Letters to the New Island by William Butler Yeates; edited by Horace Reynolds

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By William Butler Yeates; edited by Horace Reynolds

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That Irish history and legend were even more important as matter for the new Irish literature-to-be is stressed in several of the letters. Between the man of letters and Old Irish legend lay the barrier of a very archaic, difficult, and omplicated language. reative energy that made the Movement. IV What specific use and service Yeats I hought the recovery of this national legt'll 1 and folk-lore would be to a modern nglo-Irish literature is made clear in a iPlI'r passage from Ireland's Heroic Age, I'l" Tinning: 'I'll, first thing needful if an Irish literature more I d,orate and intense than our fine but primitive hulluds and novels is to come into being is that I -udcrs and writers alike should really know the IlIlginative periods of Irish history.

In Yeats's opinion the whole of the spoken drama has divorced itself from literature, and its falseness stings Yeats into many a contemptuous phrase. It is the old story of the young man of taste and talent, his mind full of the masterpieces of the past, in the presence of machine-made drama for the many. Loving beautiful speech, Yeats desires a poetic drama, for which, naturally enough, his model is Elizabethan. He knows that the days when "everyone, from the pot boys to the noblemen, thought imagination a high and worthy thing" are gone, that England has become unimaginative, Puritan, and rich; but the reception of Dr.

If we look for a moment at the two poems Yeats contributed to The Pilot and The Journal, we can see in what need Yeats stood of criticism in these years. The first of these, How Ferencz Renyi Kept Silent, describes a dramatic INTRODUCTION 35 moment in which a Hungarian patriot is tortured for information by an Austrian general. His mother, sister, and sweetheart are shot successively in an effort to make him reveal the whereabouts of his countrymen. " In this poem, obviously an imitation of Browning's dramatic dialogues which succeeds only in being melodramatic, all is thin, surface violence, fire without heat or light.

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