Yeats: the Nineteenth Century Matrix

By Dwight Eddins | Go to book overview
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II
Patriotism Versus Art: The Irish Background

ONE HAS ONLY TO EXAMINE THE POLITICAL IMplications of "Ferencz Renyi" and "The Two Titans" in order to see that Yeats's nascent nationalism was reflected in his verse by more than a vague turbulence; the artistic matrix, previously characterized by the cosmopolitanism of the Elizabethans and Romantics, began to take on a specifically Irish coloring in the later years of the Eighties. In general, the intrusion of Irish supernaturalism tended to strengthen that portion of the Romantic heritage which centered upon the daemonic by providing Yeats with a new cast of superhuman personae and a rich tradition of encounter between these personae and man, though the triviality of the "fairy" ballads temporarily weakened the power of this daemonic strain. On the other hand, Yeats became deeply dissatisfied with the foreign exoticism of Romantic imagery; the discovery that his verses were "too full of the reds and yellows Shelley gathered in Italy" led him to consider "sleeping upon a board" in order to inculcate them with the desired coldness (EI, p. 5).

Fortunately, a less violent escape from rootless flamboyance was suggested by the influence of John O'Leary and other Irish nationalists, who set Yeats to dreaming of a great national liter

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