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“REAL IRISH” AND IRISH REALITY (Symbols, Archetypes, Fate)

CALLING YOURSELF IRISH TODAY

Recently the Dalai Lama found himself in hot water for suggesting that “Europe belongs to the Europeans”. Nowadays it has become trendy to call any defence of borders, any species of national identity, “fascist”, the  obsession of  those who  risk being called  “the far right”.

Back in 1972 Paul and Linda McCartney were targets of criticism for singing “Give Ireland back to the Irish”. How might they answer postmodern trolls of the “hard left” and Globalists today for the same sentiments? They would probably be assured that – really – there is no such thing as Ireland or the Irish to give or return anything to! Ireland’s  current president, Michael Higgins, a friend of ultra  Globalist, George Soros, has called Ireland “a home for everyone” as though Ireland had not already had centuries enough of uninvited persons making Ireland their home. But as early as 1988 and just ahead of the Celtic Tiger years of a Europeanizing or just borderless Ireland, such was almost but not quite the message of the ground breaking, ultra-scholarly, widely praised R F Foster ‘s Modern Ireland (1600 -1972). This was effectively an economic and statistical history of Ireland. Its chronicle was so dense in its chosen emphasis it sidelined theories about Ireland and the Irish as virtual irrelevance, sometimes “Anglophobia” itself as against the shifting allegiances, regroupings of people and parties, fluctuating economic trends that compose the true picture, the “real” story.

At one level you can’t dispute the truth that across recent centuries, behind all the national myth, dreams, and political rhetoric, grim fact opposed much that was declared and hoped for. But no new and revisionist data can quite alter the fact that, just as a sense of home is natural, every society automatically and from psychological necessity, will define itself along nationalist lines. The Irish as a too long colonized people (the only colonized people in Europe) would perhaps especially do so. Anciently, the chief deity of the Celts appears to have been a version of Mercury, god of speech and persuasion, who is portrayed taking people captive by his words. Yet even eschewing Mercurial rhetoric, it must be conceded, and ironically so, that in the case of Foster’s new style historiography, the picture finishes Irish of a sort almost despite itself in that it has unintended affinities with the more shape-shifting elements of Celtic myth. And questions can well be asked about that, because myths are revealing for the societies which entertain them.

So I will examine, sometimes from the little explored angle of the symbolic and archetypal, just what “being Irish” means and why both in the past and present it has represented a tenacious ideal but one curiously difficult to pin down and realize in practical terms. Which also means, despite the cultural and psychological importance of what’s involved, any idea of Ireland and Irish identity is threatened anew and increasingly today, not just by the deconstruction of unpatriotic intellectuals but by the current social picture with its controversial patterns of Irish emigration outwards and EU migration inwards.

THE IRISH PSYCHE and THE DREAM FACTOR

Influenced by the writings of Joyce, Freud notoriously maintained you couldn’t psychoanalyse the Irish. Jung was more optimistic he could get to grips with at least the mind of Joyce, and it is by more Jungian means we should progress towards understanding. But of that presently. I will begin with a simple point of basic psychology which some Irish and Celtic people I have discussed this with have found illuminating.

I suggest for that a significant number of Irish (and Celts generally, especially Gaelic Scots) the music of the bagpipe can symbolize something about the psyche itself. Behind the tunes played on the instrument there is a single, one note drone. Visually it can be thought of like a permanent dark screen across which play the light and movement of life as expressed in melody; but it’s the screen is the core reality. That indelible impression is arguably the source of the Celtic dream which has affinities with the Hindu notion of world dream or Maya. The permanence and prominence of the  “screen” as somehow what’s most true, is liable to render everything else relative (or even unreal), more or less a projection only, sometimes futile (extremely so in the case of such as Samuel Beckett) and fit in one’s waking mode for ironic dismissal and satire. The latter is an Irish art form in itself. This negativity, dissociation or just doubt in the face of the normal course of life and events is often only redeemable by particularly brilliant symbols temporarily overwhelming the dark  like so many deities of light – Yeats’ Cathleen ni Houlihan crossing the stage as though an incarnation of Ireland itself!  This mindset encourages asking with Joyce the questions in Ulysses like: “Signatures of all things I am here to read….Am I walking into eternity along Sandymount Strand?”. I would take the implications of the assumed affirmative response  rather sensationally further.

Unmanaged by mental exercises or mystical teachings, the more fundamental “drone” side of the Celtic mind may be identical with the Hindu notion of the personal atman which is said to be identical (could one but realize it) with Atman of God/Soul in the Upanishads beloved of Yeats. The similarity is quite likely valid and a case of real affinity because there is plenty of evidence that ancient Ireland preserved elements of myth and law with parallels in the Vedic tradition which represents the furthest east expansion of the Indo-European tribes who spread as far as northern India three thousand or so years ago. The physical transformations of the Ulster hero Cuchulainn recall the shape shifting of some Hindu gods and more generally Celtic myth has something of the jungle-like quality of much Indian myth.

(There is a more secular version of this mental division. It has been noted in the poetry of for example Louis MacNeice that there is a certain juxtaposition of inner and outer, an observation of  the flux of images (in effect Kant’s phenomenal world) as against the noumena, the unknowable things in themselves. The main point, no matter how one describes or evokes it, is that the Irish mind is not firmly placed in the here and now, never completely and rigorously materialistic).

AN ISSUE OF RACE?

I would not insist, and have no evidence for a claim, that all Celts experience the drone phenomenon; but I believe they do have some sense of intense transcendence I shall mention later. But keeping to the drone factor, here we immediately run into a major problem. You don’t catch the Celtic dream by infection and only little by cultural assimilation (though Jung might allow anyone could pick up on the spirit of place). It is almost certain that it derives from that mostly forbidden source of anything today, namely race, and with the most unmentionable of reasons too, because isn’t “ Indo-Aryan” race theory what fascism is about?

But even if one can allow a race dimension to the picture, superficially there would anyway seem to be certain practical objections to it. Those Aryans beloved of fascist theory and the early Celts according to Roman report (plus even a few indications from Irish myth), were predominantly blue eyed and blond to order. So how could there be genetic inheritance? And then, as Oliver St John Gogarty once remarked of even Irish nationalist Yeats, despite what the poet claimed, he was English, not Irish anyway. So genetics might seem irrelevant.

Gogarty’s charge is actually rather misleading because whatever intermarriage may or may not have taken place and effected among Yeats’ Anglo-Irish forebears, we do know that the Pollexfens of Yeats’ mother’s side were of Cornish stock. Celtic Cornwall is probably the most dream fed, occult inclined quarter of England and this could explain the Yeatsian mindset at the more “racial” level. Likewise, despite claims to be Irish, Yeats’ own idol, Maud Gonne, may not have been this, but she did have an ancestry in the north of Scotland.. I would judge that – usually –  a strong vein of Celtic feeling can be associated some degree of genetic input.

Round Galway there are many “black” Irish of Mediterranean appearance, almost certainly testimony to intermarriage over the centuries with the merchants from Spain. The very fact most Irish are not blond and blue eyed could actually be because (apart from many Irish Gaels apparently anyway deriving less from Ukraine and Austria than from Galicia in Northern Spain and being perhaps related to the darker Basques) as is well known, blue eyes and blond hair represent recessive genes. Yet we repeatedly hear of Viking and Norman invaders and some English settlers becoming “more Irish than the Irish” within a generation or two following intermarriage. And do we not see the part Irish individual turn out oddly strong-to-type like the Greek-Irish free speech advocate, Milo Yiannopoulos (Hanrahan) whose personality is extravagant enough for Cuchulainn and Irish myth itself. (For the curious or unaware where Milo is concerned, the following YouTube can supply an idea https://goo.gl/GwZ57r ; to be noticed is the refusal to be PC and so attack whatever’s off limits like feminism and Islam etc. There’s a touch of Oscar Wilde’s will to dazzle and shock).

