Florence O’Donoghue

Let the Fools Rage

Yeats the European


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In 1925 Yeats made a speech in the Irish Senate attacking what he saw as the narrowness of the new Free State in opposing divorce. When he exalted the Anglo-Irish thinkers of the eighteenth century (‘We are the people of Swift…’) he was interrupted by the Chairman, ‘Do you think we might leave the dead alone?’ Yeats replied, ‘I would hate to leave the dead alone.’

Again and again the impact of the vitality of the dead is found in his works: in Kathleen ni Houlihan and other plays, and in the poems, of which the passionate ‘September 1913’ may be seen as the form, with the concluding couplet of each stanza:

Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

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