Irish elements in Yeats' poetry

Yeats succeed in conveying that the Irish people sacrifices in their freedom struggle were prolonged and spread over a long period.

Although Yeats used Irish mythology in his early poems, yet he is not simply intent to retell the Irish legends. Yeats’ impulse to transcend his folk-lore material is a constant pre-occupation with him. As an Irishman, he is passionately attached to his country by ties of ancestors and pride in his country’s history and legends. He gradually became disillusioned when he felt the violence and hatred of the Irish political leaders.

The use of the inherited subject-matter and the mythology of Ireland were not something educational or poetic in a simple way but something more deeply political.

Yeats is keen to show in a vision something of the face of Ireland. His attempt is to revive the folk art which he considered to be the golden dream of the king and peasant. To Yeats Irish folk tales were one of he principal sources from which the Irish imagination might strengthen itself by drinking from the fountains of tradition.

For Yeats the most powerful influence came from John O’Leary, a great Irish patriot. Yeats himself acknowledged this debt:
It was through the old Ferian leader John O’Leary I found my theme.
Yeats not only lived in the troubled modern era but also lived in a country where trouble was brewing all the time. His poem “September 1913” relates to a municipal controversy in Dublin in the year 1913 which involved for Yeats the dignity of culture in Ireland and the hope for an Irish literary and artistic revival. In this sense, “September 1913” is a pierce attack on the whole city of Dublin. “To a Shade”, one of the most significant Irish poems of Yeats, is addressed to Parnell.

yeats poetryAnother great Irish poem is “Easter 1916”. For Yeats Easter uprising of 1916 came to have a great significance. For Yeats, people involved in this uprising had changed everything. The poem shows Yeats’ modified attitude of admiration for the Irish revolutions and martyrs. It is an attempt to move not only into the public world but into a great flow of public world which is called history.
All changed, changed utterly
A terrible beauty is born.
It is an attempt to renew the Irish revolution by restoring its soul. The poem like “The Seven Sages”, also tackles Irish themes. Yeats has been described as a last of the romantics and the first of the moderns. It means he carried both romanticism and modernism. He is an Irish poet. He is very much concerned with Irish history, Irish folk-lore and Irish struggle for independence. Yeats enjoyed the sound of words and used them to create rich texture in his poetry. We notice his use of Irish place-names and the names of figures in Irish legend and history.

At the same time, we must not forget that Yeats’ Irishness was always primarily literary and artistic, much more than political. Yeats’ Irishnesss was thus concerned more with the cultivation of the taste of Irish people than with the struggle of parties group around him.

Yeats’ Nationalism at the same time was liberal and broad based as it is very clear from his repeated attacks on narrow-minded nationalists. Yeats, in fact, gradually moved away from the contemporary fanaticism of Iris politics, but as the poem like “Easter 1916” makes it crystal clear, even in his disillusionment with Irish fanaticism, Yeats never stopped responding quickly and sincerely to the heroism of martyrs, some of whom he may not have liked personally.
What is it but nightfall?
The second section of the poem sketches the personalities of the nationalists before their destruction in the Easter rising. Maud Gonne was one of them, beautiful when young, had spoiled her beauty in the favor of politics agitation. Another was the poet and the school teacher. A third had shown sensitivity and intellectual daring, a fourth has seemed only a drunken vain. The beauty which is born out of these deaths is a terrible beauty.
Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
Yeats’ sense of his own identity and function as a poet began to take shape in the context of Irish nationalism and shows his deliberate and many sided effort to provide the Irish national movement some finer notice than mere hatred of the English.

Yeats complained of the political class in Ireland, the lower middle from which the patriotic associations have drawn their leaders for the past ten years. These people are burning in fire of deep hatred for English.

The poem contains the result of Yeats’ contemplation on the real nature of these people’s sacrifices who last their lives in the Easter uprising of 1916. At the same time Yeats succeed in conveying that the Irish people sacrifices in their freedom struggle were prolonged and spread over a long period.

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