiality of dream. One recalls

Our hearts were drunk with a beauty
Our eyes could never see

and wishes that he could recall more. His meditation on “Reflections”; comes closer to actual experience, arising as it does from the blue surface of an Irish lake and leading to a consideration of the borrowed grandeur of man, ‘with mirrored majesties and powers.’ More specific is “An Irish Face,”; a study of the lines of sorrow imprinted on the features of a child:

And dreaming of the sorrow on this face We grow of lordlier race.

Becoming transformed by ‘a deep adoring pity,’ we are thereby made into ‘what we dream upon.”

We may also regret, as did AE, that so little of the lighter, human side of his nature came to be expressed in his [58] poems. Lady Gregory mentions his ‘humbugging verses’ which teased James Stephens, but in his volumes of poetry AE’s official mood of high seriousness seldom allowed him to show the twinkle in his eye.


John Butler Yeats’s portraits of the major figures in the revival retain much of the graciousness of Dublin at the turn of the century. At the suggestion of Hugh Lane, the poet’s father left London in 1902 and undertook an extensive series of portraits in oil and crayon. Most of literary and artistic Dublin sat for him. Years later Susan Mitchell, one of his subjects, recalled his manner of painting: ‘The brave, tall figure, brush in hand, advancing on his canvas with great strides ... putting on touches with the ardour of one who would storm a fortress,’ and, of course, ‘talking enchantingly all the time, his whole nature in movement.’ His rooms on St. Stephen’s Green, more salon than studio, were filled with friends. He kept so busy chatting [61] that his portraits were produced very slowly; moreover, as his son recalled, his impressionable mind was always open to afterthoughts, so that everything he did was a constantly being retouched.


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Seldom have personalities played so important and role in literature as in the Ireland of Yeats. One thinks of George Moore’s reminiscences and of Joyce’s Ulysses; but no Irish writer hesitated to use himself, his friends, or his enemies, as copy. The Dubliner’s gift of phrase made these verbal portraits as memorable as the familiar oil paintings and drawings of celebrities, many of them gifts by Hugh Lane, the art connoisseur and nephew of Lady Gregory.

A sensationally successful art dealer, Lane was a center of controversy in death as in life. He was suspected of selfish motives when he urged Dublin to buy masterpieces, and even when he offered his own collection to the city provided a suitable gallery be built. Obviously the bestqualified candidate for the curatorship of the National Museum, he was passed over in favor of the Papal Count George Plunkett, thereby provoking the first of Yeats’s topical poems, “An Appointment”; . [...]

Even without the disputed pictures, Lane’s benefactions [66] were impressive, including more than sixty paintings of the traditional schools. Among them were canvasses by Bordone, Strozzi, and Poussin which provided images for Yeats’s poetry. In addition, Lane, inspired by Lady Gregory’s enthusiasm, commissioned John Butler Yeats, William Orpen, and others to paint portraits of Irish celebrities. These pictures reveal strong features, in which vigor and sensibility are blended. Seeing them, one understands the impact of these writers, actors, and political leaders on Irish culture, and senses the distinctively Irish and AngloIrish flavor of their personalities. In the eager gaze of iE as he peers through his spectacles Count Markievicz: creates an impression of this famed host who was as keen to hear the views of others as he was to express his own. J. B. Yeats caught in the relaxed figure of Synge, arms crossed, a faintly perceptible smile on his lips, the earthy humor and tragedy of his plays. Epstein’s bold head of Lady Gregory conveys her matronly strength. In the pencil sketch by J. B. Yeats the young poet Padraic Colum is wistfully meditative. Mancini’s bold use of chiaroscuro was admired by Synge, who, Yeats tells us in his poem on the Municipal Gallery, thought the Lady Gregory portrait the finest since Rembrandt. Even better is his monumental canvas depicting the sensitive and aristocratic figure of Lane himself.


The exaltation of the personal carries over into the realms of thought. The lack of any central cultural tradition in Ireland prompted a free play of individuality and a refreshing originality, but its perils can be seen in the constant tendency toward the subjective and the esoteric. [68]

Yet however far the artist’s quest leads into the irrational and the occult, it seems eventually to return to the world of men. AE describes his visions in paintings and poems, but he finds these visions applicable to his other careers of economist and molder of public opinion. Yeats transmutes his cabalistic speculations into concrete symbols of sword and fire and golden bird, and the world’s poetry is thereby enriched. One striking exception is the later work of Joyce, whose contrapuntal, polylinguistic Finnegans Wake demands a dozen pages of exegesis for each page of text.

Writers were saved from the dangers of private delusion by the practical affairs in which they participated, and by the constant interplay of personalities in Dublin. The popular ‘at-homes’ provided both sounding boards and testing grounds. Seldom have there been such gatherings of talent, at least since the days of Johnson’s Club.