A reasonable inference would be that the mental characteristics of the Celts on the genetic plain are the opposite of recessive. Something genetic goes on. Why did we hear some years ago that rural Cavan is so high in the nation’s academic and IQ stakes? Possibly because, as historicans know, it was the original centre of Irish druidism which produced the main scholars of the society. Sometimes, just occasionally, it can be even fair features and red hair are retained in parts of northern Iran, India and Pakistan and right up to the borders of West China where Celtic type burial relics and custom have been found. Once upon a time Indo-European tribes went very far. (My original interest in this subject was prompted back in the seventies and in the Himalayas when to my astonishment I found myself in front of a Nepalese who might have been Ireland’s Free State leader, Michael Collins).

As a footnote to any search for the Celts since Mil and the Milesians arrived from Spain, it should be noted  that a variety of features in the art, music and even Celtic languages as they differ from the European, point to what DNA research somewhat substantiates. While the Irish are not Arabs, they do have traces of North African, Berber/ and Egyptian (Coptic?) Cretan and even Middle Eastern peoples in the mix, all of them able to reach ancient Ireland by sea from Phoenicia, Egypt and Morocco via perhaps long sojourn in Spain This might shed more light on the builders of dolmens and the mythologizing genealogies which look back to Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia. I find  significance in Bel being a Celtic sun god with Beltaine his feast, because it is widely accepted Bel is or echoes Baal. Arguably a couple like Maeve and Ailill bespeak an ancient Mesopotanian, quasi-matriarchal type, (biblically like King Ahab dominated  by his persecuting queen Jezebel). When not directed at Baal, Israel’s apostasy was in service of Baal’s Asherah denounced by the prophets. This echo of the remote Middle Eastern past is suggestive for the Irish cult of trees in which the Ash was the druid Tree of Life..But if we keep speculation  to the two main places of origins, continental Europe and northern Spain the one could perhaps say  the more surrealistic, Finnegan’s Wake  side of Irish  character and early myth is suggestive for the north Spanish connection, while early Fianna myth seems more continental European.

The majority Celtic input as regards population and culture cannot be passed over, but questions can well be asked about what looks to be some inconvenient truths in the realm of ethnic inheritance. Whether genetics applies or not, I shall now turn to what I consider one or two enduring features about the Irish.

IRISH “DIFFERENCE”.

It can seem odd to propose, but on examination it seems true enough to state, that almost the most essential character of the Irish is “difference”-in-itself. Difference would appear to be a relative value rather than any fixed and permanent one, but I suggest the Irish, (rather like gays in relation to straights), are definable by precisely a sort of permanent alienated difference from the Other, or Others; they are the eternal variation on a theme, having like Joyce’s Jewish Bloom a sense of being liminal. (What really is more permanent exists at a Platonic, symbolic level that underlies the philosophy of Ireland’s ninth century thinker, Erigena. This level of otherness, another version of the Celtic Otherworld is a subject in itself and functions sometimes as a basis of Irish wit, a sense of the absurd and paradox as ideal and real clash).

The Jews have been called a “feminine” race as being the bride or handmaid of God. The Celts have always liked to travel (but rather less when forced by emigration as the home turf also counts!) because new places present new ideas and possibilities to absorb into whatever the energies of their core being are. In short, their development is dialectical – thesis, antithesis, synthesis. (Arguably Irish history itself progresses in antithetical waves, one generation more revolutionary, another more constitutional). But what prevents movement is bad almost by definition. Joyce’s Dubliners is very much a portrayal and protest against stasis and stagnation. (Even given more opportunity, it is unlikely architecture would have been a leading Celtic art if only because of  stone’s  permanence as against the impermanence  of wood said to have been favoured by the druids – evidently a touch of Buddhist feeling on that point). A reason Ireland has so dangerously, even self-destructively accepted the damage the EU has been doing it, is because – at least at the outset –  it looked like the prospect of a wanted, needed change which  it was (wrongly) assumed could be easily absorbed. It is an error to assume Ireland is root and branch conservative.

However, only  recently in the work of the late John O’Donohue has an overt emphasis on the dialectic and other more Mitteleuropa ideas, as from Goethe, been imported into Irish thinking at the more conscious level (see https://wp.me/p2v96G-126 They have of course long been a principle at more unconscious levels where they have been in suppressed conflict with what was often the straightjacket of Catholic Thomist/Aristotelian values. In fact, the swirling decorations of everything from La Tene art to the Book of Kells bespeak the dialectical impulse further implied by the ancient Celtic obsession with the number 3.

By contrast, England, in some respects  the great intellectual and imaginative exception within Europe, would present less a dynamic (in effect extraverted)  contrast such as at least sometimes Italy and Dante, so important to Joyce and Beckett, supplied, than a wholesale denial.  Those who rather cynically maintain that England was “necessary” to Ireland’s development, ignore how exceedingly difficult England was to adjust to with it’s almost automatic repression of the possibility of any substantial variation upon itself – it even worked to abolish the native language and laws along with appropriating national land and uprooting whole populations on it  The home turf, natural scenery and nature are something many Celts have been almost mystically attached to, but if you believe in Locke’s  tabula rasa minds, then such attachments can be ignored..

Despite inevitable cultural  percolation  over time, Shakespeare, Dickens, Shelley (the latter strongly protested England in Ireland) being prominent at the literary level, most essentially England presented a series of psycho-social  exclusions with values  almost too opposite to ever quite assimilate. Everything from its most representative philosophy, the materialist, Lockean empiricism with its tabula rasa of mind abominated by Yeats, to its social organization in cliques which would permit an empire to expand everywhere but be ruled by a virtual caste system, all was a tough nut to crack. You needed to become English to socially interact at all – in order to shine, Oscar Wilde promptly disposed of his Irish accent upon arriving in England; Yeats never even had one. But a century after Irish independence, from his professorial position in Oxford, revisionist historian  Foster shockingly refers to the voices of historic Irish nationalism as “Anglophobic”.

IRISH RHYTHM

If “difference” was a core value often repressed, less repressible and arguably another genetic feature, is access to a certain unique rhythm which others may appreciate but not quite have in the blood. Some of it is, after all, almost manic, Dionysac. Over the centuries even hostile reports of Ireland conceded the Irish love of and skill with music (albeit liable to be regarded as an aspect of lazy national dolce far niente values!). Within and beyond the music is not infrequently a quite special driving energy, well reflected in the thunder and lightning of the modern Riverdance phenomenon which freed Irish dance from the no arms polker skipping originally imposed by careful priests. Dancing is in fact behind quite a lot of what the Irish do and not just in the lilt of the linguistic expression. A surprising phenomenon of recent years is the Irish OTT wrestling which has a lot of virtual dance in its unusual expression in variance on a common theme.

The rhythm points to an ongoing, implicitly eternal energy symbolized in the eternity knots and circles of traditional Irish patterning, and while this can be associated with a quieter, sometimes plaintive, melancholic strain of feeling and music, more essentially (if one wants to make the often meaningful Indian comparisons) it is a dance of Shiva whose Celtic equivalent would appear to be the horned Cernunnos who sits Shiva-like cross-legged on the Gundestrup bowl. (Some scholars regard this figure as the Irish Jupiter, but I doubt it and the fact we don’t know more about this figure at the literary level, is because he was almost certainly a rural, Pan-like deity of the third order or farming class rather than the druid elite).

The rhythm is simply everywhere from the earliest flowing artwork to the lilt of the largely discarded language which still echoes into the English as spoken and which is incidentally oddly distinct from the harsher tones of Ulster accents. The latter accompanies the more “no nonsense”, iconoclastic attitudes of the Scots Irish which, if one reached back far enough, might take one to the blue faced Picts renowned for a bellicosity the English and Romans could never tame and raised a wall against. Ulster was at least notionally the centre of ancient Ireland and associated with the High Kingship. Tudor English policy could hardly have chosen a more sensitive area for Plantation or selected more fortress mentality agents of a colonization away from any Gaelic world. To this day there is intense Ulster resistance to any proposal Irish language might be taught in schools as helping make any bridge between north and south.

