Sunday, 27 March 2016

A Terrible Beauty is Born

W.B. Yeats had, unsurprisingly, a complex attitude to the Easter Rising and Irish Nationalism in general. He loved Ireland, but like so many lovers thought that gave him the right to mould her to his heart’s desire.

Of his many poems around the subject, ‘Easter 1916’, whose refrain I quote above, is the best-known and is being bandied about this centenary Easter. Less well-known, except for its final line, is this one:


Incidentally the horrors of over-specialization are nicely illustrated by a woman I met who was doing a degree in ‘Colonial Literature’ or some such, with special reference to Chinua Achebe’s novel ‘Things Fall Apart’. She had no idea where Achebe had got his title, and seemed indeed to be rather vague about who Yeats was. (By the way, I have no degree in any kind of literature, and having met people who do have one, I think I prefer to do without.)

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