This short play is an indulgence of Yeats's research on Jonathan Swift. He was a life-long celibate. Some say he was too repulsive to marry, others thThis short play is an indulgence of Yeats's research on Jonathan Swift. He was a life-long celibate. Some say he was too repulsive to marry, others that he was secretly gay, but Yeats says that the evidence points to a man so out of tune with the coming modern world that he couldn't bear to sire children in it. But the play is also a dramatic seance scene, in which the practice is vindincated by an uneducated woman vividly depicting emotionally charged scenes between Swift and his would-be lovers that only a scholar could have deliberately faked.
This is not a great work for the ages but has a lot of worth if you care about Swift's biography, about the fad of seance clubs and about the literary culture of the time it was written - certainly such a work would have no audience in today's age. Also out of historical interest we can gleam the link (embodied by Yeats) between this strength of belief in literary culture's virtues and the nationalist sentiment in Ireland:
John Corbet: I am writing an essay on Swift and Stella for my doctorate at Cambridge. I hope to prove that in Swfit's day men of intellect reached the height of their power - the greatest position they ever attained in society and the State, that everything great in Ireland and in our character, in what remains of our architecture, comes from that day; that we have kept its seal longer than England. p.159 "Selected Plays" ed. Jeffares
This was the oddest play I've read by Yeats, and I had the benefit of reading (and enjoying) it's longer prequel, On Baile's Strand. The story is thatThis was the oddest play I've read by Yeats, and I had the benefit of reading (and enjoying) it's longer prequel, On Baile's Strand. The story is that a Queen waits for her King to return from fighting with the sea (the poetic climax to the aforementioned play).
One of the King's lovers, a girl called Eithne Inguba is called for by the Queen. The girl is scared but is told not to be afraid. She indicates the (dead?) body of the King but sdoubts it is her husband, rather "an image... put into his place, a sea-borne log bewitched into his likeness." She intends the girl to seduce the avatar of the king regardless, "kiss the image" as if a lure to draw him back to life. The body indeed comes to life with the mask of the King but names himself "Bricriu of the Sidhe" "from Manannan's court", some apparent demi-God.
He asks "do those tire who love the Sidhe"? Perhaps talking of the love of war. He "gives her sight" so she can see the ghostly form of her King who cannot see her. A woman "of the Sidhe", so a demi-Godess of sorts, wanders predatorily. The masked figure "explains":
A dream is body; The dead move ever towards a dreamless youth [*] And when they dream no more return no more; [*]And those more holy shades that never lived But visit you in dreams. p.129
Modernist in style, this is not easy to understand. I read it thus:
Dreams [belong to living] bod[ies], [and] the dead move towards [forever youthful] dreamless[ness], [*] and [move towards] those mo[st] holy shades [which] never [actually] lived [except for] visit[ing] you in your dreams. and when they [reach the point of] dream[lessness] they return no more.
(I had to swap the [*]d lines 3 and 4 with 2 for it to make any grammatical sense).What was Yeats thinking with that original syntax? I like to think it was something like this, although alternatively it could be "those more holy shades...dreams" that also "return no more." That makes less sense, however. And why "more" and not "most"? The essense of my interpretation is that "only the living dream; the dead move towards eternal sleep, joining those platonic "holy shades" of dreams; returning no more once they join them." Beautiful. To my credit or Yeats, though?
Anyway, the demi-Godess slowly draws the King into a state where ultimately "memory on the moment vanishes" (c.f. "dreamlessness") when he suddenly cries out for his rightful Queen. In the climax, the masked figure grows angry at this, implying that if the reluctant Queen Emer "renounces his love forever" that he will somehow be saved from some evil fate. All very obscure. Emer relents, renounces; and he awakes (implied to be in the form of the masked man somehow). To add oddness upon oddity, the awakened king embraces the lover, Eithne, and not Emer. Emer expresses no emotion.
From my increased use of "some" and "somehow" in this summary you can sense a little frustration. I am however happy to allow all this ambiguity because after the first play, "On Baile's Strand", we are submerged underwater and so the mood of the play reflects a loss of footing and a fight to anchor ourselves to familiar memory, which the voice of death asks us to relinquish to a state of memoryless, dreamless eternal sleep. This review is longer than I intended, since I only intended to clear up what i had read for myself, and it was harder to do so that I had originally forseen. I hope this was of some consolation to others, and though this page is dead, hopefully someone someday will tell me if my interpretation chimes with theirs....more
"The Player Queen" - a cryptic one that I didn't grasp the significance of. Can someone illuminate?
