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Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (2016) 77 (2): 175–191.
Published: 01 June 2016
... that the vital processes of ingestion and appropriation give flesh and blood to art and to life in general. Reformulating ethical questions, scholars now ask about levels of collaboration and mutual admiration. Interest need not disappear when love arrives. That’s why teachers today (through Pre-Texts...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1960) 21 (1): 30–32.
Published: 01 March 1960
... with me is the interpretation of lines 18-24. He ascribes “this warm life-blood” to the Nymph (p. 234) instead of the fawn, as I had done in my transla- tion. Dryden indeed would have called the use of “this,” referring to the speaker, “an admirable grecism”; but would he have thought...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1994) 55 (4): 415–427.
Published: 01 December 1994
... to 1810, called Novel Relation . De-Familiarizing the Family; or, Writing Family History from Literary Sources Ruth Perry In some tragedies and romances we meet with many beautiful and interesting scenes, founded upon what is called the force of blood, or upon the wonder...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1998) 59 (4): 519–521.
Published: 01 December 1998
..., that is, a conflict of the polis? The thread running through Samuels’s readings of early national literature is that the violent founding of the nation intersects with the family in the fig- ure of “blood.” Bloodletting (or even the threat of it) in historical romances ritualizes violence even...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1974) 35 (4): 364–375.
Published: 01 December 1974
... largely been superseded by devices as a means of declaring the lover’s dedication. It is a tourna- ment fought with uncovered weapons (“At sharp”) which is described in the sixth stanza: And now, when angry Heaven wou’cl Behold a spectacle of Blood, Fortune...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1998) 59 (1): 124–129.
Published: 01 March 1998
... for him in “the propo- sition ‘blood is blood and you can’t get around it”’ (1). “Blood is blood” serves as a refrain in Our America, signifjmg the quests both for the materi- ality of words and signs and for biological configurations of identity. Nativist modernism names the conjunction...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1972) 33 (2): 156–171.
Published: 01 June 1972
... of <:HAKLES ALTIEKI 157 kingly authority, Yeats, during the years he worked on the two versions of A Visioii, seeks in his poetry a world that keeps its fullness while at the same time it completely satisfies and mirrors his personal values. Both Yeats and the tragic heroes seek to become Adam-inhabiting a garden created to glorify himself arid subservient to the names he im- poses on its elements. We might call this initial quest of the visionary poet or tragic hero the desire for a comic universe, provided that we interpret “comic” in the sense best exemplified by Dante’s C~medy.~To demonstrate the essentials of his comic vision, Ilante draws a careful contrast between Odysseus and himself. Odysseus is the epitome of purely pagan nobility, but this nobility can never bring hitn peace. In fact, his condition is similar to that of the symboliste poet. The more noble one is, the fuller his imagination, arid thus the more discontented he must become be- cause lie will be perpetually creating values and dreams that his secular or materialistic environment can never fulfill. He is doomed to be a wanderer. Dante, on the other hand, begins as a commoner and only gradually grows in nobility. But because of God’s infinite love and infi- nite mystery, the more Darite as representative Christian perfects him- self arid expands his imaginative capacity, the greater his happiness. For the spiritual world given by God can never be exhausted or contradict the hero’s imagination. The more man polishes his own mirror-his capacity for love-the more that mirror will reflect the light of God’s love arid herice the brighter and more full of love will his world be- come .4 In secular term, the union of imagination with a world of value be- yond the self is perhaps best explained by the concept of Iiarcissism as developed by Norman Brown and Herbert Marcuse frotn Freud’s setn- inal suggestions of man’s momentary sense of an “oceanic feeling.” The hero feels toward his world as the child does when joined with the 158 YEATS’S MATUKE I’OEFI’KY mother’s breast-the fullness of self enhances arid is enhanced by the world beyorid the self. The Narcissus myth represents the same reality on an adult level: for Narcissus, “being is experienced as gratification, which unites man and nature so that the fulfillment of Inan is at the same time the fulfillment, without violence, of tiatiire.”5 We can thus see narcissism as analogous to the second type of