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THE INNER-OUTER OTHERWORLD OF HYDE AND YEATS: TRANSLATION AND WORLD-VIEW IN THE IRISH LITERARY REVIVAL GEARÓID Ó CRUALAOICH describing W.B. Yeats at the end of 1898 as “a Loner and a Nationalist and a Drug-user on a high,” Roy Foster holds that Yeats spent the late 1890s waiting for the millennium—political, aesthetic, and erotic—to arrive. When, however, the millennium not only failed to arrive but transformed itself into a personal apocalyptic anti-climax centering on Maud Gonne’s revelation of her secret love life and her marriage to Major MacBride, Yeats had, Foster says, a kind of breakdown.1 Certainly Yeats is seen as having “set to” reconstructing his life, exploiting, in Anthony Cronin’s phrase, “his wonderful capacity to become a new person.” This reconstruction and renewal is seen as constituting “a farewell to Celtic mists,” as Foster puts it, an abandonment of the regions of youthful and romantic enchantment for the sterner, more adult concerns of a political and daylight reality. In a review of an anthology of Celtic literature compiled by George Russell, Yeats wrote dismissively in 1904 of a “. . . region of shadows . . . full of false images of the spirit and of the body,” images to which his own personal response was, he claimed, one of “frenzied hatred.” This claim was only a year or so removed from Yeats’s review of Lady Gregory’s Cuchulain of Muirthemne, in which the poet speaks of stories serving as “a chief part of Ireland’s gift to the imagination of the world” and defends this claim by declaring that the one thing in Ireland that stirred him to his roots was “a conception of the heroic life come down from the dawn of the world and not even yet utterly extinguished.”2 TRANSLATION AND WORLD-VIEW IN THE IRISH LITERARY REVIVAL 226 1 Roy Foster, W.B. Yeats: A Life I: The Apprentice Mage 1865–1914. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 162–200. 2 Lady Augusta Gregory, Cuchulain of Muirthemne (London: John Murray, 1902), preface by W.B. Yeats. Some critics see a conflict between this delight in the heroic and the granting of free reign to the individual imagination to pursue that “experimental digging” in “the deep pit” of the self, which, Yeats now said, can alone produce great literature and to which he would henceforth commit himself. The “heroic” is, in this light, seen to be incompatible with the “self.” I want to suggest that the counterpoint between so-called “Celtic realms” and “self-excavation” is more harmonious than has perhaps been allowed and to explore the native, ancestral, alternative otherworld dimension . This sphere—debased in the terms “Celtic twilight” and “Fairyland ”—is still available, even today, as a mythological and archetypal resource for individual and for community nurturance. The basic human quest, common to national and to individual psyches, is a quest for unity— not so much of territory, or politics, or peoples—but a unity of soul within itself and with cosmic soul. Seamus Heaney has recently spoken in terms of Yeats’s efforts to do something toward which Douglas Hyde and the early Gaelic League were striving in a different way—the restoration of spiritual values and a magical world-view, which Ireland and the Irish had lost in the colonization of not only the Irish landscape but of the Irish imagination as well. The calculus of this imaginative loss is expressed largely in the progress of language shift and in this shift’s significance as imaginative impoverishment, reaching to the deepest depths of self, in the case of individual artist and of anonymous generation alike. Seamus Heaney today paraphrases Yeats’s words about the place that does not exist, the place that is but a dream, in his own contemporary struggle to articulate a sense of Irishness which is beyond the refutations of politics—and even of history. The traditional native, ancestral, alternative , otherworld realm, a recognition of which and a sensitivity to which was basic in the popular cultural heritage Hyde promoted—and on which Yeats drew—was capable of providing a framework for the resolution of fundamental problems of an ontological and a cosmological order...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 226-242
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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