September 1913 W.B. YeatsPublished in ‘Responsibilities’ (1914)
Historical Context 1Yeats wrote several poems in response to thepublic controversy stirred by Sir Hugh Lanesoffer of his collection of paintings to the city ofDublin and the Dublin Lock-out of 1913-14.Of these ‘September 1913’ is the best knownand the most significant.Sir Hugh Lane was a friend of Yeats’s andrelated to Lady Gregory, one of his patrons.Pierre-Auguste Renoir,Les Parapluies,1883.
Historical Context 2 The Dublin Lock-out was a major industrial dispute between approximately 20,000 workers and 300 employers which took place in Irelands capital city. The dispute lasted from 26 August 1913 to 18 January 1914, and is often viewed as the most severe and significant industrial dispute in Irish history. Central to the dispute was the workers right to unionise. One of the major factors which contributed to the ignition of the dispute was the dire circumstances in which the citys poor lived. In 1913, one third of Dublins population lived in slums. The infant mortality rate amongst the poor was 142 per 1000 births (in 2005 it was 6 per 1000). The situation was made worse by the high rateQ. What do these of disease in the slums, which was the result of a lack of healthnotes suggest care and cramped living conditions. The most prevalent diseaseabout the likely was tuberculosis (TB), which spread through tenements quicklytone of the and caused many deaths. A report published in 1912 claimed thatpoem? TB-related deaths in Ireland were 50% higher than in England or Scotland, and the vast majority of TB-related deaths in Ireland occurred amongst the poor. Source; Wikipedia.
September 1913What need you, being come to sense,But fumble in a greasy tillAnd add the halfpence to the penceAnd prayer to shivering prayer, untilYou have dried the marrow from the bone; 5For men were born to pray and save:Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,It’s with O’Leary in the grave.Yet they were of a different kindThe names that stilled your childish play, 10They have gone about the world like wind,But little time had they to prayFor whom the hangman’s rope was spun,And what, God help us, could they save:Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, 15It’s with O’Leary in the grave.
Was it for this the wild geese spreadThe grey wing upon every tide;For this that all that blood was shed,For this Edward Fitzgerald died, 20And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,All that delirium of the brave;Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,It’s with O’Leary in the grave.Yet could we turn the years again, 25And call those exiles as they were,In all their loneliness and painYou’d cry ‘Some woman’s yellow hairHas maddened every mother’s son’:They weighed so lightly what they gave, 30But let them be, they’re dead and gone,They’re with O’Leary in the grave
Q. Close textual analysis: FORM – STRUCTURE – LANGUAGE.What was the ‘form’ of ‘The Stolen Child’? What ‘form’ does this poem take? Howmight it be significant?Work out the rhythm, metre and rhyme scheme – make a note of the structure of thepoem. How does the structure help shape our response?Look at Yeats’s use of language. How do the various techniques help shape ourresponse to the poem?What connections can you make between the poems you’ve studied so far?
Connections – Still in a Celtic Twilight?If ‘The Stolen Child’ looked into Ireland’smagical past what does ‘September1913’ directly refer to?To what extent does ‘September 1913’echo ‘the cry of the heart againstnecessity’ - a poem about ‘longing andcomplaint’?
Connections – Still in a Celtic Twilight? WARNING – MAUDLIN IRISH BALLAD ALERT Be aware that the songs you are about to listen to may remind you of ‘the auld country’. If taken with either a glass ‘o’the black stuff’ or whiskey (note the correct spelling) they may induce tears, staring fondly into the middle distance or dreams of rolling green mountains, leafy forest glades and rain. Lots of rain.Listen to the song ‘By Memory Inspired’ based on an Anonymous poem first publishedby Yeats’s publishers the Cuala Press in 1907 and read the note on the next slide.How does this help us understand the poem ‘September 1913’? http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&v=srAv8S3ywzs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7MAxced0Uw&feature=related
Yeats and the Ballad In a letter to his friend Lady Dorothy Wellesley during the period when Yeats was writing the ballads of Last Poems (1938) at the end of his life Yeats insisted that rhyme was crucial to capturing the authentic: ‘folk lilt of the Irish accent…Look through any old book of ballads and you will find that they have all perfectly regular rhyme schemes…Regular rhyme is needed in this kind of work…The swing of the sentence makes the reader expect it…The fundamental sing-song.’ Letters on Poetry from W.B. Yeats to Lady Dorothy Wellesley (1964)Q. What do the biographies of the ‘Romantic’ Irish patriots mentioned in the poem addto our understanding of the poem?