naming found in modern poetry. The first, the emphasis on capturing objective reality in Imagism arid its derivatives, is closer to Freud’s object-libido, while Yeats’s arid Stevens’s desire to suborditiate the objective world to their fictive itmagiriatioris arid thus to make it an exteiision of the self is a clear arialogue of narcissism. We can also usefully conceive the tragic hero’s quest in Sartreari terms: he tries to realize the basic human desire to become God by achieving a coincidence of essence and existence, by eliminating the gap between desire and But for the tragic hero the quest to have one’s desire as fact leads only to irony. The world lie tries to en- close perpetually evades his grasp. In the case of Oedipus we see how tragic hero and tragic poet come together. The irony in the play is a constant reminder of Oedipus’ failure to achieve his comic vision. As lie tries to assert that the world corresponds to his imagination, the audi- ence is reminded of the gap between reality and imagination. In dramatic tragedy this dialectic movernerit frotn comedy to ironic failure occurs as a single unified action. In Yeats, however, the dialectic takes place within individual poems, but gets its full impact only when we keep in mirid the progression in his mature poetic career. In A Vz- siori, Yeats’s description of the ideal aesthetic state achieved at the an- tithetical pole is essentially comic: at the fifteenth phase the “con- verging of will arid thought, effort arid attainment” produces a state where “contemplation atid desire, united into one, inhabit a world where every beloved image has bodily form, arid every bodily form is love~lYeats’s style during the period from Wild Swans at Coole through The Tower also ernbodies this comic view, as John Holloway riotes: CHAKLES AL‘I’IEKI 159 Once more, it is to passion, to energy, to “self-possession and power” that the discussion returns; for what 1 am arguing is that the innermost structure of poem after poem, of, in fact, the larger part of the major poems, is what ultimately gives incarnation to energised subjectivity, to passionate and powerful self-possession: and this innermost form is nothing other than the creation, by a series of as if vatic acts, of a whole world of objects ordered as their creator desires.H In the later poems, however, the dialectic is resolved. The quest for transcendence leads Yeats to realize the essential chaos, the flux of real- ity, that eludes the poet’s attempt to fix it by his acts of poetic naming.g To illustrate this dialectic, I will concentrate on two poems, “Prayer for My Daughter” and “Coole Park and Ballylee, 1931,” whose remark- able similarity of structure serves to point out the difference in Yeats’s comic and tragic sense of language-and therefore of experience. These poems are especially indicative of shifts in emphasis in Yeats’s career because they each play central roles in the development of basic motifs in their respective volumes. “Prayer for My Daughter” provides an excellent example of the comic process as a dynamic structural principle in a Yeats poem. It il- lustrates how a style can work the transformation of the external world into personal image, as Holloway outlines. Further, the poem ties that power of mastery through image-making to the aristocratic ideal of sprezzatura, a natural mastery over one’s situation achieved through “self-possession and power.”1° Finally, in its power of achieving rad- ical innocence through poetic naming, the poem provides a solution to the problems raised elsewhere in Michael Robartes and the Dancer about the relationship of the poet to a society demanding active polit- ical men. In both its general structure and its major imagery the poem traces the speaker’s movement from an immersion in the objective situation to an eventual mastery of situation which can satisfy his personal values. The poem begins by presenting a naturalistic, objective scene in which the poet is subordinated to a threatening world whose intrusive power is concentrated particularly in the wind, the dominant force in the pic- ti “Style and World in ‘The Tower,’ ” in An Honoured Guest, p. 98. 9 Fot the basic terms of the shift from The Tower to ‘f‘hc Witidiiig Stair, see Deliis I)oI~o- ghue. “On “l‘he Winding Stair,’ ” in An Hotrorircrl Guest, pp. 106-23. 10 A Vi.$iott,p. 8. 