In As I Was Going Down Sackville Street, Gogarty describes one of his own Fridays at the time of the Civil War. Ignoring the machine-gun fire in the street, iE expostulated imperturbably, holding the attention of the stalwart military hero of the Free State, Michael Collins, who had been tracked by spies to the very doorstep. Although subject to ambush at any moment-he was murdered a few weeks later-Collins maintained big cool gallantry, even reaching for a pad to take a note. But AE’s mystic speculations were beyond the General’s ken. Collins’ voice rang out in direct question: ‘Your point, Mr. Russell?’ The mood was shattered. In his multiple roles as host, proud friend of Collins, and littérateur, Gogarty was, for the moment, almost thrown off balance. But he recovered sufficiently to let Collins depart for a place of hiding, to urge AE that the group was still avid for astral wisdom, and, at the end of the evening, to apologize to the American college girls who were among the guests, explaining that though his home was ever open to patriots and to friends, it was, above all, ‘a house for artists and not for lecturers, readers, preachers, teachers or people with points.’ As an artist, AE communicated himself, not points.

The value of Monk Gibbon’s recent memoir of Yeats may arise largely from the resentment which it expresses, for none of the biographical studies of the poet convey the unfavorable impression he sometimes created in Dublin during his life. On his return home from his teaching post [70] abroad, Gibbon always found it ‘an intoxicating experience to come back to Dublin and its great talkers.’ Himself Irish, Gibbon was not content to listen. He felt impelled to question, and to contradict. And he sensed, perhaps wrongly, that Yeats would entertain no opposition, speaking ex cathedra on all issues, and showing no interest in contrary views. T. Sturge Moore once made a distinction between the ‘provocative truculence’ of the public Yeats and his ‘seductive delicacy’ in private. If this be true, Gibbon seems to have seen only the public man. The dramatic frankness of Gibbon’s account somewhat alleviates its bitterness, but the slurs which the young man suffered, or imagined, have apparently rankled for years. He suppresses neither his personal resentment nor his respect for Yeats, and one puts down the book with a vivid picture of both the greatness and the smallness of Yeats-his mastery of words and ideas, his occasional lack of mastery of his own vanity.


AE had an incredible memory, and at one time was reputed able to recite not only all his own verse but everything that his friend Yeats had written. We must not let the image of the seer blind us to the fact that he was a man of affairs. For twenty-five years his was the most articulate voice of the national conscience. His periodicals, The Irish Homestead and later The Irish Statesman, constantly measured current political events against his own high standards. He answered Kipling’s inflammatory attack on Irish Catholicism. When the newspaper owner William Murphy was breaking the Dublin transport strike of 1913, AE’s ‘Open Letter to the Masters of Dublin’ arraigned the capitalist with the vehemence of a Hebrew prophet:

You may succeed in your policy and ensure your own damnation by your victory. The men whose manhood you have broken will loathe you, and will always be brooding and scheming to strike a fresh blow.

Three years later he traced the tragic Easter Rising to the ill will of employers during the Great Strike: ‘It was Labour supplied the passional element in the revolt.’

Like Yeats, he could accept the ‘terrible beauty’ that [72] was born in Easter week, although he felt that the Devil was loose in Ireland during the Civil War, with ‘crazy Gaeldom’ uncontrolled. As the new country seemed to develop the same old politicians, he was finding it more and more difficult to remain loyal. Left alone by his wife’s death and his son’s moving to America, however, at last he decided that it was time ‘to break up the mould of mind in which I was decaying.’ Even so, he parted with his paintings and his books and left home and friends in a characteristic mood of optimism and indignation: ‘I think the change will reinvigorate me, and it will be a relief to get away from Ireland in its present mood, which is one of smugness.’

Throughout his life, AE enjoyed an almost universal love and respect. George Moore even forgot himself - mirabile dictu - long enough to make AE the most attractive figure in his Hail and Farewell (1911-14). To Moore, he seemed a man from fabled Arcady, with ‘the mind of Corot in verse and prose,’ whose pastels conveyed ‘a spiritual seeing of the world.’ Arch-mocker and egotist as he was, Moore could not ridicule a man whose ’gray pantheistic eyes ... looked so often into my soul with such a kindly gaze.’ The kindly gaze embraced younger,writers too. It was AE who opened his journals as well as his home to new talent, and who published lyrics by Padraic Colum, Eva Gore-Booth, Susan Mitchell, and others in his anthology New Songs. Joyce’s disappointment at not being included is apparent in the discussion of the book in Ulysses, but again it was AE who first published Joyce’s fiction, three of the Dubliners stories appearing in The Irish Homestead in the latter half of 1904.

[...; see lengthy extract on James Joyce under “Major Authors”; , infra.]

