Inside the Trojan Horse

W.B. Yeats had always believed in keeping the mind open to the possibility of miracles and ‘Easter 1916‘ is brilliant testimony to the magic that transformed ordinary men who ‘I have passed with a nod of the head / Or polite meaningless words’ into revolutionaries; just reciting their names enacts the aura they now possess (‘I write it out in a verse / MacDonagh and MacBride / And Connolly and Pearse’).

Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen‘, however, is full of anxiety, disappointment and sense of loss, devoid of the comfort that Yeats thought he had found in spirituality.

He defended his mysticism as ‘stylistic arrangements of experience comparable to the cubes in the drawing of Wyndham Lewis and to the ovoids in the sculpture of Brancusi.’

It is tempting to equate this with Eliot’s misunderstanding of Homeric myth in Joyce’s Ulysses as ‘simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.’

Book Review: Yeats and Violence: Michael Wood (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Seán Sheehan

Irish Left Review

September 9th, 2010

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