160 YEATS’S MATURE POEI’KY ture, bringing against the poet’s tower “the murderous innocence of the sea Then in the third stanza, the poet tries to assert some personal dominance over the hostile scene by projecting, in the form of a prayer, a desirable future state for his daughter: “May she be granted beauty.” But since he has not yet been able to master the world through his im- agination, he immediately qualifies his prayer in recognition of the iro- nies of life: “and yet not/Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught” (1’7-18). Throughout the rest of the first half of the poem we are in- volved in the ironic world of paradoxes and contradictions, e.g., the repeated “Yet” in lines 29 and 36. In the second half we move Erom a naturalistic to a metaphoric frame of reference with a second prayer, this time more efficacious because consisting of the metaphor through which the poet can arrange his world: “May she become a flourishing hidden tree” (41). This prayer is followed by two more assertions of will, one of which amplifies the tree metaphor: 0 may she live like some green laurel Rooted in one dear perpetual place. (47-48) So let her think opinions are accursed. (58) The progressive assertiveness is climaxed by Yeats’s going on to claim as indicative fact a vision of the threatening wind overcome by values the laurel image allows him to attribute to his daughter: If there’s no hatred in a mind Assault and battery of the wind Can never tear the linnet from the leaf. (54-56) This personalization of the wind-through its association with hatred and the legal imagery that calls up Yeats’s frequent denuncia- tions of shopkeeping Ireland-is complete when Yeats funnels its force clown into MacBride, “an old bellows full of angry wind” (64). The ini- tial threat has been transformed into human moral terms (anger and hatred) which can be countered by the poet’s own projected image-the Varioriim Edition (,f the Poems (,f William Iltitler Yeats, ecl. Peter Allt and Russell K. Alspacli (New York, 1!)65), pp. 405-406. Page tiiiiiil~!rs in the text refer to this edition. CHARLES ALTI E K I 161 radically innocent, self-delighting soul. By now, the ninth stanza, Yeats’s personal values have been given enough objective reality for him to build on them. He introduces the stanza with the trarisition, “Considering that,” which suggests the objectification of what has gone before by placing it in a syllogistic paradigm. The poet can deal with the world on the terms in which he conceives it; as Keats put it, “What the imagination conceives as beauty must be truth.” Now that the mind’s ability to construct values is demonstrated, the poet can master the wind absolutely through the metaphoric powers of his imagination: She can, though every face should scowl And every windy quarter howl Or every bellows burst, be happy still. (70-72) The movement from a contingent to a self-contained world is cli- maxed in the poem’s memorable conclusion: How but in custom arid in ceremony Are innocence and beauty born? Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn, And custom for the spreading laurel tree. (77-80) These lines reverse the poem’s opening situation: now the natural world has been abolished, and we have only those objects the poet has made personal, the laurel and the horn, and the names he wants to give Lhem. The fear of the future expressed in the initial stanza has been overcome by an act of naming which creates an identity that seems to incorporate present and future into some eternal preseri t. These last lines employ two devices which closely bind the conquest of naming and the aristocratic values of custom arid ceremony. As Donald Davie has pointed out, Yeats depends heavily in this poem on abstraction and hackneyed literary properties like the horn of plenty and the laurel tree. Davie suggests that these properties gave the poem the anonymity of thoroughly traditional art.12 His analysis, however, misses the central point about the use of these devices. The poem is about what Yeats called “the human intellect’s crowning achievement” -radical innocence attained through custom and ceremo~iyThe 12 6, 4 83-84, LI ichael Kobartes and the llancer,’ ” in At, Horrotcrerl (;ticst, pp. ‘3 .dtitobiogrnphy oJ’ Wilfinnr Iizctler Yents (Sew York, l!)6.5), 1111. 2.51 -52. I:or anothcr of Yeats’s revealing comments on radical innocence, see C’nriortiiii, pp. 854-55. 162 YEA‘I’S’S MATUKE POEJ’KY poem thus is a combination of the traditional with the highly personal achievement of the individual soul. It uses customary materials, iiot for their own sake, but as the ground for a radical, personal vision. By the poem’s conclusion, none of the traditional elements, neither images nor abstractions, like innocence arid beauty, remain unchanged by their iiew contexts. The traditional images sustain the creation of the “self-delighting, / Self-appeasitig, self-affrighting” soul (67-68), hit they do iiot contain it. The second device provides ceremony as well as custom. The last four lines constitute an extended double chiasmus: custom-ceremony, innocence-beauty; ceremony-beau ty (horn), custom-innocence (laurel). ‘This careful rhetoric supports the poem’s affirmation of poetic iinagiiia- tioii because its elaborate artificiality insists that the poet’s language is the product of a forming rnirid arid riot merely an imitation of the pr-oc- esses of Iiature. The deliberate artifice of a device extreniely popular in Elizabethan rhetoric also connotes the aristocratic Renaissance cour- tier’s