[...] In the unhappy duty of establishing order in the new Free State, O’Higgins had been forced to the desperate expedient of executing prisoners as a deterrent to the lawlessness of the country. Among the victms was his odl friend, comrade, and best man at his wedding, Rory O’Connor. Another was the stubbornly Republican leader Erskine Childers, who had broken with his fellow patrios on the issue of the Treaty. Executed for illegal possession of firearms, Childers was carrying a revolver given him by Collins, once his friend and so recently his enemy. During the ensuing raids the father of O’Higgins was murdered, and, at last, in 1927, he himself met the fate he expeced, being shot down on a Dublin street. As he died in agony he said, ‘I forgive my murderers.’ His friend Yeats, hearing of this tragedy, walked alone for hours, inconsolable.

[...] The Irish struggle for independence was tragic in the truest sense of the word, for heroes were to some degree responsible for their fates, and they were great men who suffered greatly.

History was also to blame; political pressures, mounting for generations, rose to explosive violence and more than once threatened to destroy the very nation they were creating. Independence was finally won for part of the country but at a sorry cost. If something less than philosopher-kings, the leaders of the Irish Republic were unquestionblu dedicated idealists and commanding personalities. The Easter Rising of 1916 was manned and led by poets. And few of the principals survived the tragic drama.

[103; ...]

As a young man, tired of the aestheticism of London, Yeats plunged into politics with an unthinking zest which was amplified by his admiration for the unbelievably beautiful and unattainable Maud Gonne. Intoxicated by the only popular success he ever achieved, he made speeches, wrote letters to newspapers, and toured rural Ireland, finding himself everywhere the center of applause. He later reflected in his autobiography that ‘It was many years before I understood that I had surrendered myself to the chief temptation of the artist, creation without toil!’ His political activity culminated in the presidency of a committee to arrange celebration of the centenary of the 1798 uprising. He had hoped to reconcile factions. Again, he made a bitter self-judgment: ‘It was no business of mine, and that was precisely why 1 could not keep out of it.’ In addition to the influence of Maud Gonne, there was the noble figure of John O’Leary, veteran of five years in prison and fifteen of enforced exile, a man whose vision was large enough to accept the poetic achievements of the Unionist Sir Samuel Ferguson, and even to forgive those who had imprisoned him: ‘I was in the hands of my enemy, why should I complain.’ Some of the most eloquent pages of Yeats’s autobiography are devoted to this figure whose patriotism was second only to his integrity. The young disciple was often to remember his remark that ‘There are things a man must not do to save a Nation.’ [104] Throughout his life Yeats regarded O’Leary as the ideal Irish patriot.

The agitations of these years flash through the autobiography with kaleidoscopic brilliance and brevity - a meeting organized by the laborer James Connolly, later to be executed in the 1916 Rising; gatherings of Italian and French sympathizers; crowds smashing windows. It was a tumultuous time, and far removed from occult or poetic pursuits. Then Yeats dropped politics. Estrangement from Maud Gonne was a factor, as well as the new-found patronage and hospitality of Lady Gregory, and his interest in establishing an Irish theatre. In her memoirs, A Servant of the Queen (1938) Maud Gonne MacBride watches with amusement the rivalry between the two supporters of the theatre - Miss Horniman with the money, Lady Gregory with the brains. Yeats could not fail to contrast the generous enthusiasm of his patrons with the bigotry of patriotic clubs.


Sean O’Faolain, in his study of The Irish (1947), has classified the rebels as one of the country’s five basic types, the others being the peasantry, the Anglo-lrish, the priests, and the writers. In O’Faolain’s analysis, the rebel displays a devotion to failure, a heedless immaturity, for, lacking any tradition of statesmanship, his is the simple belief that ‘Death did not mean failure so long as the Spirit of the Revolt lived.’ Certainly the tradition of rebellion has long been cherished. Its emotional force has proven to be irresistible. Each generation has contributed its quota to the roll of martyrs, and each has been aware of its predecessors. Harry Boland recalled this tradition in speaking during the Treaty debates of December, 1921. Friend of the two antagonists, Michael Collins, “The Big Fellow,”; and Eamon de Valera, “The Long Fellow,”; Boland, himself fated to die in the forthcoming Civil War, cited the words of Pearse, the hero of the Easter Rising. Pearse had traced the proud lineage back to the seventeenth century, in which ‘the veterans of Kinsale fought at Benburb, the veterans of Benburb fought with Sarsfield at Limerick.’ From. the risings of 1798, Pearse said, an unbroken sequence led to 1916: ‘The man who defended Emmet lived to be a Young Irelander; three veterans of the Young Ireland Movement then founded Fenianism; and the veterans of the Fenian Movement stood with the Volunteers of 1916.’ In no other country do speeches of defiant idealism play so large a part in the national heritage, whether in Parliament, from the prisoner’s dock, or from the scaffold; and legend and ballad quickly follow events in this haven [108] of the oral tradition. Theobald Wolfe Tone and Lord Edward Fitzgerald head the list, and give it an aristocratic air. Their participation in the Rebellion of 1798, together with the belated protest of Robert Emmet in 1803, was the fountainhead of popular patriotic poetry, namely the stirring lines of John Kells Ingram, “Who fears to speak of Ninety-Eight?”; and Emmet’s final statement at the gallows: ‘When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written!’ Thomas Moore, a friend of Emmet’s, contributed to the legend with the elegy for Emmet’s fianc6e Sarah Curran, who died of a broken heart after marrying an officer and going with him to Sicily: ‘She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps.’ Other popular songs give romantic versions of the Rising of 1798. The pathetic ballad of “The Croppy Boy,”; trapped in 1798 by an officer impersonating a priest at the confessional, and the stirring “Boys of Wexford”; commemorate the occupation of that southern town by a band of insurgents, armed only with pikes.

