Yeats and Politics in the 1930s by Paul Scott Stanfield

By Paul Scott Stanfield

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By Paul Scott Stanfield

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If he died long ago Why do you dread us so? 114 The last two quoted lines may be another whispered seduction from the enemy, or they may be the reply of the besieged, for just as Yeats's aloofness from partisan politics co-existed with a desire to gain what influence he could, so his despair over modern Ireland co-existed with a wildly aggressive hopefulness. Coole, 'where a great Irish social order climaxed and passed away', 115 may have been about to be destroyed, and O'Connell Street may have in its aspect as in its name signalled Ireland's descent into middle-class domination, but the final defeat of all he cherished freed Yeats, with his cyclical view of history, to imagine its perhaps slow, perhaps sudden, but certainly inevitable return.

What attracted him to the Blueshirts? Why did he fall away from them? In the summer of 1933, when Yeats's enthusiasm for the Blueshirts had reached its highest point, he promised to write some marching songs for them. ' It had turned out that the party neither 'would nor could' have such an aim. ' 5 Before we do anything else, we must make clear what Yeats meant by that combination of acquired and inherent qualities, education and ability. By education Yeats did not mean the attainment of literacy, or any other kind of conventional schooling, and he by no means meant the strict religious training which prevailed in Ireland, and which he held in particular disesteem.

9 It was out of ignorance, Yeats thought, that this class mounted its opposition to Synge's plays, 10 and this assumption led him to ask that class to defer to the judgment of the leisured class in matters of art. 'The more an age is busy with temporary things, the more must it look for leadership in matters of art to men and women whose business or whose leisure has made the great writers of the world their habitual company,' he wrote in 1904, and in 1906, become 42 Yeats and Politics in the 1930s more combative, he wrote that if in the present century 'a man has fine taste he has either been born to leisure and opportunity or has in him an energy that is genius'.

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