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This article is taken from PN Review 7, Volume 5 Number 3, April - June 1979.

Poet in Outlandish Clothes Grevel Lindop

Out of Ireland: a Reading of Yeats's Poetry by Dudley Young (Carcanet, £3.50)


YEATS WAS generally a shrewd man where timing was concerned, and his gift has somehow outlasted him, so that detailed revelations about the Magical side of his career havecome at the right moment. A decade ago, had the archive been opened, and a book like G. M. Harper's Yeats and the Occult appeared, there would have been embarrassed apologies from the critics. The public would have been asked to take a lenient view of what iMacNeice called the 'habit of cranky speculation' which formed, after all, only a minor blemish in the character of this otherwise great poet.

The intellectual climate of the 1970s is much kinder to many-levelled, intuitive, esotericthought like that of Yeats. It is now some ten years since the 'psychedelic' movement swept through the Universities, and a good many of today's writers, teachers and critics touched at least the hem of its garment as it passed by, with (one guesses) a consequent relaxing of certain obstinate prejudices about the nature of 'reality'. Hegel is back in fashion, after years of neglect, with a number of fine new translations appearing. And even the Marxists-in Yeats's day the uncompromising champions of a steam-powered, nuts-and-bolts materialism-are now learning to move in the paradoxical space proposed by Althusser, Macherey and Foucault. In an age like this it is difficult to dismiss Yeats's occultism as mere nonsense; and impossible to deny its ...


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