29 MAY 1936, Page 24

The Aristocratic Ideal

Dramatis Personae. By W. B. Yeats. (Coale Press. 12s. es.L) Dramatis Personae. By W. B. Yeats. (Macmillan. 8s. 6d.)

YE.A.rs' new volume from Macmillan contains the limited edition of the same title and three other short books previously issued front the Cush Press, Estrangement, The Death of Synge, and The Boarey of Sweden, the last being concerned with his reception of the Nobel Prize. Estrangement and The Death of Synge date from 1909: the Nobel Prize was awarded him in 1923; and Dramatis Personae carries on his auto- biography from 1896 to 1902. The whole volume affords, therefore, an interesting opportunity of tracing its author's 'development and that of his prose.

Mr. Yeats has the respect, one might almost say the reverence, of the younger poets because they see in him not only an admired -accomplishment,- but an attitude towards experience which they themselves are seeking. Here is a man who, after making poetry out of an imaginative escape from life they will have none of, has made a greater and stronger poetry out of (among other things) an acceptance of those very aspects of life which are notoriously the most difficult for poetry to assimilate. A. E. was in the thick of the hurly- burly, but kept his poetry a whole dimension apart. Yeats was in the thick of it, smiting heads with the best, but Made the experience feed his art ; transferred it to the same dimen- sion.. "Nor knave nor fool can call me friend "—bid, as an artist, he has always known how to make both pay tribute.; Politics, a squabble about pictures, local obscurantism, old age; petty ingratitude, imitators," Pandeen"s spite "- they have all been made to produce poetry. The secret has been a full life lived with the kindled imagination and all the powers—I 'once heard him define intellect as "the man that judges ; and that alone would give these records and notes an interest, .quite apart from the language in which they are set down.

' The various papers show, of course, development and

'change. Ce-rtain things . remain constant : the aristocratic Ideal—" We mist prove our sincerity by making ourselves _unpopular to wealth "—and its corollary, the ceaseless war -against vulgarity : • the 'quest for a new moral doctrine: acceptable to the average rnan,-13ut " beyond his power in practice," which is the lay version of "the fascination of what's difficult " ; the longing to ennoble the Irish town

mind : the complete rejection of all proselytising. The change lies in the writing. The latest writing is mare un-

buttoned, less tensely charged with energy ; and this is mostly a gain, for at one period the prose was too Magnificent. But every phrase of it is individual. It is impossible for Yeats to write an uncharacteristic sentence. "In the early autumn Zola died, asphyxiated by a charcoal stove:" the hallmark is as clear as Upon the comment, twenty years earlier, on A. E.: The

Most fundamental of divisions is that between the intellect; which can only do its work by saying continually 'thou fool,' and the religious genius which makes all equal. That is why we have discovered that the mountain-top and the monastery are necessary to civilisation."

In Estrangement and The Death of Synge the notes are dis- continuous, so as to avoid any temptation to literary arrange: inent. The poet's deep feeling for Lady Gregory is revealed throughout.

"In one thing he (Synge) and Lady Gregory are the strongef souls I have ever known. He and she alike have never for an instant spoken to me the thoughts -of their inferiors as their own thoughts. I have never known them to lose the self-posscssion of their intellects. The others here—even Moore for all his defiance —possess their own thoughts above the general flood only for season, and Moore has, in addition.; an automatic combativeness that makes even his-original thought a reaction not a creation."

In the title paper, Yeats reveals his manifold indebtedness to her, and pays tribute to her friendship "She knew Ireland always in its permanent relationshil associations—violence but a brief interruption—never lost her aense of feudal responsibility, not of duty as the word is generally understood, but of burdens laid upon her by her station and her. character, a choice constantly renewed in solitude. She his; been,' said an old man to me, 'like a serving-maid among u. She is plain and simple, like the Mother of God, and that Was the greatest lady that ever lived.' When in later years her literary style became in my ears the best written by woman, she .hcjit made, the people a part of her soul ; a phrase of Aristotle's hail becorrie, her motto : To think like a :rise man, but to *express, oneself

like the common people.'" "

James Stephens, "who has all my admiration today ; "

W. G. Fay,

" . . a most lovable comedian. He could play dirty tramp, stupid countryman, legendary fool, insist on dirt and imbecility. yet play—paradox of- the -stage—with indescribable personal distinction. . . ."

. . many names from the old days are quoted and-receive their - word of praise. Central to the whole is a detailed study which can only be described as the paying off-of an old score. The score was long. Its overt-part extended over three Celebrated

volumes. Its unrevealed items can only be guessed. The pages here devoted to George Moore are among their author's liveliest. The antipathy between the.two men was inevitable and profound : each was bound to undervalue .the other. - Yeats pokes fun at Moore, relates the celebrated anecdote about his pants (somehow, it has lost force in print), and his proposal of marriage ; dissects his amours, his egoism, his vainglory : gives the very flavour of his talk :

" . . . he was accustomed to say 'Once she and I were walking in the Green Park. There is nothing more cruel than lust,'

she said. There is,' I said. What is that?' Vanity.' and I let her go a step or-two ahead and gave her a kick behind."' • It is all marvellously done and backed up with Sickert's brilliant portrait ; the provocation was great, the antipathy

miadical; but there is something a little uncomfortable about it 'all. It belongs to a side of Yeats better exercised in talk than in literature. For the rest, everything is here—the lightning flashes of perception, the philosophical speculation, the nobility of cadence, the sudden leap of wit, the aphoristic