sjmzzatzira-one element of the subject of the chiasmus. Yet these traditional associations complement rather than absorb Yeats’s indi- vidual vision, for the concept of radical innocence is a unique blerid of aristoci-atic arid Blakeari value structures. The combining of custom and ceremony to assert radical innocence in effect proves the poem’s vision. The world can be contained in the poet’s forms. Custom and ceremony do tnake radical innocence. ‘l’he last lines are highly fortnal-and yet extremely simple, direct, mid na t- ural. -1’hel-e is great significance in Alex Zwerdling’s remark that “in this poem Yeats’s ideas are so effortlessly established and sustai~ied The filial coriiic conquest is the ease arid naturalness of the poet’s asser- tion of values. In this conquest, the poet masters more than the poem’s opening threat. “Prayer for My Daughter” offers a cornic resolution for a central theme of the whole volume Michael Robartes and tlze Dancer. This volume grows out of the tensions inherent in Yeats’s precarious situa- tion as a poet, a man of intellect and “soul,” in a revolutionary society demanding men of action. Yeats begins to confront the problem in “Easter- 1916’’ (pp. 391-94), where he plays upon the contrast between hirnself’ arid the rebels who had become the heroes of the people. Yeats admits the heroism of the rebels’ transforrnatiori of the Irish spirit, but l4 )’etit\ tirid lhe Heroic Ideal (Sew Yodi, 1!)65), 11. 84. (;HAKLES ALTI EKI 163 worries that they may have caused more harm than good hy making a political issue the basic motive of their actions: -1’oo long ;i sacrifice Can make a stone of’ the heart. (57-58) And what if excess of love Hewiltiered them till they tlied? (72-73) The Yeatsiari persoria, on the other hand, retains his distance from the scene and tries to justify his uninvolved life by recording the situation in verse: I write it out in a verse- AIacDonagh and MacHride And Connolly and Pearse Now and in tinie to be, Wherever green is worn, Are changed, changed ii tterly: A terrible beauty is born. (74-80) However, in this poem the poet’s naming is not clearly triumphant. It does riot transform the world; it serves it. The poet is not seer, but an- nalist; his poem is given substance by the events and people it reflects, not by the persorial names it endows.15 As a result, the poet caririot tran- scend the ambiguous condition presented in the refrain, “A terrible beauty is born.” Several poems following “Easter 19 16” show how the rebellion did, in fact, “trouble the living stream” (44) arid create a society inimical to the poet’s values. Two street ballads capture the rebellion’s effect on the people-“Sixteen Dead Men” and “The Rose Tree” (pp. 395-96). Here the popular Irish mind (expressed in the narrative “we”) denies discussion arid reflection arid demands the blood sacrifice if Irelarid is to be reborn: 164 YEAI’S’S MAI’URE POE‘I’KY “Six teen Dead Men” Hut who can talk of give anti take, What should be and what riot While those dead men are loitering there ‘1.0 stir the boiling pot? (3-6) “‘I‘he Kose ‘I‘ree” “eI’hei.c’snothing but our own rcd blood Can make ;I right Kose FI’ree.” (17-18) “On a Political Prisoner” arid “The Leaders of tlie Crowd” (pp. 397-98) turn to the aristocracy and the leadership of Ireland, but Yeats finds there only the same blindriess, bitterness, arid rejection of the “student’s lamp” of truth (“The Leaders of the Crowd,” line 8). Against this background, the triumphant affirmation in “Prayer for My Daughter” of the poet’s power to discover radical iiiriocerice takes on special importance. The values upheld in the poem are in direct opposition to the values espoused in-arid ruiriiri~~oriteniporaryIre- land. The opposition is clear in the transformation which several motifs of tlie volume undergo in this meditation. Yeats’s projection for his daughter reverses the process of his portrayal of Constance Markiewicz’s life, which went from aristocratic childhood to the “foul ditch” of polit- ical rhetoric arid intellectual hatred that made her mind “a bitter, an abstract thing” (“On a Political Prisoner,” lines 12 arid 9). ‘The lari- guage of “rI’he L,eaders of the Crowd,” in juxtaposition to the majestic rhetoric of “Prayer,” presents another- opposition. The leaders use speech only as deceit or as a means of projecting fantasies (an inau- thentic comic riamirig); they act “as though / The abounding gutter had been Helicon / Or calumny a song” (5-7). Finally, “Prayer” picks up two of the basic images iri “‘I’he Rose Tree.” In both poems the wind is the antagonist, but for the common consciousiiess expressed in the street l>allacl, the wind remains an exteriial object conquerable only by blood sacrifice, by a negation of the word: “0words ai-e lightly spokeii,” Said I’e;ii-sc to Coiinolly, “Alaylie ;I 1)reatli of politic word\ Ha\ witliered...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1972) 33 (2): 99–112.