CELTIC INTUITION

Last and briefly in this section I would add intuition as a core characteristic. It could hardly be quantified and made a statistic, but it seems fair to say the intuitive function is more used and represented among the Celts than many European peoples. Telepathy, prophetic dreams, water divining, sometimes apparent healing ability, reading symbols and directing “second sight” upon affairs are fairly common.   They are often seen as inherited and running more in some families than others, which if so would again tend to support a rather ethnic as opposed to purely cultural view of the people. The high status originally enjoyed by poetry and the poet in the traditional society was tied to assumptions that the extreme intuition of vision/prophecy was involved. To the extent Yeats laid much emphasis on these factors he is the truest Irish poet within modern times and see re Yeats also under archetypes.

For what the point is worth, those rare people who claim to be able to perceive auras maintain people of Celtic extraction have a strong green ray in the aura, the real basis of Irish green obsession, not just the often electric green of grass in Eire! Whatever is or isn’t involved, it often seems stronger than in many other places. People swear by the gifts of past and present figures like Biddy Early (a witch), Joe Cassidy (a diviner and healer), and Lorna Byrne (a psychic) the latter exceptionally claims to see angels and entities not  now and again but all the time. (See my Joe Cassidy, an Irish phenomenon   https://wp.me/p4kNWg-bA ).   At this point one borders less intuition than something more purely occult. In this connection I suspect  that elements of the St Patrick story, which have him challenging druids claiming to levitate and fly,  may not be pure fancy but reflects conditions and people of an ancient society with something of Alexander David- Neel’s celebrated reports of magic and mystery in traditional Tibet.

PART TWO

ARCHETYPAL AND SYMBOLIC EMPHASIS IN CELTIC THOUGHT

Before turning to what perhaps most neatly describes who and what the Irish are today, I shall turn to the more historical question of archetypes and archetypal emphasis, something always crucial in understanding people psyches. We have a description, of sorts, of Celtic religion from the Romans from Caesar to Lucian. This is thought to be fairly reliable but it remains suspect to the extent it can seem too easy to parallel certain deities with leading Roman ones, like Mars or Mercury when archaeology and art appear to indicate quite a few additional deities. These fit nowhere, unless perhaps they belong to the quasi-Hindu “jungle” of much native myth. Moreover, what myth comes down to us scarcely concentrates on divine figures in their own right but emphasises rather issues like kingship, just rule, land possession, warriors  and healing.

I think however the Roman view need not be too distrusted, especially not on the basis that the classical world represents centralized stateism so that  Celtic  fluidity of myth reflects nothing but Celtic anarchy. Given anything like a Jungian concept of a collective unconscious, one will support the notion that in all myth everywhere there will be, or ought to be, and as primary, gods of sun and moon, Mars and Venus types etc, namely archetypes related to the visible planets and which function as trans-cultural, universal symbols. Any absence of or variation upon this root pattern can be significant and demands explanation.

So….all that can really differ as regards a Celtic pantheon is:

a)  the just mentioned plethora of local deities of hill, stream and wells, these being much akin to and precursors of later cults of the saints. This is what we might expect of an originally nomadic society which is making sense of things as it goes along. Also a society with often rather fluid tribal boundaries. The tribe itself will have its particular god or gods,  but these can be changeable following the tribe’s fortunes.

b)  a greater fluidity in definition and function of the major, trans-tribal gods. For example, according to Caesar the chief god of the Celts was Mercury, (Ogmios, Lugos, Lugus, Lugo, Luga  across Europe but in Ireland Lugh). A confirmation scholars miss for Lugh having to be more essentially Irish Mercury than anything, is that he is “Long Arm” and hand and arm are by tradition ruled by Mercury/Gemini). While Irish Mercury can function conventionally as the usual symbol/patron of roads, communication, commercial transaction and various arts, he can have a touch of Mars about him too when the category of arts extend to making implements of war. Also when he is sometimes a light and kingship factor merging with the solar god Bel or Belenus (of the Beltaine festival). Lugh, whose festival of Lughnasa fell in August (i.e under the ultra solar sun sign of Leo) Lugh is often regarded as the Irish sun god……It is incidentally my guess, that the lack of Irish cosmology and origins myth as opposed to intricate concern with mythologized genealogies, is involved not simply with clerical editing (monks have recorded and preserved the creation myths of many societies) or even tribalism, than with the native Mercurial  sense of continuous creation and, where possible, identity with, participation in  creative flow rather than any process considered  wholly from outside. Then too,  as perhaps the most dramatically inclined of the known Celtic groups, Irish feeling for interchangeability among the roles of divine figures  could reflect a native desire to assume all roles within the drama of existence.

c) By contrast to the fluidity of the Celtic gods, the chief deity for the Romans was Jupiter who as thunder bearing Taranis is a lesser figure for the Celts. A fairly benign and versatile but not creator father god, The Dagda (the good god), possibly represents a Jupiter figure for Ireland, especially as he controls weather and is a druid, a religious function. Dagda exemplifies a Jupiterian bounty and fortune through especially his famous, (proto grail) magic cauldron. However, he is not any powerfully cosmological, philosophical or refined Jupiter but a more Falstaffian, Rabelaisian one. If Rome regarded Mercury as effectively chief god of the Celts. that impression seems right as reflecting the restlessness and general eloquence (“gift of the gab”) of Celtic culture. Also, if we allow possible Indo/European connection, Mercury is the wisdom of the mind. In Hindu religion, rather surprisingly it’s Mercury, not religious and philosophical Jupiter (named Guru in India), is arbiter of wisdom and even of ultimate “enlightenment”. This is because it supports “discrimination” between types and levels of thinking.

While much could be said about Celtic myth and Gaulish custom before and beyond it (all significant for Ireland in its way – the Tain epic has warriors fighting in chariots which happened in Gaul rather than Ireland), the following is what seems distinctive about pagan Celtic religion and thus ruling archetypes psychologically.

1) There is no completely distinct Celtic sun god (it could be Bel or in Ireland Lugh), nor a Mars whose role seems distributed around various deities like power around the tribe.

2) The existence of Angus (Mabon in Wales), a god of love, beauty and youth – like Yeats the Celts can rage against age. This god may or may not be an aspect of youthful Mercury but especially as the child who tricks his illegitimate father, The Dagda,  he gives the impression of being Ireland’s trickster figure. Though he brings couples together and is entranced by a woman, at another level  he may represent a type of the (Uranian) Puer (boy/child) archetype Jung associates with homosexuality. (I use my intuition here which years ago, so a Buddhist scholar assured me, correctly guessed the esoteric secret most Buddhists don’t know, namely that Manjusri/Monju, a rather similar figure, is the gay god). The Ancients did regard the Celts as considerably same sex inclined, something they never ceased to be – report of same sex unions was one of the reasons the only English pope gave England the right to invade medieval Ireland. (It looks as though Ireland accepted “marriages of brethren” along the lines of some eastern churches, Ireland having had more contacts with the East than post Patrick Roman officials cared to admit). If the depiction of depression  is a feature of Irish myth (see below), then Angus could be a kind of redemptive, surprise and change bringing  influence, an Eros as against a Thanatos (Death) principle. Insofar however as versatile Lugh and  not Angus is Mercury, it is noticeable how much Yeats (himself a Mercurial Gemini like an earlier  national poet in English, Thomas Moore) is related to the Lugh archetype. Asteroid Lugh conjuncted his rising moon, while Luga,, a continental variant name, squared his moon at birth).

3) Despite the radiant glamour of some Celtic goddesses and the existence of a few potent, fate ridden  love stories – tragic Deidre anticipates tragic Isolde, Irish princess of Cornish lore – there is no clear Venus/Aphrodite equivalent serving the love principle fully (or very cheerfully!). There are only minor Minerva type figures of wisdom or healing, or goddesses of wells and rivers like Boann (Boyne)  the mother of Angus, and then a goddess of the Sovereignty of Ireland. She herself is a triple goddess, Eriu, Fodla and Banba (or she is Morrigan who might be all three together). Quite simply, Irish myth seems more linked to nature than to society and the relation to the goddesses ( who may appear temporarily as hags) could well reflect need, desire and struggle in relation to an originally difficult terrain. Divinity as a smiling or playful Venus is more likely to emerge in sunnier climes as of southern Europe.

