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Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland -- William Butler Yeats

This week's theme... well, you'll figure it out soon enough :-)
(Poem #79) Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland
The old brown thorn-trees break in two high over Cummen Strand,
Under a bitter black wind that blows from the left hand;
Our courage breaks like an old tree in a black wind and dies,
But we have hidden in our hearts the flame out of the eyes
Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.

The wind has bundled up the clouds high over Knock-narea,
And thrown the thunder on the stones for all that Maeve can say.
Angers that are like noisy clouds have set our hearts abeat;
But we have all bent low and low and kissed the quiet feet
Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.

The yellow pool has overflowed high up on Clooth-na-Bare,
For the wet winds are blowing out of the clinging air;
Like heavy flooded waters our bodies and our blood;
But purer than a tall candle before the Holy Rood
Is Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.
-- William Butler Yeats
Well, there's not much I can say about Yeats' poetry that I haven't said
already... in short, I like it, and this poem is an excellent example
why. Hauntingly beautiful phrases, strong and resonant imagery, elegant
construction, an understated romanticism... this poem has it all.


PS. For the analysis-minded among you, in this poem, Yeats makes the
point that idealism and patriotism do not exist in a vacuum, nor are
they as abstract as the idealists and patriots would believe; more often
than not, it is the specific case, the individual, which is the
underlying factor behind acts committed 'for a higher purpose'.

George Macbeth writes:
    "Irish history and Irish politics came alive to Yeats through the
doings of people he knew and loved. His best work is a commentary on the
history of a whole country at the establishment of its freedom, a period
of agonising crisis seen through the eyes of a particularly sensitive
and involved member of it. Ireland was still small enough in the early
twentieth century for one man to feel its problems personally and mould
great poetry out of them. No English poet has been able during the last
fifty or sixty years to do this for more than one particular region.
This more than anything else establishes Yeats' preeminence."

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