The House of Tradition and the Threshold of Sanctity
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As a raw youth, Yeats thought art was ‘tribeless, nationless’, sufficient by and to itself. But he had outgrown such an outlook by the time he started out with The Wanderings of Oisin as a writer with a deliberate Irish aim. In inventing the character of Aileel—who has no warrant in the French original—he in a sense made this change the central theme of The Countess Cathleen. The heroine is fascinated by the overtly poetical world of Ailed, but it is only by rejecting it as insufficient that she becomes a poetic subject more powerful than any of which her poet could sing. Yeats explored the problem of life and art in The King’s Threshold from the opposite end. Art in and by itself may not be enough; yet a condition of life which denied its centrality was doomed to impoverishment:
If the arts should perish, The world that lacked them would be like a woman That, looking on the cloven lips of a hare, Brings forth a hare-lipped child.
KeywordsIndividual Talent Folk Tradition Personal Element Perfect Expression Modern Verse
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© Vinod Sena 1980