4) There are also numbers of Celtic lunar goddesses, some of them again trinities like supremely the Sovereignty of Ireland. There are a variety of goddesses associated with motherhood and/or fertility, chief among them for specifically the Irish, Danu. But as with Mercury’s overlap of functions, goddesses may also be involved in war, death and destruction (Some Celtic women, Amazon-like and like the British Boudicca, did venture into battle and a small minority of Irish women like child abusing nuns or singer Sinead O’Connor’s sadistic mother, can have a very dark side). Such lunar divinities hark back to pre-Venus figures like Babylonian Ishtar who served both eros and war. The mythology suggests matriarchal tendencies at some level, but despite even the apparently woman favourable to permissive Brehon laws, the reality on the ground,  was that the majority of the women who weren’t wealthy and privileged,  suffered disadvantage – many of St Patrick’s first converts were women including because the faith appeared to favour women rather than otherwise.

5) A sort of shadowy, sinister male Trinity group Taranis, Teutates and Esus, a Trinity whom Lucian even regarded as the chief gods of the Celts (though they are not clearly so for the Irish), and who allegedly required human sacrifice.

6) A shadowy Dispater or Pluto figure, “father” of the Celts according to Caesar, and possibly a version of the withdrawn Creator god or “the unknown god” St Paul refers to among the Greeks at Athens. The dark and hidden nature of this Gaulish god with no clear Irish version might have bearing on what I am calling the Celtic atman or drone factor. If there is an Irish equivalent it would perhaps be Midir, a lord of the Underworld and foster father to Angus rather than progenitor of the whole race. But if Midir is a Pluto variant  this could explain his unexpected relation to Angus, especially if the latter is once seen as a Uranian, naturally ascensional,  brightness-surrounded  archetype who would resist age, and any lasting dark and downward motion. Despite his centre of power, where he appears  Midir is not a notably sinister figure like classical Pluto, but merely mysterious; nonetheless,  in his insatiable desire for compensation for an accident occasioned by Angus, there may be suggestions of remorseless, inescapable Plutonic demands and insistence, ultimate fate.

7) An Irish  god of the sea, Lir or Ler and his son Manannan mac Lir, may equate with Poseidon/Neptune. The archetypal fits are that one of the saddest Irish myths is The Children of Lir, and Neptune (especially in astrology) is sorrow and tears, while Poseidon is a god of horses or perhaps the waves ridden as such; and the Irish sea god, associated like Poseidon with equine imagery, leads to the final point.

8) Finally, and in view of what’s mentioned later, I note there is more than one horse goddess (Macha and Epona) and in Gaul a male deity Atepomarus, a healing god with some associations with the classical sun god Apollo, but perceived as a great horseman. This has some connection with the otherwise mostly absent or invisible Celtic Jupiter given the ancient and perennial connection of Jupiter with religion and Sagittarius with the horseman.

What if anything might all this point to on the archetypal, psychological plain? To the extent, love and benevolence, even good fortune and material wealth are worldwide associated with Venus and Jupiter, the Celtic emphasis, even though Mercury is commercial, is quasi-ascetical in line with historical fact and self image as in “land of saints and scholars”. Knowledge and self-realization have usually counted for more with the Celts than financial success of the more notable kind. And the saying “happy wife, happy life” will not readily apply in this society. We know from earliest myth as of the Tain that it doesn’t. King Ailill and Queen Maeve are not on good terms and Maeve is no Venus but a bullying virago. However, note she is really a type of lunar goddess since, again suggesting the mystery of Indian affinities, her husband’s 27 window palace is redolent of the 27 lunar mansions of Vedic astronomy/astrology. The druids were reported to be great astronomers so we cannot ignore this dimension.

It remains hard to determine to what extent the Irish record of tribal  invasions represents a mythologized history or something more psychological. It is possible a symbolization of a Celtic war with  depression is conveyed through figures like the dark Fomorians and Balor. But given that the Celts do appear to have a depressive vein (too often “cured” by alcohol), the psychological dimension, a war between conscious and unconscious, cannot be ruled out possibly as one of the more distinguishing features of Irish myth. Here darkness may not be just something seasonal and wintry, or deathly and irremediable, but a symbol of defeat and living death.

Weakness of solar emphasis could owe to little more than Irish cloud and rain, but coupled with a “distributed” Mars too, it might point to a degree of matriarchy that hands things over to the lunar factor which, like Mercury, is changeable. It can be  women who go on the offensive or stir the men to Martian activity. Although the Celtic raids upon Rome and Delphi were dramatic and long remembered, overall the Celtic impulse has not been imperial, unless at the remote beginnings of Indo-European expansion, violence historically having more to do with tribal raids and skirmishes (i.e. home turf, lunar issues). One could almost say Irish Mars is Mars negative, more defensive than offensive; and if that seems a bit  generous in the light of history, it must be recalled, and despite Lucian’s mention of human sacrifice in Gaul, that Ireland is the only country in the world where Christianity managed to be introduced without producing martyrs. Also early Irish myth likes to think of the Fenian band as defenders not extenders of the kingdom.

It would be a bold thesis, but I can’t help wondering if what distinguishes and confuses Irish myth away from many norms, is its intimations of those archetypes now more clearly associated with the outer, previously invisible planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. In modern psychological astrology which emphases the archetypes, these planets register forces more generational and spiritual than the inner planets. Main features of classical mythology rather neatly equate with the visible planets. It would be consistent with both the tribal element of Celtic thought plus a heightened spirituality if there were to be more reflection of outer planets drives and symbolism.

HOME TRUTHS AND FATED FACTS

If he couldn’t fathom a patient and make them speak their problems, Jung would resort to what would disclose the problem and make them talk, namely their horoscope. We shall do the same with the riddle and often hidden facts of (modern) Ireland. I shall take the uniquely fated crossroads moment between past and present when after eight hundred years Ireland (more or less) obtained what it wanted. A return of its land through a divorce from England via achievement of a Republic status. (18th April, 1949, 00. AM . UT , Dublin)

It is remarkable how accurate the picture is. I can only describe salient features of a detailed pattern of huge significance.

The moment in time is shown by asteroid IRELAND in the house of leadership and destiny, conjunct of all things but suitably, THE PART OF DIVORCE while several planets fill the opposite fourth house of land, origins and history. The land is what Ireland desires to regain, so this house contains all of Sun, Mars, Venus and the fated nodes in a new beginnings sign, Aries. Since by long tradition Ireland was always represented by home-loving, musical and earthy Taurus, which was suitably the sign of the sun at the time of the Easter Rebellion in 1916, there is a message for the future, of which presently, in the strong Aries input for the Republic. However, noteworthy is that the Taurus tradition continues to the extent all-important Mercury  falls in the sign in the creative fifth sector conjunct asteroid YEATES (sound vibe, not spelling, determines asteroid meaning and usage). This is as good as to define Yeats as the truest to tradition for modern Ireland,  something I have always maintained against certain claims to the contrary. See for example: Why Ireland needs Yeats 2015…and more  https://wp.me/p2v96G-xA

FROM THE FLIGHT OF THE EARLS

The crossroads moment also looks back to the past – vividly. There is no Ulster asteroid but I knew if an O’NEILL asteroid existed it would be meaningful. The greater part of Ireland’s problems in recent centuries go back to the fatal Tudor plantation of Ulster and the Flight of the Earls in 1607, especially clan O’Neill and Hugh O’Neill of Irish High King lineage, a departure which effectively lost Ireland its ruling elite and with it something of its identity and culture.

I am not a romantic, uncritical admirer of the old clan system which could have used some reform, but deceit and wrong was nonetheless practiced upon O’Neill and the clans. This is clearly shown by asteroid O’NEILL in the house of the land and origins at 12 Aries opposed to a Neptune at 13 Libra in the destiny and rulership house suggestive, via this “afflicting” opposition aspect, of precisely deceit, theft, and/or suffering imposed. Yet by extension even the new leaders could well confuse or fail to defend past legacies of identity and culture. The marks of the past overshadow present and future.

Ever since the Flight of the Earls, the Irish have had to find their way amid disadvantage as much socio-cultural as economic. It is generalization only, but broadly what would happen is that while the peasant and farmer on the land (Celtic society’s traditional third order) would be symbol and protester of many things and supposed bearer of tradition, power went to a half hidden, town and village based rising commercial middle class. This could only thrive under existing restrictive laws by a degree of shady dealing which become ingrained and would compromise the standards of Irish life and politics for generations. Their mouthpiece and deliverer was the rather brash and loose living Daniel O’Connell (it was joked you couldn’t throw a stone over the workhouse wall without hitting one of Dan’s bastards).