Published: 01 June 1972
... which are vivid and concrete, distinctly and quickly visualized: blood, swords, rings. In the Pine Tree episode the lovers themselves, rather than details about them, are under observation as our attention is drawn to how they act and what they say. Most importantly of all, BCroul’s handling...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1946) 7 (2): 175–178.
Published: 01 June 1946
... were so prickt and wounded, that the blood sprange out abundantly, wherwithal when the Roses were bedewed, and sprinkled, they became a1 red, the which colour they do yet keepe (more or lesse) according to the quantitie of blood that fel upon them. . . .I* Lyte’s second account pertains...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (2002) 63 (1): 89–118.
Published: 01 March 2002
...-garde experimentalism. He wrote his two best-sellers To Live and Xu Sanguan Selling His Blood in a basically realist mode.5 While other avant-garde writers, such as Su Tong and Ge Fei, opted to write imaginary or nostalgic historical stories or sim- 3 Chen Xiaoming, Boundless Challenges...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1942) 3 (3): 460–462.
Published: 01 September 1942
... (which in- cluded the picaillon [ “picayune escalin, and piastre, as well as others more familiar from use in France). It would have been helpful if all the terms indicating various mixtures of negro arid white blood had been treated similarly and defined in one place, for easier comparison...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1966) 27 (3): 270–284.
Published: 01 September 1966
... com- mission find their last subject in his last speech: “I crave death more willingly than mercy” (V.i.481). Both Claudio and Angelo would be married were it not for dowries; both fall, as Isabella says of her brother, “by prompture of the blood” (1I.i~.178)-ClaudioYs fall...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1958) 19 (3): 231–243.
Published: 01 September 1958
... pCch6. But if “this warm life-blood” were that of the fawn “which doth part / From thine” (understood as “thy heart,” with “heart” taken from the following “wound me to the heart this anticipative ellipsis would seem rather difficult. More important, however, how should we understand...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1948) 9 (4): 467–477.
Published: 01 December 1948
...’ studierte.” Already, when Hauptmann discussed the Orestes-Hamlet parallel of blood guilt and vengeance (Im Wirbel der Berufung [D.G. Werk, XIII, SSSff he cited Donner’s translation of the Choephori (Das Todtenopfer [1854], pp. 94, 106, 119, 128). Walter A. Reichart...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1941) 2 (2): 336–339.
Published: 01 June 1941
... places where other editions would undoubtedly have given better readings. For ex- ample, in the note to Trophkes 320, “La pluye pisse loin du tyran I’ame rouge,” HoIines writes: “This is a very strange metaphor- the blood, pouring forth like rain, pours out the tyrant’s soul. And the metaphor...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1957) 18 (1): 9–26.
Published: 01 March 1957
... these changes take place. The key moral ideas informing this action derive from the Meredith- ian “triad,” for he regards man’s nature as triple: Spirit (or soul) emerging from the creative union of Blood (body) and Brain (mind). This harmony is called Wisdom; its absence is Egoism, which takes...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1964) 25 (2): 131–139.
Published: 01 June 1964
... to the poet. To begin with, what might be called today in popular parlance “dying of a broken heart” was conceived of by medieval medical authorities as a physical weakening of the heart, a driving of “unnatural heat” into that organ so that the blood flees from all the other members to surround...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1965) 26 (3): 375–387.
Published: 01 September 1965
... into a kind of cosmic battlefield. The same thing happens with the imagery of blood. Blood, of course, is the natural, vivid image with which the meaning of war can be made concrete, and Marlowe has characters swimming in blood, bathing in blood, marching under bloody flags, dyeing the ocean red...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1982) 43 (4): 337–351.
Published: 01 December 1982
... no more altars, Nor suffer any- ABEL[.ising]. Cain! what meanest thou? CAIN. To cast down yon vile flatt’rer of the clouds, The smoky harbinger of thy dull prayers- Thine altar, with its blood of lambs and kids, Which fed on milk...
Journal Article
Modern Language Quarterly (1972) 33 (1): 3–22.
Published: 01 March 1972
... not The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream’d That any did. Had we pursu’d that life, And our weak spirits ne’er been higher rear’d With stronger blood, we should have answer’d heaven Boldly ‘not guilty’, the imposition clear’d Hereditary ours. (69-75...