Labyrinths: Yeats and Maud Gonne

  • Deirdre Toomey
Part of the Yeats Annual book series (YA)


In “The Tower” Yeats accused himself of turning aside

From a great labyrinth out of pride,

Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought

Or anything called conscience once;

And that if memory recur, the sun’s

Under eclipse and the day blotted out.

(VP 413–14).

The crisis that caused him such shame can be identified as that of December 1898 to February 1899 from the close parallel with a passage in Memoirs: “Many a time since then, as I lie awake at night, have I accused myself of acting, not as I thought from a high scruple, but from a dread of moral responsibility, and my thoughts have gone round and round, as do miserable thoughts, coming to no solution” (Mem 133).1 What was his “cowardice” in 1898–9 and what was the “great labyrinth” from which he had turned aside?


Moral Responsibility Manuscript Book Time Literary Supplement Love Poem Conjugial Love 
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© Deirdre Toomey 1992

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  • Deirdre Toomey

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