September 1913 W.B. Yeats Published in ‘Responsibilities’ (1914) AO4 Historical Context 1 Yeats wrote several poems in response to the public controversy stirred by Sir Hugh Lane's offer of his collection of paintings to the city of Dublin and the Dublin Lock-out of 1913-14. Of these ‘September 1913’ is the best known and the most significant. Sir Hugh Lane was a friend of Yeats’s and related to Lady Gregory, one of his patrons. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Les Parapluies, 1883. AO4 Historical Context 2 The Dublin Lock-out was a major industrial dispute between approximately 20,000 workers and 300 employers which took place in Ireland's capital city. The dispute lasted from 26 August 1913 to 18 January 1914, and is often viewed as the most severe and significant industrial dispute in Irish history. Central to the dispute was the workers' right to unionise. Q. What do these notes suggest about the likely tone of the poem? One of the major factors which contributed to the ignition of the dispute was the dire circumstances in which the city's poor lived. In 1913, one third of Dublin's population lived in slums. The infant mortality rate amongst the poor was 142 per 1000 births (in 2005 it was 6 per 1000). The situation was made worse by the high rate of disease in the slums, which was the result of a lack of health care and cramped living conditions. The most prevalent disease was tuberculosis (TB), which spread through tenements quickly and caused many deaths. A report published in 1912 claimed that TB-related deaths in Ireland were 50% higher than in England or Scotland, and the vast majority of TB-related deaths in Ireland occurred amongst the poor. Source; Wikipedia. AO4 - Literary context John O’Leary (more on him later) introduced Yeats to political ballads and songs Typically they contained intense emotion and patriotic feeling, if not rather lacklustre rhymes! For example, ‘The Wearing of the Green’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9_C3bKnXAA In a letter to his friend Lady Dorothy Wellesley during the period when Yeats was writing the ballads of Last Poems (1938) at the end of his life Yeats insisted that rhyme was crucial to capturing the authentic: Q. Bearing in mind what you already know about the political background to this poem, can you make a prediction about how Yeats might use or adapt this traditional form? ‘folk lilt of the Irish accent…Look through any old book of ballads and you will find that they have all perfectly regular rhyme schemes…Regular rhyme is needed in this kind of work…The swing of the sentence makes the reader expect it…The fundamental sing-song.’ Letters on Poetry from W.B. Yeats to Lady Dorothy Wellesley (1964) September 1913 What need you, being come to sense, But fumble in a greasy till And add the halfpence to the pence And prayer to shivering prayer, until You have dried the marrow from the bone; For men were born to pray and save: Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, It’s with O’Leary in the grave. Yet they were of a different kind The names that stilled your childish play, They have gone about the world like wind, But little time had they to pray For whom the hangman’s rope was spun, And what, God help us, could they save: Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, It’s with O’Leary in the grave. John O’Leary (1830-1907) John O'Leary converted Yeats to the cause of Irish cultural nationalism and was, in fact, responsible for Yeats becoming an ‘Irish’ writer. A man of great moral rectitude, a vehement patriot and active Fenian, he suffered long years of prison and exile in behalf of an ideal, if somewhat imaginary, Ireland. To Yeats, he seemed the embodiment of the romantic conception of Ireland and of Irish nationalism. O'Leary recommended to Yeats the writings of the Young Irelanders (rebels from the mid-19th century), maintaining that the nature and intensity of the feeling they had inspired had been of great political value. However, he never claimed that they were noteworthy for quality. In fact, despite his stress on the importance of a nationalistic purpose to aspiring Irish writers, O'Leary insisted that poetics should never be sacrificed to politics, nor aesthetics to argument. In his essay ‘Poetry and Tradition’ (1907) Yeats recalls O'Leary insisting that a ‘writer must not write badly, or ignore the examples of the great Masters in the fancied or real service of a cause, ... [just as] he must not lie for it or grow hysterical". Hoping to promote an Irish literature of the greatest kind, he supported Yeats in his refusal to praise second-rate literature in order to strengthen the cause of Irish nationalism. Thus Yeats associated O'Leary not only with Irish cultural nationalism but with an insistence on the highest standards of artistic excellence. Yeats had faith that O'Leary, like himself, would have recognized the intrinsic quality of the Lane Collection and deplored the nationalism which led to its loss. Was it for this the wild geese spread The grey wing upon every tide; For this that all that blood was shed, For this Edward Fitzgerald died, And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone, All that delirium of the brave; Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, It’s with O’Leary in the grave. Irish aristocrat and revolutionary. He was the fifth son of the 1st Duke of Leinster. He died of wounds received in resisting arrest on charge of treason following the 1798 rebellion. Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1763 – 1798) Irish nationalist and Republican and rebel leader born in Dublin, he led an abortive rebellion against British rule in 1803 and was captured, tried and executed by hanging, drawing and quartering for high treason. His last recorded words were made in a now famous speech on the eve of his execution: ‘Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance, asperse them. Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my tomb remain uninscribed, and my memory in oblivion, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.’ Robert Emmet (1778-1803) Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763 – 1798), was a leading Irish revolutionary figure and one of the founding members of the United Irishmen and is regarded as the father of Irish Republicanism. He was captured by British forces in Donegal and taken prisoner following the 1798 rebellion. Before he was to be executed, Wolfe Tone attempted suicide and subsequently died from his wounds Q. What do the biographies of the ‘Romantic’ Irish patriots mentioned in the poem add to our understanding of the poem? Yet could we turn the years again, And call those exiles as they were, In all their loneliness and pain You’d cry ‘Some woman’s yellow hair Has maddened every mother’s son’: They weighed so lightly what they gave, But let them be, they’re dead and gone, They’re with O’Leary in the grave Q. Close textual analysis: FORM – STRUCTURE – LANGUAGE. What was the ‘form’ of ‘The Stolen Child’? What ‘form’ does this poem take? How might it be significant? Work out the rhythm, metre and rhyme scheme – make a note of the structure of the poem. How does the structure help shape our response? Look at Yeats’s use of language. How do the various techniques help shape our response to the poem? What connections can you make between the poems you’ve studied so far? Which Yeats? Find evidence for each… • The socialist, publically disillusioned with Irish bourgeois values – bitter and satirical • Reflects personal disappointment with Maud Gonne • Rejection of the Celtic Twilight – linguistic corruption of traditional forms • The ‘turning point in Yeats’ career’ (Greening) where he abandons old mythologies and takes up new ones. WHICH INTERPRETATION DO YOU MOST AGREE WITH AND WHY? Connections – Still in a Celtic Twilight? • If ‘The Stolen Child’ looked into Ireland’s magical past what does ‘September 1913’ directly refer to? To what extent does ‘September 1913’ echo ‘the cry of the heart against necessity’ - a poem about ‘longing and complaint’? Plenary – drawing it together • Discuss the quotations and accompanying questions on the first side of the sheet with a partner. • Independently, write a short paragraph in response to the quotes on the back of the sheet.