"The Resurrection" - a story of the resurrection to"The Player Queen" - a cryptic one that I didn't grasp the significance of. Can someone illuminate?
"The Resurrection" - a story of the resurrection told by three nationalities: a greek, a hebrew and a syrian. The greek argues about Jesus's holiness metaphysically while the hebrew believes in the incarnation of God in the flesh. The play ends with Jesus appearing to his disciples. Yeats probably wrote this one after reading a lot of books... hard to say what threads he's uniting in this short work. A good literary critic ought to be here to explain it....more
I have a great deal of good will towards this book. Its sense of humour grabbed me from the first chapter and developments just made me laugh more andI have a great deal of good will towards this book. Its sense of humour grabbed me from the first chapter and developments just made me laugh more and more. But towards the middle the new characters just kept coming... I take the unusual precaution of noting down every character that appears in the pages of novels and so I can tell at a glance that many characters were simply lost never to reappear, only to be replaced. The most egregious moments on this point were the extremely late inclusion of the "Gluter" couple and the apparent reappearance and disappearance of the central mythological figure Pletho Pathus, never to be resolved. The saga of Austin Popper and his nemesis Pharris White is also never given good closure. In spite of all this, I´m very fond of the book and its central characters, Lamar, Fanny, Sydney, Moaler, Popper and many of the walk-on parts such as the scholar Golescu and the writer for hire, W. W. Poulton. It´s a sweet story about people muddling through this life and striving for greatness in spite of mediocrity. ...more
The contemporary literary intelligentsia has been informed by generations of these left leaning figures examined in Scruton's book. At the time many oThe contemporary literary intelligentsia has been informed by generations of these left leaning figures examined in Scruton's book. At the time many of these figures were breaking out, they were subversive thinkers whose works were disdained by the establishment. Scruton continues to defend the old authodoxy that has meanwhile itself become subversive. At the very least, the book shows that a lack of political diversity has seriously tarnished the respect with which we ought to hold the intellectuals of society, and that by building insular intellectual cliques the real world, which ought to be their object of inquiry, quickly disappears from view in favour of opaque theorizing and slander of heretics....more
This novel is short but ambitious. In setting, it compares rural village life with London urbanity as they move through victorianism towards the ameriThis novel is short but ambitious. In setting, it compares rural village life with London urbanity as they move through victorianism towards the americanized future. The book also addresses the difficulties of writers (Driffield) to capture their raw material (Rosie) when they are so occupied with hobnobbing in an independently moving literary subculture (Kear). Thirdly, the book wants us to think about how quickly modes of thought change.
Characterwise, the literary set (including painters, photographers and hosts etc.) stands against the ethics of the older generation, still abroad in the village, by their exuberance for art above all other values, but in turn stand against the working class spirit embodied by Rosie and "Lord" George Kemp - mockingly named for his uppitiness.
Although the well-to-do are warmly portrayed, the satirical intent of the novel somewhat ridicules the moral order of the day. The author moves through the stiff propriety of his uncle and aunt and through the aesthetic snobbishness of his own set by becoming entranced by the nymphomaniac Rosie, who is the ideal mix of carefree abandon and natural intelligence - the author repeats twice that she knows nothing of modern literature, but adores the stories of the courts of the Lionhearted. She is also a keen contract whist player.
And despite her outrageous behaviour she never acts in ignorance of the consequences, but rather with happy defiance and a crafty but disarming shamelessness which is of the kind that also charms us in Maugham's "Moon and Sixpence" in the form of Charles Strickland. The working class character of Rosie stands in interesting contrast to the conniving, uncouth Mildred in "Of Human Bondage."Whereas she is described as sickly-looking, Rosie has a body "made for the act of love."
This may not be a rival to that book, but it is definitely the second best book of his that I have read, coming just above "The Razor's Edge" - a similar tale but written in a later more americanized age: foretold on the last page of this book....more
This book was alright with me so long as it talked about languages. Once it got into the meat of the archaeological studies it became to me an incomprThis book was alright with me so long as it talked about languages. Once it got into the meat of the archaeological studies it became to me an incomprehensible procession of very similar looking pieces of prehistoric rubbish. Do not read this as your first introduction to the topic, but perhaps look at it after reading 3 or 4 others and being determined to learn even more. The author has a very pleasing and straightforward writing style that makes you feel smart, not dumb, but perhaps he had a competing loyalty to his academic audience who didn't want to see one pottery fragment go unturned....more