Much of this verse has the immortality of subject matter and memorable rhetoric rather than that of profound insight. [Quotes Thomas Moore: ‘On our side is Virtue and Erin! / On theirs is the Saxon and Guilt.’ ] Yet it must be admitted that the association of Saxon guilt is one of long standing in Ireland [...] Lord Mountjoy [...] ‘scortched earth’ policy

[See 1916 leaders, et al., in RICORSO, Authors A-Z, for various remarks in the ensuing pages.]

[Quotes President Wilson in answering the Irish delegation at the Peace Conference of 1919:] ‘You have touched on the great metaphysical tragedy of today. When I gave utterance to those words I said them without the knowledge that nationalities existed which are coming to us day after day.’ 130]


Kevin O’Higgins once remarked that 20 per cent of the opposition to the Treaty was idealism, 2o per cent crime, and the rest sheer futility. In retrospect, several ‘mighthave-beens’ can be spotted. Had the first Declaration of Independence (January 21, 1919) been less specific, it would not have been interpreted as an outright mandate for a republic, a mandate violated by the Treaty. Had the army been more clearly under the authority of the Dail during the war, the possibility of its revolt would have [139] been lessened. Had anti-English propaganda not been so violent, settlement with England might have seemed less humiliating, and aspersions of treachery not so readily forthcoming. Had the Treaty not been signed so precipitately, it would have been accepted in better faith, and, had it been submitted to Cabinet or Dail, the onus would not have fallen on the delegates.

Without any such moderating circumstances, confusion was inevitable. Personalities seem to have been a disrupting factor, in the Dail and among the delegates. Between the moderate position of Griffith and the irreconcilable attitude of Brugha stood Collins and de Valera. Public support had not been consolidated behind any single policy or any single leader. The army was a potential source of disruption, since guerrilla fighters followed local leaders, and the methods of combat favored individual deeds of daring rather than co-ordinated efforts.

As in the most poignant dilemmas, no one was really to blame. Political inexperience may have caused the delegates to accept continued allegiance to the crown and the division of the island; at least there is a suspicion that Lloyd George and Winston Churchill were bluffing in their threats of war. Although the delegation could not have been expected to guess this, it does vindicate de Valera in his insistence upon a unified, independent Ireland. The unbearable stresses of the time may excuse the failure of pacts, conferences, and elections in ensuing months; yet the final cease-fire left the country more ravaged than ever. Irbnically enough, time and peaceful means were finally to gain independence, if not the end of partition. And, by another of the many ironies of Irish history, independence, when it came, was won by de Valera through [140] taking advantage of the achievements of his chief rival. In 1931, Cosgrave, successor of Criffith and Collins, had been president of the government when the English Parliament proposed what was to be known as the ‘Statute of Westminster’ which guaranteed the status of Commonwealth members as ‘autonomous communities freely associated,’ the definition adopted by the Imperial Conference Of 1926.

After the high idealism of the struggle for freedom, the Civil War was a sorry anticlimax. Undoubtedly there was still idealism on both sides, but violence proved unavoidable. Former companions fought savagely, and to the outside world it seemed as though the fair name of Ireland was being besmirched by the Irish themselves. When it came to guerrilla warfare, there was little to distinguish Free Stater or Republican from Black and Tan. The war in Europe had halted emigration, and hordes of young men constituted a threat to order. In addition, mere boys had taken to arms. In rural districts it was easy for the unscrupulous to indulge in theft and arson, and with combatants in civilian clothes, war sometimes of necessity became indistinguishable from murder.

In its sad efforts to enforce order among its own people, the government was forced to adopt the hated methods and even the arms, of the English. Imprisonment without trial the taking of hostages, the execution of prisoners in retaiiation, the use of spies and informers-all the sordid yet dramatic means of warfare were practiced. Again Yeats immortalized the time as the ‘blood-dimmed tide’ of that magnificent poetic evocation of historical crisis, “The Second Coming.”; In the ‘dragon-ridden’ days of igig he had prayed that his daughter be spared. He had refused to [141] celebrate the Allied side in the war of 1914-18, but the Irish wars threw deep shadows on his poetry. To his friend Sir Herbert Grierson, editor of Donne, Yeats expressed his horror at the outrages. Since none seem immune to the frenzy of blood, ’Ve may learn charity after mutual contempt.’ [143]

[...; see lengthy extract on W. B. Yeats under “Major Authors”; , infra.]