John OLeary converted Yeats to the cause of Irish cultural nationalism and was, in fact, responsible for Yeats becoming an ‘Irish’ writer. A man of great moral rectitude, a vehement patriot and active Fenian, he suffered long years of prison and exile in behalf of an ideal, if somewhat imaginary, Ireland. To Yeats, he seemed the embodiment of the romantic conception of Ireland and of Irish nationalism. OLeary recommended to Yeats the writings of the Young Irelanders (rebels from the mid-19th century), maintaining that the nature and intensity of the feeling they had inspired had been of great political value. However, he never claimed that they were noteworthy for quality. In fact, despite his stress on the importance of a nationalistic purpose to aspiring Irish writers, OLeary insisted that poetics should never be sacrificed to politics, nor aesthetics to argument. In his essay ‘Poetry and Tradition’ (1907) Yeats recalls OLeary insisting that a ‘writer must not write badly, or ignore the examples of the great Masters in the fancied or real service of a cause, ... [just as] he must not lie for it or grow hysterical". Hoping to promote an Irish literature of the greatest kind, he supported Yeats in his refusal to praise second-rate literature in order to strengthen the cause of Irish nationalism. Thus Yeats associated OLeary not only with Irish cultural nationalism but with an insistence on the highest standards of artistic excellence. Yeats had faith that OLeary, like himself, would have recognized the intrinsic quality of the Lane Collection andJohn O’Leary (1830-1907) deplored the nationalism which led to its loss.
Irish aristocrat and revolutionary. He was the fifth son of the 1st Duke of Leinster. He died of wounds received in resisting arrest on charge of treason following the 1798 rebellion.Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1763 – 1798)
Irish nationalist and Republican and rebel leader born in Dublin, he led an abortive rebellion against British rule in 1803 and was captured, tried and executed by hanging, drawing and quartering for high treason. His last recorded words were made in a now famous speech on the eve of his execution: ‘Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance, asperse them. Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my tomb remain uninscribed, and my memory in oblivion, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.’Robert Emmet (1778-1803)
Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763 – 1798), was a leading Irish revolutionary figure and one of the founding members of the United Irishmen and is regarded as the father of Irish Republicanism. He was captured by British forces in Donegal and taken prisoner following the 1798 rebellion. Before he was to be executed, Wolfe Tone attempted suicide and subsequently died from his woundsQ. What do the biographies of the ‘Romantic’ Irish patriots mentioned in the poem addto our understanding of the poem?
‘In the thirty years or so during which I have been reading Irish newspapers, three publiccontroversies have stirred my imagination. The first was the Parnell controversy…anotherwas the dispute over The Playboy *of the Western World+…The third prepared for theCorporation’s refusal of a building for Sir Hugh Lane’s famous collection of pictures …These controversies, political, literary, and artistic, have showed that neither religion norpolitics can of itself create minds with enough receptivity to become wise, or just andgenerous enough to make a nation … In Ireland I am constantly reminded of that fable ofthe futility of all discipline that is not of the whole being…Against all this we have but afew educated men and all the remnants of an old traditional culture among the poor. Bothwere stronger forty years ago, before the rise of our new middle class which ... [shows]how base, at moment of excitement, are minds without culture. ’WB Yeats, Notes on second edition of ‘Responsibilities’ (1916)‘Power passed to small shopkeepers, to clerks, to Q. What do thesethat very class who had seemed to John OLeary so extracts reveal ofready to bend to the power of others, to men who Yeats’s attitude tohad risen above the traditions of the countryman, some of his fellowwithout learning those of cultivated life, or even countrymen? Howeducating themselves, and who because of their does this tally withpoverty, their ignorance, their superstitious piety, the opening stanza ofare much subject to all kinds of fear.’ the poem?WB Yeats ‘Poetry and Tradition’ (1907).