Asteroid O’CONNELL from the house of lawyers (he was a lawyer) is tellingly in affliction square the Republic’s would-be socially unifying Venus and exactly square its fatal Saturn in Leo in the house of religion which is the promise of the eventual end of Catholic triumphalism and hegemony in Ireland.

The as, when and how of Catholic Emancipation and its achievement ahead of the catastrophe of the Great Famine, put Catholicism, O’Connell’s class and especially the priests (acting now as a substitute Celtic elite) into power in a way that would subsequently choke national life at every level, worsening relations between north and south. It would identify being Irish almost wholly with being Catholic when ironically a lot of Irish nationalism and modern culture would subsequently derive from Irish Protestant sources – necessarily so as Catholicism would not allow the independence and modernity of thought involved. In the 1930s in shocking betrayal of values and promises of the 1916 revolution, De Valera virtually reduced Ireland legally to an arm of the Vatican and there was a major exodus of Protestants, artists and writers. The emphasis on Aries in the Republic’s chart is, I believe, a key to the fate of the increasingly rejected Catholicism within Ireland as suggested below.

CELESTIAL MARKS OF DIFFERENCE AND STYLE

The theme of Irish “difference” that I have stressed, is superbly shown by the status of Jupiter. This planet is symbol of a person or nation’s philosophy, beliefs and the basis of freedom. Placed. in the second house of personal values (as much as wealth), it is strong on 0 degrees of independent, freedom loving, would-be different Aquarius. This signals emphatic difference, but besides that something of the shocks and surprises of the Celtic Tiger years are anticipated by this additionally wealth-registering factor in an erratic sign in the possessions house.

Although the Celts historically didn’t – consciously – stress any Jupiter deity or factor, this Jupiter is still crucial for defining the (modern) Irish including the perennial wit (which often has a sharp edge and the (sometimes helpless) laughter  – Swift, suitably for an adopted if reluctant Irishman, was a Sagittarian. Jupiter is theoretically ruler of the whole pattern because Sagittarius, (“ruled” by Jupiter), rises over the horizon at its birth. This rising point will define the body of the people, their persona, temperament and mythos. At one level Sagittarius is the priest, the philosopher, the prophet and pilgrim. At another level it is the sportsman and undeniably Irish sports, especially Gaelic football and hurling, are defining for Ireland and influential  on the international level.  Temperamentally, Sagittarius is the Irish as  ”broth of a boy” or “the wild Irish girl” type who can never have enough of the fun. Except that Ireland can’t quite have all the fun of the fair. 5 degrees of Sagittarius rises, but behind it at 8 degrees rises the planetoid, Chiron, the wounded healer, insuring tears may accompany laughter and melancholy visit the party and never quite be banished. Even so, the intensely “Sagittarian” approach to life and luck is reflected in the Irish expression of “Good luck”. This is “Go n-eiri an bother leat”  which means, “may your journey be successful”, the quest, the trip, the adventure rated higher than, say, the acquirement of worldly goods.

With the body involved in the ascendant, classic Irish beauty among the women from Maud Gonne (Yeats’ own Cathleen ni Houlihan) to Edna O’Brien, to singer Sinead O’Connor whose 5 Sagittarius ascendant degree exactly conjuncts Ireland’s, is essentially the Sagittarian one. (Tragic Sinead who now wants to work for the dying, with her Venus and Sun below her ascendant seems to embrace the nation’s suffering, wounded Sagittarian Chiron).  Recall amid all this, and bespeaking Sagittarius, there were the Irish horse goddesses and that from the Gauls onwards many observers, like Richard Stanihurst in the sixteenth century, have been declaring the Irish make fine horsemen (they needed to be so since the Irish traditionally resisted any use of the saddle!). But Jupiter and Sagittarius transcend so that, even if and when the drone psychology doesn’t apply to them, many Irish, especially men, feel a sort of higher self and wider existence upon them through the racing and riding of horses and national sports generally which are almost a substitute or supplementary religion.

So…the restless Irish who travel, go on pilgrimage or who, through desire for adventure or from economic necessity, emigrate far and wide and who seek fun, all this is covered by shades of Sagittarius. And the horseman is the distance traveller as opposed to the more local one of Gemini and Mercury. But above all, Sagittarius is the sign of belief and organized religion, and of course the Irish are traditionally and typically religious, so unsurprisingly  the rising 5 degrees of Sagittarius positively trines asteroid CHURCH in the ninth house of beliefs and religion. We are now ready to cover those most vexed subjects, religion and sex.

THE IRISH AND SEX

Astrology may suffer misinterpretations but the skies don’t lie and they tell the truth about the Irish and sex. EROS at 5 Aquarius is loosely conjunct expansive Jupiter but in exact favourable aspect to both the image-giving ascendant and the marriage and unions associated descendant. This reflects the Irish mostly reckon to keep sex within bounds (and might even expect of it little short of the alchemical wedding itself!);  but since Aquarius is many ways different/queer, it’s a promise that one day Ireland could accept gay unions as is also the fact that the gay planet, Uranus, is in the nation’s house of marriages.  (It could equally and also indicate that divorce would eventually be legalized and perhaps rather easily had recourse to once  instituted)

Sex strictly speaking nevertheless belongs with Ireland’s eighth house which holds Pluto. This can involve very intense sex and, some maintain, it rules pornography. As symbol of transformation generally, Pluto is certainly a promise of profound changes that personally and/or socially the Irish can and will undergo regarding sex. With Cancer on the cusp of the house this sector is ruled by the moon.

The Republic’s moon is in steely conservativeCapricorn. This fits for the more familiar side of things, the Ireland set up by De Valera and rather mercilessly portrayed in Patrick Kavanagh’s poem The Great Hunger, with its the cold world of the lonely bachelor, unromantic and frustrated, “married” to his mother and patting his horse for comfort. But if lunar Capricorn at its Saturnian worst risks being this, notoriously it can manifest as its extreme opposite, the libertine like the supposedly life and sex-hating Samuel Beckett who used prostitutes and had marathon sex (some said three days with just intervals to eat and drink) with the nymphomaniac Peggy Guggenheim.

Though these are two extremes, it seems fair to say there aren’t just Italian stallions. Ireland of the horses can be exciting in its own way. Within the eighth house Eire has the wow factor of all of CERNUNNOS, SIVA and MAEVA (i.e. Maeve). (Even in the fifth sector of love affairs and romance there’s DIONYSUS!).

All this rather points to huge reserves of raw sexual energy, though I believe MAEVA has a lot to do with bestselling novelist, Maeve Binchy, feminist recorder of an Ireland in social and sexual transition. Binchy regarded herself as a modern mouthpiece of mythic Maeve  and went annually to Lisdoonvarna, home of Brian Merriman the eighteenth century poet whose Midnight Court poem protests Irish sex repression, to recharge batteries as Maeve’s voice to the modern Irish. However….raw energy (backed up by the addictive, exaggerating quality of the Celtic dream function) can still be dangerous and not everyone really wants or needs it. So I suspect, rather as some rabbis have discovered a few tantric principles to channel sex better for the sometimes insatiable and Freudian-minded Jews, Ireland might use a bit of tantra to achieve especially the full body orgasm that among gays has been found to cure their too frequent and dangerous sex addiction. See article What gays want and need  https://goo.gl/ZVxWR9

As it is, the relations between partners in Ireland remains, as it always has been, a little strange due to its high degree of independence. Husbands and wives rarely seem close and intimate, a characteristic reflected in cool, different and gay-inclined Uranus in the nation’s marriage house, but conjunct PAN. While this combination could again indicate couples might use some tantric relating, if partners seem so self-contained, hardly needing one another, this may be because the Irish are almost pre-wedded to nature or their “soul” function stressed by  John O’Donohue and here symbolized by the conjunction to PAN. This incidentally fits my speculation about a real difference between soul and spirit that O’Donohue’s theology fails to grasp; soul, even among Christians, is always somewhat pagan and nature-bound in contrast to Spirit with which O’Donohue confuses it. See my Ireland’s Old/New Spirituality Problems https://wp.me/p2v96G-126the

THE IRISH AND RELIGION

Finally, what about religion? With the ascendant exactly trine CHURCH, the society was and always will be somewhat church associated, though never to the extent it once was. In the house of religion stands a dangerous Saturn in Leo, a warning within any pattern to any kind for leaders and leading authorities (“Saturn in Leo, king dies” – Hitler had it and eventually lost and died) and since Saturn is order but also restriction, the church could be oppressive of the society and was.