The gradual reconstruction of the country during the last thirty years has seemed an anticlimax to the dramatic events of earlier days. Independence has been won for the Southern counties, and the partition of the island is such an old and apparently unsolvable problem that it no longer arouses heat. There has been a steady improvement [146] in the national economy, although emigration continues at the rate of about forty thousand persons a year. In the light of its bitter history, the most remarkable achievement has been the maintenance of religious toleration. But an Ireland without problems is almost inconceivable. Many have been the complaints about cultural insularity and sterility, and, on the other hand, about the loss of vitality in the native culture. For some time state censorship, and the even more insidious forms of suppression by parochial opinion, seemed to threaten Irish culture. In recent years, however, a more enlightened view has obtained, and works of unquestioned literary merit have been removed from the list of banned books. More debatable is the problem of the language. There is occasion for genuine concern at the death of Irish as a living language. The number of native speakers is declining at a rapid rate, and thirty-five years of official promotion have seemingly failed of their purpose, either because of the rapidity of the attempted shift from English to Irish or because of the effects of governmental pressure. To create a small Gaelic nation in the midst of an English-speaking world has seemed anachronistic and futile, although admirers of the poetry, eloquence, and wit of their linguistic inheritance cannot help but regret its loss. The generation of the patriot-idealists has all but disappeared, and once more Ireland faces the prospect of defining its place in the greatly changed mid-century world.

A remarkable feature of modern Irish history is the growing stature of Eamon de Valera during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Few national leaders have survived so much hatred and ridicule. His lean figure and unsmiling face made him a target for cartoonists. His policies have been met with [147] derision. When he attacked the Treaty he was accused of word-splitting, and in the Civil War that followed he seemed guilty of fomenting anarchy. These were the wilderness years. Once hunted by the British, he was now pursued and imprisoned by the Irish of both North Ireland and the Free State. In fact he was a virtual outlaw, rejected by the I.R.A. and Sinn Fein alike. At this time, as Sean O’Faolain once observed, he, with his unkempt look, long overcoat, crushed felt hat, and worn brief case, might have been mistaken for any of the thousands of disheveled idealists and misfits who drifted throughout mid-European capitals. But his five and one-half years of political exile, fourteen months of them in prison, were finally ended. In August, 1927, he led his newly formed Fianna Fail party back into the Dail, at the cost of signing the hated oath of allegiance to the English crown. When he explained that he considered a compulsory oath not binding, he was mocked as an opportunist. On his assumption of leadership in 1932, many feared the possibility of a native fascism, and expected that he would retaliate upon his former enemies. His maintenance of neutrality during World War II, popular though it was in Ireland, was cynically attacked in England and America.

None of the labels has stuck, and few of the fears have materialized. With a dignity that confutes his mockers, de Valera has emerged as a Lincoln who survived the dramatic years of crisis and who has undertaken the drab duties of national recovery. As an obscure mathematics teacher he surprised everyone by becoming one of the most capable commanders in the igi6 Rising. The only leader to survive, he has remained in office ever since, with the exception of his abstention of 19.22-27 and the two interludes [148] of 1948-51 and 1954-57. But for millions the world over, de Valera, whether in or out of office, represents the Republic of Ireland.

A practical Quixote and a doctrinaire without vindictiveness, he has faced withering criticism without losing his equanimity. What confounds his opponents is the fact that he means what he says-although many complain that it is impossible to know just what he does say, his verbal ambiguities being notorious. To his scholastic mentality compromise is anathema, and he pursued his goal of a united, independent Ireland to the very brink of defeat before deflecting his course. His dogged persistence provided one of the rare instances of humor in his career. During the elections of 1923 he had been arrested at a meeting in the town of Ennis just as he was about to speak. One year later he was released, and returning to Ennis to speak, he opened with the casual phrase, ‘As 1 was saying to you when we were interrupted. ...”

Utterly devoid of the romantic flamboyance that seems so characteristic of the Irish, his only shortcomings appear to be his virtues. He once admitted that his great strength was that he lacked the ability to say anything clever, - a fatal gift.’ This great abstainer does not smoke, does not drink, and does not engage in trivial talk. It has been said that he creates a drab image of peasant piety, but the image is also one of integrity and dedication. He has been accused of looking backward, of seeing in Ireland only a haven of provincial and unprogressive contentment. In any case, his values seem to be simple and refreshingly oldfashioned. He has been too honest to be diplomatic. When an applicant for a position on the Irish Press admitted to being unpolitically minded, the President of the Executive [149] Council disarmingly replied, somewhat ruefully, ‘Neither am I’. Yet the master politician Lloyd George said of de Valera’s protest against the oath, ‘It is a clear demand from which Mr. de Valera has never swerved,’ adding, ‘He is that type; he will never change.’

