By Colin Meir (auth.)

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Extra info for The Ballads and Songs of W. B. Yeats: The Anglo-Irish Heritage in Subject and Style

Sample text

Yeats That is a courtly picture. Ferguson's language is more vigorous, less genteel than Walsh's, particularly by virtue of the refrain. His third and fourth stanzas are as follows: Were I in the town, where's mirth and glee Or 'twixt two barrels of barley bree, With my fair Pastheen on my knee, 'Tis I would drink to her pleasantly! Then, Oro, come with me! come with me! come with me! Oro, come with me! brown girl, sweet! And oh! I would go through snow and sleet, If you would come with me, brown girl sweet!

Although Yeats claimed in 1901 that he had made a new style by writing about Ireland, 42 there is very little evidence of subject shaping style in The W£nd Among the Reeds; rather it is the way the poet sees his subject that controls the way he writes about it. In the poems which make specific reference to Irish mythology or folk-lore, that subject-matter is only dimly apprehended through the prevailing mood of world-weariness and the substance of dreams, a 'Celtic Twilight' which Yeats fashioned for himself and which was not native Irish at all.

When he wrote ballads like 'Moll Magee' Yeats was as far from that tradition as he was when, working several years later from new aesthetic principles, he searched in Irish folk-lore and mythology for the symbols of an esoteric lyricism. Initially he commended the translations for their personal emotion; and it is not until after 1900 that he emphasises the strength and clarity of their language, the vigour of their syntax and idiom. As can be seen from the work of translators from Callanan to Hyde, Yeats was to gain more from their tradition than he was at first aware existed in it.

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