But ultimate spiritual scandal was waiting to bring  down Irish religion in the Catholic mode. The late Fr Malachi Martin, once a Jesuit Vatican insider, shocked many by claiming Satanic rites took place in the higher echelons of the church. I can’t tell similarly dark and occult meanings attached to  some of the patterns of abuse and cover-up in Ireland that when finally revealed would traumatize the nation, occasioning distrust and lapse from faith. However, I do notice something remarkable in the Eire pattern the likes of which I have never found elsewhere before. The asteroid THEOTES (Godhead/Trinity) conjuncts LUCIFER. Conjunctions represent what is either very joined or opposed. The message seems to be that God and devil are in outright spiritual conflict over Ireland and it could suggest that what has been involved in recent scandals is sometimes more than just sexual.

The sun represents the ultimate will, life direction and identity. Unless and until the nation formally redefines itself, Aries, the self made man, represents that will. Unless you care to say Aries could represent “the fighting Irish”, as said, a Taurus sun that shone on 1916’s Easter Rising might have better represented the national mind, the “matriarchy” and culture generally and especially the arts; but with Aries, the patriarchal sign, attention shifts towards the more gritty writers like the overrated Seamus Heaney and the nihilist Samuel Beckett and the Judas sympathizing poet Brendan Kennelly (see my article, Judas Stopped at Dublin. https://wp.me/p2v96G-Bm ).  These  were all Ariens. Aries tends to be either very evangelical like General Booth of the Salvation Army (and Ulster’s Ian Paisley), or militantly atheistic like America’s Madilyn Murray O’Hare, or both, a sort of “evangelical” atheist like Richard Dawkins.

Here then is the basis for Irish secularization and revolt against Catholicism. It began with the young men of Ireland who refused the mothers of Ireland about going to mass. The priests weren’t worth it. Finish! The only trouble is that – looked at from the Protestant sidelines as I do – what you also get is Rob Doyle’s nihilistic, anarchic, aggressive, Here are the Boys and a considerable breakdown in the society with all the usual chaos of problems, drugs, crime, STDs etc. Even those one time rebels like Edna O’Brien who spoke for a greater freedom, are unhappy with what Ireland has become and is becoming. A dose of secularism may be useful to change a few archaic laws and free a few minorities, but the Celtic world has been consistently and insistently too spiritual and Christian too long to lose faith without losing its compass and suffering harm. Some religious renewal or truce with the spiritual past is needed, and even some truce with the right of people post post modernism  to define themselves – it has anyway been  an Irish obsession and reflex action since at least the times of St Colombanus who was an original in defining Europe too.

The slide from Catholicism when not into indifference into some form of neo-paganism is nonetheless simpler than a surprised world might be imagined. It results from how for too long the Catholic emphasis has been upon symbol and ritual rather than history and theology – biblical literacy and a firm grasp on a Judaeo-Christian tradition is largely absent, a reason an element of anti-Semitism easily finds expression (see below). The individual  slips into a kind of Jungian universe of floating symbols, none more significant than another but some more attractive for the purpose of experiment and new invented rituals. I am not certain if it’s coincidence or not, but with Lora O’Brien one of the more vocal and published writers on an Irish return to the old gods, we see asteroid O’BRIEN opposite that dangerously  over confident, tradition bound Saturn in Leo in Ireland’s house of beliefs. But then didn’t Edna O’Brien, author of A Pagan Place , though not herself finally pagan, question the role of the church in Irish life? Watch those O’Briens!

LUCK OF THE IRISH

Amid its diverse messages it must be admitted the Republic’s chart is not an especially  fortunate one. Under the usual rules it cannot hope to be so when its crucial Part of Fortune exactly conjuncts of all misfortune-registering features, black moon Lilith, (notorious among continental astrologers for trouble), the goddess whom early Irish monks once identified with the Irish Morrigan, figure of battle, death and doom. As I stressed in Ireland’s Old/New Spirituality Problems https://wp.me/p2v96G-126the   refusal, or just inability, to somehow banish or transcend this too central archetypal influence  makes for block, for depression and failure . Not to do this, not to understand itself more, and so not to be more understood by others, is regrettable because the Irish difference is not just any difference such as might separate Belgium from Holland, Norway from Sweden. It has value as being a real exception (at points almost quasi-Asian) within the West which represents quite other, certainly more this-worldly and matter-of-fact inclinations.

Douglas Murray has written persuasively of The Strange Death of Europe. It might not be inappropriate to speak of a dying Ireland. At any rate it’s hard to be optimistic of much future change either from what one observes is going on or from the telling celestial pattern I have interpreted. Especially if one of Ireland’s prophets, St Malachy of Armagh, is to be believed, we are anyway supposed to inhabit the end of days. The present Pope is supposedly the last in his line and hence the appearance of the  Antichrist pending – albeit an alleged prophecy of St Patrick from a seventh century biography has it Ireland won’t suffer the false prophet’s rule  because it will disappear beneath the waves! If Malachy’s prophecy has any validity, the ultimate  form of authority  Ireland supposedly wouldn’t see would necessarily entail the kind of attempted New World Order that would abolish all borders and disregard all differences.. But without considering this most drastic of prophecies, Ireland has already lost borders enough, perhaps to the point of no return for a small nation.

It is true that there have been times in its history when Irish society seemed to have been brought to near ban and extinction and it has more or less recovered. It might actually rally again. But practically  there are limits, and the international outlook is not helpful to any  self-assertive and descriptive project. Around one in five people in Ireland are now migrants from wildly different cultural and religious backgrounds. It shouldn’t be called “racist “to notice that in tourist spots in the West or even in central Dublin, souvenir shops can be incongruously manned by migrants from Asia and around the world. Not necessarily those persons but some new migrants to Ireland are said to have illegally entered the country through the ineffective border of British Ulster. I don’t suggest those in the souvenir shops and elsewhere in Ireland are dishonest or disagreeable as individuals; many are perfectly pleasant and helpful, but that’s not quite the point in the cultural  circumstances. Same goes for the many pleasant and enterprising Poles who immigrated in large numbers in the 2000s. Irish is theoretically the first language of Ireland, but practically it is no longer the second but the third spoken language of modern Ireland because there are so many Polish speakers.

All one can say is that Ireland struggled valiantly for centuries to achieve some degree of independence, to have borders and the freedom to express a distinctive, separate cultural tradition. This was something many and sometimes reluctant members of the Irish diaspora in America and beyond,  looking for a point of reference, a  mental homeland, (if not  somewhere they might actually return to) hoped Eire could one day achieve. But within only a few decades the country finishes in virtual rejection of its historic strivings through a more than generous multiculturalism, the price its often corrupt leaders have paid to have an Ireland of (admittedly needed) motor roads plus some subsidies from the EU, that organization of fanatic bureaucrats and reckless globalists. And Ireland is even due, unwisely in comparison to Austria, Australia and other nations, to expose itself to still further meltdown and dissolution by signing on this  year to a UN agreement that all and any migration is an absolute human right to be always assisted.