As head of the Council of the League of Nations in 1932, de Valera confounded experienced diplomats with his clear demands for disarmament. His opinion of Field Marshal Wilson’s assassination in 1922 had been direct and honest: ‘I do not approve, but I must not pretend to misunderstand.’ It took courage, or obstinacy if you will, to maintain neutrality in World War II, for it meant closing Irish ports to Americans as well as to British. Yet when Winston Churchill, in his victory broadcast, indulged in self-congratulations on his ‘restraint and poise’ in not forcing Ireland to concur, and referred to the shamefulness of Irish policy, de Valera made a dignified answer. Knowing, he said, the kind of reply that was expected, indeed the kind of reply that he himself might have made years before, ‘I shall strive not to be guilty of adding any fuel to the flames of hatred and passion, which, if continued to be fed, promise to burn up whatever is left by the war of decent human feelings in Europe.’ In the searing light of Churchill’s rhetoric, these words seem colorless, but they are words of wisdom. Ireland’s tempestuous struggles have ceased, and the dramatic gesture is no longer in fashion, but in the annals of history this clerical idealist will take his place beside his more vivid predecessors. Unlike them, he has not given his countrymen the customary memorable phrases and grand deeds. In fact it might be said that he has brought them little but that rarest of all features of Irish political life-success. [150]


Puns may be defended on the same basis as cakes and ale, that is, for sheer delight, but if a more serious defense be sought, it may be found implicit in james joyce’s reply to a query whether his puns weren’t trivial: ‘Some of them are trivial and some are quadrivial.’ The reference to the scholastic curriculum suggests the relationships between departmentalized forms of knowledge, and the role of language as a somewhat adequate but often faulty mode of communication. A Jesuit scholar who has made an authoritative study of Joyce and Aquinas (1957), Rev. William T. Noon, points out that the pun is a metaphor which ‘the phonetic or orthographic accident fortuitously, as it were, highlights or ’sparks’ with energy.”


The revolt of the intellectual who, like Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist, will not serve that which he cannot believe has its verbal expression in epigram and paradox. Christianity itself is based on paradox, or rather on a series of paradoxical reversals of worldly values, as Hugh Kenner has demonstrated in his study of G. K. Chesterton. Mysteries of the spirit are not capable of rational resolution; if they can be destroyed by lofic, they can be demonstrated by life. [...; 155]


Just as Hamlet is both distracted and protected by wild [156] and whirling words, so the Irish may have compensated for their historical disasters by their eminence in verbal warfare. Thus in his reminiscences Oliver St. John Gogarty delights in the triumph of his own imagination: ‘How magnificently I was turning the tables on reality by making it wax and wane to suit my ebb and flow of consciousness.”

The Irish bull, a logical statement of an absurdity, illustrates the inextricable confusion of order and disorder. The witty classicist Mahaffy defined the Irish bull as the only bull that is pregnant, and Lynn Doyle’s definition, like Mahaffy’s, is itself a bull: ‘The saying of a thing in an obscure way to make your meaning clearer than if you had put it in plain language.’ To illustrate, one may quote the politician who asserted that ‘half the lies the Nationalists tell the people are not true.”

As a master of satiric invective, Jonathan Swift exploited every shade of tonal modulation, ranging from pretended indifference to the utmost vituperation. Gulliver’s experiences provide a compendium of rhetorical devices, which analytical critics and readers alike never cease to enjoy. To mention only a few in passing, there is the fiction of the innocent observer who merely reports what he sees, and, in the first two books of the Travels, the toying with perspective through which human affairs are seen in Lilliputian triviality and then projected in their gigantic enormity. The manipulation of understatement and overstatement, the flights into the absurd, and the descents into the scatological may also be mentioned.

Analysis of the clever involutions of Swift’s satiric genius can be more readily encompassed by outlining the main turns of thought in his defense of Christianity. The elaborate [157] title is permeated with innuendo: ‘An Argument to prove that the Abolishing of Christianity in England may, as things now stand, be attended with some inconveniences, and perhaps not produce those many good effects proposed thereby.’ Note the cautious and revealing modification, ‘as things now stand,’ the understatement, ‘some inconveniences,’ and the hypothetical proposal which is to be refuted. The primary supposition that men wish to abolish Christianity is based on the way they act. Thus it may seem paradoxical, even in this paradoxical age, to try to defend something so outmoded. Yet, imprudent as that be, Swift hastens to reassure us that he is not so foolish as to attempt to defend real Christianity. Any such effort ‘would indeed be a wild project,’ which, if successful, would have utterly devastating effects upon ‘the entire frame and constitution of things,’ such as trade, learning, courts, exchanges, and shops. The arguments for abolishing nominal Christianity may seem unanswerable: its impossible demands on faith, and even more impossible demands on conduct, would lead one to believe that there would be less faction and more comfort without the church. No one, however, is really inconvenienced by these demands nowadays, and there is ‘one darling inclination of mankind’ which can be counted on to keep faction alive, namely, the spirit of opposition. If the wits were not able to attack the church, things might get out of hand indeed, what with the disturbance of the peace and the breaking of laws. Then too, religion has some value to the common people, ‘as furnishing excellent material to keep children quiet when they grow peevish, and providing topics of amusement in a tedious winter-night.’ Practical objections to the cost and time spent on religion [158] can be similarly answered. Few people are really bothered. The crowning inconveniences of abolishing Christianity remain to be mentioned. It ‘may perhaps bring the Church into danger, or at least put the senate to the trouble of another securing vote.’ It could affect our alliances; and, worst of all, ‘I do very much apprehend, that in six months time after the act is passed ... the Bank, and EastIndia Stock, may fall at least one per cent.’ Since this is fifty times more than we spend to preserve the church, it would be folly to incur ‘so great a loss, merely for the sake of destroying it.”