Yeats and the creation of an Irish Literature Q. What does the following extract reveal of Yeats’s thinking about Ireland as a country? How does this tally with your reading of ‘September 1913’?‘You cannot keep the idea of a nation alive where there are no nationalinstitutions to reverence, no national success to admire, without a model of itin the mind of the people. You can call it ‘Caitlín Ní Uallacháin’ (the title of aplay Yeats wrote in 1902 – ‘Kathleen ni-Houlihan’) or ‘Sean-Bhean Bhocht’(the poor old woman) in a mood of simple feeling and love that image, but forthe general purposes of life you must have a complex mass of images, makingup a model like an architects model. The Young Ireland poets created thiswith certain images rather simple in their conception that filled the mind ofthe young-Wolfe Tone, King Brian, Emmet, Owen Roe, Sarsfield, the Fishermanof Kinsale . . . its most powerful work was this creation of sensible images forthe affections vivid enough to follow men to the scaffold.’WB Yeats, March 12, 1909
In May 1902, Yeats wrote of his play:‘My subject is Ireland and its struggle for independence. The scene is laid in the West ofIreland at the time of the French landing. I have described a household preparing for thewedding of the son of the house. Everyone expects some good thing from the wedding.The bridegroom is thinking of his bride, the father of the fortune which will make them allmore prosperous, and the mother of a plan of turning this prosperity to account by makingher youngest son a priest, and the youngest son of a greyhound pup the bride promised togive him when she marries. Into this household comes Kathleen Ni Houlihan herself, andthe bridegroom leaves his bride, and all the hopes come to nothing. It is the perpetualstruggle of the cause of Ireland and every other ideal cause against private hopes anddreams, against all that we mean when we say the world. I have put into the mouth ofKathleen Ni Houlihan verses about those who have died or are about to die for her, andthese verses are the key of the rest. . . .’ Q. What has Kathleen come to symbolise? What does the rejection of the Lane bequest or the Dublin Lock-out symbolise to Yeats?
Yeats and the creation of an Irish LiteratureIn 1903 Yeats wrote to Lady Gregory (in a dedication of a volume of his plays to her),‘One night I had a dream almost as distinct as a vision, of a cottage where there was well-being and firelight and talk of a marriage, and into the midst of that cottage there came anold woman in a long cloak. She was Ireland herself, that Kathleen Ni Houlihan for whom somany songs have been sung and about whom so many stories have been told and forwhose sake so many have gone to their death. I thought if I could write this out as a littleplay I could make others see my dream as I had seen it, but I could not get down out ofthat high window of dramatic verse, and in spite of all you had done for me I had not thecountry speech. One has to live among the people . . . before one can think the thoughts ofthe people and speak with their tongue. We turned my dream into the little play, `KathleenNi Houlihan, and when we gave it to the little theatre in Dublin (the Abbey theatre he co-founded) and found that the working people liked it, you helped me to put my otherdramatic fables into speech . . . .’ Q. What does this dedication say about Yeats’s intentions with his play and with his earlier intention to ‘write poetry of insight and knowledge’?
Connections – Yeats’s Poetry A Coat (1912) I made my song a coat Covered with embroideries Out of old mythologies From heel to throat; But the fools caught it, 5 Wore it in the world’s eyes As though they’d wrought it. Song, let them take it For there’s more enterprise In walking naked. 10Q. What connects the tone of ‘September 1913’ with ‘A Coat’? What coat is Yeatsbeginning to divest himself of in this poem?
‘O’Leary has influenced all I‘…in dreams begin responsibility.’ have set my hand to since.’Epigraph to the anthology ‘Responsibilities’ (1914) WB Yeats ‘How am I fallen from myself, for a long time now ‘Responsibilities’ marked a I have not seen the Prince of Chang in my dreams.’ turning point in Yeats’s Epigraph to the anthology ‘Responsibilities’ (1914) poetic career as he abandons ‘old mythologies’ not all mythologies, only old ones.’ (Greening 2005) Yeats’s great poetry is ‘based upon antinomies - Ireland and Byzantium, youth and age, fecund life and stylized art, action and contemplation, love and war, violent energy and decadent civilization - which gain definition from one another without ever reaching, or seriously seeking, reconciliation’. Seamus Deane, A Short History of Irish Literature (1986) Q. Write a short paragraph explaining how each of these quotes relate (or doesn’t relate) to your understanding of the poem ‘September 1913’.