Abstract

Abstract:

This paper compares for the first time William Butler Yeats with Julia de Burgos, the twentieth-century national poets of Ireland and of Puerto Rico respectively, two islands that have long served as the colonial possessions of neighboring Anglocentric superpowers. I open by examining how the authors’ two earliest and most popular poems—Yeats’s “The Stolen Child” (1886) and Burgos’s “Río Grande de Loíza” (1935)—imagine untamed wilderness as a sanctuary from imperial jurisdiction, a space where young children are led away to protect them from the tears of this world. “For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand,” sing the faeries to Yeats’s stolen child, while Burgos calls the Río Grande itself “Great flood of tears. / The greatest of all our island’s tears / save those greater that come from the eyes / of my soul for my enslaved people.” Given the centrality of wilderness to these poems, this essay draws on the works of Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert and Elaine Savory, who argue that ecocriticism and postcolonialism, far from possessing competing priorities as many critics have long assumed, are instead natural allies in their shared resistance against economic exploitation. Wilderness can likewise function to preserve a protonationalist independent space, hidden away from colonial regimes. I conclude this paper by examining the resurrection motif in Yeats’s and Burgos’s midperiod poems “Easter 1916” and “23 de septiembre,” wherein these protonationalist spaces appear to return from the dead, cast off their wilderness exile, and fulfill their long-deferred revolutionary projects.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2162-6294
Print ISSN
0742-5562
Pages
pp. 31-55
Launched on MUSE
2019-02-01
Open Access
No
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