If the prose displays the grand effects of irony, Swift’s poetry shows the lighter side of his verbal agility. In his “Serious Poem”; ridiculing William Wood, the promoter of the hated coinage of 1724, Swift romps through dozens of puns on the name. He proclaims that ‘we all should Rejoyce to be Hewers of WOOD,’ toys with the idea of using faggots to burn ‘an old Fryer,’ speculates on what species the coiner might be - ‘Son of a BEECH,’ thorn, crab, or poison yew - and raises the embarrassing question:

How came it to pass
WOOD got so much Copper? He got it by BRASS ....

With his cronies Delany and Sheridan, Swift exchanged riddles and epigrams, occasional verse, even a parody cantata. He used triple rhyme in an invitation to Sheridan:

Dear Tom, this verse, which however the beginning may
 appear, yet in the end’s good metre,
Is sent to desire that, when your August vacation comes,
 your friend’s you’d meet here ....

He can repeat identical double rhymes ad infinitum: [159]

I Pitied my Cat, whom I knew by her Mew sick;
She mended at first, but now she’s anew sick.
Captain Butler made some in the Church black and blue sick
Dean Cross, had he preach’d, would have made us all Pew-sick ...

His mock Latin is most amusing, especially in the charming verses to Molly:

Mollis abuti,
Has an acuti
No lasso finis;
Molli dii vinis ....

[...] A strange sequence of parody upon parody has been recounted by Mr. Vivien Mercier in one of his essays on Irish humor. The doggerel of ‘Castlehyde’ makes it a worthy candidate for the title of one of the worst poems in English. Its jingling rhythms have been attributed to an Irish poet’s imperfect knowledge of English poetic idiom:

The richest groves throughout this nation and fine plantations you will see there;
The rose, the tulip, and sweet carnation, all vying with the lily fair

Richard Milliken once won a bet that he could write something equally absurd. The result was “The Groves of [160] Blarney.”; The game was on, and the unconventional priest and wit of Fraser’s Magazine, Father Mahony, added stanzas, as well as inventing a Greek ‘original’ and Italian, French, and Latin versions! This master mixer of languages and predecessor of James Joyce, through his creation ‘Father Prout,’ carried on a literary feud with the popular Irish versifier Tom Moore. His essay on ‘The Rogueries of Tom Moore’ accused the poet of plagiarism through the dubious expedient of praising his translations from French, Latin, and Greek ‘sources,’ all of them of course created by Mahony himself. After all, he said, translation ‘is the next best thing to having a genius of one’s own.’ But when the translations are praised as almost equal to the presumed originals, we are in the looking-glass world of Sterne or Joyce.

Father Mahony had the unusual distinction of having been discharged from his position at the school later attended by Joyce, Clongowes Wood College. It seems that on an outing he and his charges imbibed so freely that they returned strapped to loads of turf in carts! He once characterized himself as ‘an Irish potato seasoned with Attic salt,’ and said of Father Prout what he might just as well have said of himself that ‘his brain was a storehouse of inexhaustible knowledge, and his memory a bazaar.”

His equal as a linguist and wit was his colleague William Maginn, the editor of Fraser’s Magazine. Maginn once supplied elegiac verses for Sir Daniel Donnelly in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and fabricated others by ‘Byron’ and ‘Wordsworth’. A contemporary London editor, William Jerden of the Literary Gazette, admitted the impossibility of conveying the temperament of Maginn, ‘the [161] precocious, the prolific, the humorous, th eccentric, the erratic, the versatile, the learned, the wonderfully endowed, the Irish.”

[...; incls. remarks on Tyrrell, Mahaffy, Tim Healy, Susan Mitchell, Oliver St. John Gogarty, et al.]