Though what passes for good literature in contemporary Ireland raises some questions, there have been real strides made in the realms of art and music. And now that it’s not a compulsory subject, enthusiasm for Irish language is actually increasing. But the progress is too like the last burst of a candle flame before an almost inevitable extinction. Except that as with reserving ancient art works it’s important to know the anthropology of people groups, the shape and pattern of their traditions, there’s little left to say or do about the Irish idea – except as individuals to carry and the remains of a culture. One does so in, as it were, a portable ark for the interest of whoever it may serve. But unless change could be thorough and rapid, the reality is that a lot more than just the romantic Ireland of O’Leary is in the grave as Yeats lamented. It’s more like an Ireland of any distinct description  is in a box on the way to cremation and at the hands of Rob Doyle’s aimless  hedonistic rebels (along with the too many dubious politicians, some of them, as the academic Denis MacEoin has been highlighting, rather anti-Semitic too. ( https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10126/ireland-anti-semitism). It’s a tragic shame, a huge irony and a great loss but, as the very un-Irish T.S. Eliot might say, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”

                                                                                       

( 22/7/2019 )  Irish Changes: A Poem in a time of endangered free speech https://wp.me/p2v96G-1kp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2018 in culture, current affairs, Mysteries, psychology

 

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WHY IRELAND NEEDS YEATS 2015…AND MORE

YEATS2015         YEATSCard

WHY IRELAND NEEDS YEATS 2015….AND MORE

Ireland has designated 2015 the year of Yeats – it’s the 150th anniversary of his birth. Celebration is appropriate, not least because this is a poet who sounds surprisingly modern and relevant – lines from such as The Second Coming are often cited today as people observe IS and worldwide turmoil. And unlike the also Nobel prize winning Seamus Heaney, Yeats was always willing to be engaged in politics and with almost any subject.

Yeats’ legacy is however at once something notable and negligible. It can seem like the latter in terms of real influence upon modern Irish poetry which I will argue, despite its contemporary profusion and the cult of Heaney, has –  by and large –  lost steam and been in decline since Yeats’ death in 1939. It has been so despite Ireland’s earlier and celebrated history of bards and schools of poetry. The situation is radical because now even the very notion of poetry is in eclipse in Ireland. This is evident when one reads for example that Michael Davitt (1950-2005) was “…one of modern Ireland’s finest poets in either of the nation’s languages, (according to critic Philip O’Leary in The Irish Literary Supplement, 22.3.04)). As translated by another of Ireland’s “leading” poets, Paul Muldoon, the kind of adolescent, “avant-garde” level at which Davitt worked as in To Pound from God, was in the order of:

“ I suppose you’ll want me to wipe your bum
Or open a tin of Pedigree Chum….

At least, and unlike Trinity College’s now retired Professor of Modern Literature Brendan Kennelly, Davitt didn’t write a collection of verse called Poetry My Arse and opine that the subject of poetry as he understands it is “basically a celebration of human inadequacy and failure” ( cited An Anthology of Irish Poetry, ed.Wes Davies, p.307).

Those seeking by contrast a confident secular sublime, can always try verse from poetry festival organizer, poetry prize winner and university lecturer in creative literature and poetry, Conor O’Callaghan. The first verse of his two verse poem Comma  runs

Infinite
blip that
a flyover
sped beneath
scores into
a down-

(and the second verse begins with the word ‘pour’).

Nowadays you are almost more likely to find the spirit of Irish verse and vision in some prose works like Jamie O’Neill’s At Swim Two Boys or in the work of Colm Toibin, a writer who always wanted and intended to be a poet rather than the novelist he has become. So…what happened? And what might Yeats teach us if poetry is to be significantly revived today in West Europe’s former home of many muses, or at least aisling sky women?

NATIONALISM AND SOUL AS POETIC INGREDIENTS

Yeats

I will  presently give more examples (they could, alas, be greatly multiplied) to suggest just how seriously something is amiss in the emerald fields of Hibernian poesia, but I can state from the outset what is wrong as regards the general direction of the verse since Yeats.

It is of course possible – just – to  be anti-Yeats and produce some good poetry as the work of such as Northern Ireland’s Seamus Deane ( b.1940) indicates, but the first de-potentiating mistake of Irish poets was, however politely and surreptitiously, to dismiss or swerve from Yeats as any exemplar. It was felt he was too nationalist in inspiration and there could be no value or future in that because, with Ireland independently established, literature should become international (pursue Modernism in effect). The trend began mildly with a diplomat of the newly independent Ireland, Denis Devlin (1908-1959), but soon it would gather pace and even become a torrent. Rejection of the Yeatsian poetic could hardly go further than in the irony of Celtic Twilight from Brendan Kennelly (b.1936). Instead of any sense of myth or “magic”, the poem evokes a Dublin of prowling decrepit whores and a Grand Canal in whose “rank waters bloated corpses float”. Even studies of Yeats – and even last September’s curiously early London launch of Yeats 2015 somewhat – tend to place the undeclared laureate somewhere apart, in a disappeared society and time past because of his obvious contribution to foundational events of 1916. The psychological and cultural reality however is that by understanding a national history and ethos a poet may better understand and reach into the world at large.

I would hardly be the first person to stress that point – it’s almost a commonplace. Walt Whitman voiced and helped shape American democracy but also espoused universal ideas beyond it while Goethe was the very cosmopolitan founder of a liberal Germanic tradition. But I know for certain the national/international principle is true as regards Yeats from having lived in Asia. I found him to be appreciated there and I might be asked to read from him. Some of Yeats’ verses like Lapis Lazuli are mentally or geographically located in Asia, while it’s well known some of the poet’s best verse dramas draw upon traditions of Japanese Noh. At least one accomplished poet, Desmond O’Grady (1935-2014). author of The Wandering Celt, is an exception to prove the national/international rule within Ireland. He does manage to combine Celtic with wider themes and like Yeats at one point he was strongly influenced by Pound – perhaps too much so when he got side-tracked into mammoth labours of poetic translation. But though appreciated, O’ Grady enjoys neither the status nor the influence of a Heaney or Muldoon, both poets of the North; and the troubled North has attracted a lot of attention in Irish poetry.

Although Yeats’ affinity for Asia owes something to his attachment to the theosophy and theories of magic many could never accept, more generally he was simply following the wisdom of the archetypes with which most serious poetry will always be involved. Genuine introspection will bring one there. Intense affinity with just place may not. Influenced by Joyce, a notable poet, Patrick Kavanagh, believed that one could be universal by devotion to a place, a notion that owed not a little to Joyce’s Dublincentric imagination. He risked becoming, as I think he often was, merely parochial because place will not quite generate the same imaginative verve as society or nation which can be a matter almost of soul. Linked to the archetypes one could say that Yeats was about – in the broadest sense – “soul”, something which, like contemporary Western poetry generally, modern Irish verse singularly isn’t despite the reputation of the Celts for spirituality.

But poetry itself is first and foremost spiritual. If you don’t believe that, then you must at least accept spirituality is what many people either assume poetry is about or appear to want from it – the biggest selling poet in the world today is, like it or not, the medieval Sufi mystic, Rumi. Poetry is Orphic and originated in the ecstatic, prophetic function and the serious poet, i.e. one who offers something beyond the entertainment or instruction which have their place, can never quite escape that root function….and/or the love theme which will often accompany it as we see everywhere from the Bible’s Hosea to Dante in the Vita Nuova.  Even major atheist poets like Lucretius and Shelley have dealt in the universe, large vistas and the sublime.

At its highest and best, poetry heals, inspires and creates – including whole peoples. Critic Harold Bloom may exaggerate but is essentially correct to propose Shakespeare has helped form modern humanity; Bloom maintains the bard did not only reflect humanity, he also made it and we have become his characters. In somewhat similar fashion, the rhapsodies of Isaiah inspired and remade a lost Hebrew society and largely through introducing new images of God and the self that allowed a new synthesis for a new age to emerge. Dante half created the modern Italian language itself amid his visions. The poets of the Romantic era expressed and half made the age they inhabited.

Sometimes, just sometimes, poets can and do change the world (though of course the noncommittal Seamus Heaney predictably denied it). Granted most poets cannot and need not aspire to such a degree of achievement. No nation is anyway likely to produce more than four or five really outstanding poets in a century, and society needs not just seers and culture heroes but minstrels, balladeers, teachers and entertainers. Poets nonetheless need to avoid through resentment, dullness or, sloth merely subverting the almost alchemical Great Work to which at varying levels their tribe contributes across time. What seems to have happened post Yeats is that any national/collective issues and feelings have been transferred onto the issue of what one can broadly call “voice”, writing and thinking with a Gaelic tone and style. At this level at least, especially in such as Pearse Hutchinson and Desmond O’Grady and whether one is writing in Irish (like Sean O’Riordain) or not, something vital emerges, but not as  strongly as where the Yeatsian emphasis on symbolic/archetypal prevails.

