chapter  4
45 Pages

Words of Power, Language of Art

ByFrank Kinahan

When 1939's "The Circus Animals' Desertion" labelled the islands through which Oisin had journeyed as places of vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose, W. B. Yeats was merely iterating for the last time a view of his early poem that he had literally held from the start. In subsequent years simply "The Wanderings of Oisin", the poem as it appeared in 1889 had a subtitle. The narrator of The Coming Race walks through a gallery filled with portraits of the members of the tribe, some of the studies dating back thousands of years, others of them more recent; and he notes as he walks that the older the painting, the "higher" its degree of "art". In Yeats's 1898 essay was on Althea Gyles, the artist who designed the cover for The Secret Rose and whose passion for the symbolism of the Rose was all but the equal of the poet's. Here the language Yeats uses to describe his poetry echoes his occult sources.