The Irish have found Kipling an ideal target. A people with a long religious tradition, they can easily unmask the penny’s worth of gospel in these jungle tunes. The pompous platitudes will not escape a nation long misruled by the English. It is not hard to strip the robes of piety from this sanctimonious imperialist. And to compound the aggravation, Kipling was himself of Ulster stock and had written a blatant warning against the fury of Irish Catholics, ‘the hells declared / For such as serve not Rome.’ Of those who have taken Kipling’s measure, none were more successful than Susan Mitchell, who adapted the banalities of “Recessional”; to the pleading of an Ulster Protestant having ‘a few plain words’ with the Deity. The well [164] known refrain is modified into a gibe at the bourgeois traits for which Northern Ireland has long been ridiculed, the Deity being appraised of the fact that ‘our hearts are set / On what we get, on what we get.’ Then, most recently, there is the free adaptation of Kipling in Brendan Behan’s sarcastic song extolling English virtues, with its inane refrain, ‘The captains and the kings.’ This jingle pops into Behan’s theatrical extravaganza The Hostage (1958) with the same unpredictability as do most of the characters.


Susan Mitchell’s delicious mockery is contained in the little volume Aids to the Immortality of Certain Persons in Ireland, Charitably Administered (1905). The author provides her own review of the book, so that no reviewer may ‘wriggle in’ between poet and ‘victim.’ The verses are topical, centering around George Moore’s antics, the rising force of Sinn Fein, the controversies over the Municipal Art Gallery, and the riots at the performance of Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World. A ballad which brings in many Dublin characters is that of John Shawe-Taylor and Hugh Lane, concerning the presumedly forged early Corot in Lane’s collection.

The Achievement
[...] In the midst of his diverse activcites, Yeats always held before himself the idea: ‘Hammer your thoughts into unity.’ For European culture he had the same goal, hoping that Ireland might show the way by turning from the ‘bragging rhetoric and gregarious humour’ of earlier days to the ideal represented by parnell, ‘solitary and proud’. Certainly Yeats’s own career gained strength through its [173] unified development, in which speeches and essays document plays and poems, and youthful concerns mature and burgeon, rising from the personal domain to the national, and finally to the universal plane. One of his favorite images of organic growth was the tree. In accounting for the literary failure of his father’s friend John Todhunter, Yeats detected a lack of passion and the absence of harmonious growth: ‘If he had liked anything strongly he might have been a famous man, for a few years later he was to write, under some casual patriotic impulse, certain excellent verses now in all Irish anthologies; but with him every book was a new planting, and not a new bud on an old bough.’

[Ed. note: see further passages omitted here under W. B. Yeats and James Joyce in ‘Major Authors’ , infra.]

The Celtic Twilight lingered into the deepening shadows of the twentieth century, and it is appropriate that night should at last fall in 1939, when nightmare rode the ismagination of man. In retrospect the flowering of Anglo-Irish culture was to appear Arcadian, although in fact its fifty-year history had seldom been free from strife and violence. The last major works of this movement are singularly appropriate to the time. In the autumn of 1938, when the world was trembling before the threats of Hitler, Yeats had written his last great testament, the poem “Under Ben Bulben.”; At the same time James Joyce, tormented by family troubles and racked with self-doubt, was concluding his encylopedic, multilingual dream-book, Finnegans Wake. Yeats died in January, 1939, just fifty years after the publication of his first major volume of poetry, The Wanderings of Oisin. Joyce lived for two more unhappy years, fleeing Paris at the time of Hitler’s invasion, and, ever the exile, finally escaping from unoccupied France to neutral Switzerland just one month before his death.

“Under Ben Bulben’ is a magnificent utterance, consolidating the poet’s position in the national ethos, and setting the epigraph on a half-century of achievement. It recapitulates the heroic themes of former works. The ancient sages reappear, together with the legendary horsemen and the mythic superhuman women. The aging poet faces death With stoic faith in the continuity of the great cycles of destiny. Strong though gravediggers be, they can only [183] ‘thrust their buried men / Back in the human mind again.’ Death itself may be but one more form of that life-giving ecstasy of violence, that tragic joy in which all great deeds are achieved. Throughout the sweep of the historical process the task of the artist remains the same, to ‘bring the soul of man to God.’ In this task the Irish poet is especially privileged, heir to a unique destiny and spokesman of a culture which for centuries has received the contributions of lord and laborer, saint and scholar. Thus, amid the vast concourses of history, two things remain steadfast: the spiritual goal of art and the tradition of the nation. And so, too, Yeats can return to his inheritance, his body in the churchyard of his grandfather’s church at Drumcliff, the legend-haunted mass of Ben Bulben on the horizon, an ancient Irish cross near by, and on the stone an epitaph reminiscent of Swift’s noble words, bidding the passer-by imitate the nobility of the dead hero.

Joyce finally, after seventeen years of meditation on history, ransacking the world’s cultures for pun or portent, was to project the same shadowy symbols as did Yeats, and to return, like Yeats, to humble filial piety. In a vision more pantheistic than that of Yeats, tree and stone, loud and river remain as ever-changing witnesses to the eternal cycles of the generations of mankind. Both writers share the ancient belief that there is a uniquely Celtic insight, a quality evoked by Irish literature and legend. Although Irish in origin, this spirit is universal. He who could read its meaning might possess a sacred book and know the soul of man. [184; end.]

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