THE JOYCE/BECKETT PROBLEM

JJOYCE         BECKETTPHOTO

What could and should have been the ongoing influence of Yeats on modern Irish poetry has, I believe, been blocked and limited within his homeland by the strong competing legacy of Joyce and his admirer cum devotee, Beckett. Both these Modernist writers have cast long shadows. Though both composed a few poems they were essentially authors of prose and both were unspiritual or very negatively spiritual. (Beckett’s prize winning and obscure Whoroscope, written in a hurry to pay Paris rent and rewarded by the heiress Nancy Cunard, if and when it can be understood is arguably one of the most nihilistic, sordid and profane poems in the canon of verse. It surely belongs to “the throne of the faecal inlet” it refers to). The prose of the Joyce/Beckett duo has nevertheless been more weighty in influence upon modern Irish poetry than any poetic antecedents. Some want to claim it for life itself. I admire the wide-ranging erudition on most things Irish of Declan Kiberd, but I can’t accept as per his Ulysses and Us that Ulysses is really any notable guide to the management and celebration of life.

Although Yeats was something of a heretic in relation to most beliefs and traditions, his origins were Protestant. This has been held against him, or at least left him less favoured as a model for novice writers and poets than the by comparison more street-wise, democratic (sometimes), Catholic-raised Joyce who managed to voice those feelings of frustration and discontent many Irish Catholics have felt at least now and again. By contrast, and although Joyce himself could demonstrate an almost non serviam Luciferian pride, Yeats’ Protestant voice would be regarded as imperious and elitist, in short merely Anglo-Irish of the past, something Yeats scarcely even sounded like in real life. (To hear recordings of his voice which is neither very Irish nor English and not particularly emphatic, can come as a surprise and challenges the image some have of him). Patrick Kavanagh reflecting an all too familiar social resentment in a poem called Yeats  exclaims, “Yes Yeats, it was damn easy for you protected/ By the middle classes and the Big  Houses”. This is green-eyed nonsense like the whole poem in effect, highly proficient and well crafted though it is  –  Yeats faced enormous struggles in all directions and rightly called himself poor until well into middle age and winning the Nobel prize.

So the class objection was again a mistake fostering further error because even though with age Yeats undeniably evolved some dubiously elitist, even loosely “fascist” notions (partly in disgust at the sheer ruin the ultra-Catholic Ireland of De Valera was doing to hard won new freedoms), the fact is that poetry of the serious, bardic kind will often sound or seem elitist. Such poetry declaims, declares, reveals from the higher mind or worlds and as such is not about the everyday nor issues describable in its terms. Even England’s witty, socialist Auden decided in his latter years that what poetry needed next was to get back to the high style. Getting back there could nonetheless prove harder in our egalitarian times than leaving it behind. Ireland especially would seem to have to prepare for a very steep climb. It might even need to engage a bit of “censorship”, a self-censorship of a new and not merely puritanical kind to arrive there and at least try to be serious.

It may be mildly entertaining, but does a poem like James Simmons’ Epigrams constitute something – anything – worthy of a place in Wes Davies’ critically acclaimed and all-encompassing Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry? Epigrams 2 and 4 run:

Declining appetite
Made him polite

Now my faculties give in
I see the need for discipline.

Modern Irish poetry could use some discipline. Too many contemporary offerings such as one can read at  PoetHead on the Net which has showcased new Irish women poets, seem just self-indulgent and trite.

Award winning Denise Blake, an advisor to the RTE national broadcaster on poetry (like the mentioned Michael Davitt – no wonder poetry is in some trouble!) begins her poem, Adjusting,

The saucepan is full of left over potatoes
And I keep cooking too much rice and pasta
Three placemats still sit on our dining table

In musing on an absent son in Beyond the Front Door she writes of

“Cold pizza slices in a cardboard box, an empty coke can
lying on the table”

Subject matter for Irish still life art perhaps? Doubtless Mrs Blake is a caring family person and her sentiments genuine enough, but one finds nothing here and elsewhere that couldn’t be said as well or better in prose. But possibly she was remembering precedents like Beckett’s in Whoroscope with its ridiculous and profane reference to Hovis bread.

Dr Emily Cullen, noted harpist, short story writer and much else if one can quite locate her anywhere, seems willing to inhabit the same kind of kitchen zone if more impishly than  Mrs Blake.. In Galway Mould  we learn

For fun I bought you mouldy cheese,
Last night it took revenge on me
Inducing a vivid dream
Of a while chandelier of mould
That slowly lowered
Through our kitchen space.

Although without question Mairtin O’ Direain of Aran (1910-1988) can be hailed, as he has been by some, as a gifted poet of real distinction, apart from him let no one imagine any back-to-Gaelic direction such as Sean O’Riordain  (1916-1977) and Michael Hartnett (1941-1999) took would improve much inside or out of any Irish kitchens and better preserve the true Ireland. O’Riordain was a good and proficient if somewhat overrated poet whose illness and dramatic depressions seem like an unintended metaphor for the sad fate of things Gaelic he must be commended for helping preserve before present times when (for non poetic, non literary reasons) Gailige has become almost trendy in some circles. Hartnett is sometimes good but also sometimes gratuitously weird as in Death of an Irishwoman where she is described as “a card game where a nose was broken…a child’s purse, full of useless things”. If this is the latest incarnation of Yeats’ Cathleen ni Houlihan, that lady is now in serious trouble and indeed a bit useless!

Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill born in the Kerry Gaeltacht in1952 has devoted herself to verse in Irish. Translated, one of her poems begins,  “I wake up and my hands are sticky/With the smell of blood” and it concludes…”I’m stuck forever with this stink of blood/That’s on my hands”. In the course of the poem she has reduced bars of Sunlight Soap to slivers trying to rid herself of the smell at the tap. Nowhere is it explained what this blood represents or why it sticks. Does it symbolize, war, Ulster Troubles, the poet or anyone from history or myth? In his Nobel prize address Heaney compared poetic inspiration to breeze over a scullery bucket. Why not the kitchen sinks and dustbins of Hibernia? Well, at least with the likes of Vona Groarke (b.1964) you may find yourself in the open air, kitchen observations exchanged a sort of gardener’s diary verse – “I let the gooseberries / Rot for not knowing when to pick them”.

But let it be said, Ireland’s contemporary female bards are more delicate than the menfolk, including the revered Heaney who (as only one example of the gratuitously sordid) writes – in Mycenae Outlook – having just referred to a vision of webbed blood and bodies raining down on the speaker “like tattered meat” –

“I would feel my tongue
Like the dropped gang plank of a cattle truck
Trampled and rattled, running piss and muck
All swimmy-trembly…

Not to consider what an über baroque evocation of a state of tension this is, it is really just more from the stock of sensationalist Joycean prose with its “snot green, scrotum tightening sea”, the world as a human theatre where people are holding on to or letting out their urine and never quite forgetting urine like Bloom who enjoys “grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine”.

JOYCE: FROM REALISM TO NIHILISM

chastened

If it belongs anywhere, modernist realism of the Joycean kind belongs principally with prose whose main sphere is the factual report and which is not something designed to the same degree as poetry to convey or reach the transcendent. But post-Yeats Irish poetry has constantly, pedantically and monotonously appropriated the themes and style of Joycean realism and cynicism for verse. We need to ask why.

As said, Joyce spoke for those of the Catholic background that Yeats and his advisor in things Gaelic, Lady Gregory, did not share. Jesuit educated Joyce did not however pronounce on religion in any way prophetically – he was closer to a satirist, even just lampoonist of Irish and Catholic traditions. He had no alternative vision that might help reform, modify or substitute for Catholicism; he did not even reject it like an atheist. Like the true Luciferian he sometimes was, and possibly even aspired to be, Joyce simply subverts and renders toxic, contributing by his example to the also unhelpful example of the (Protestant raised) Beckett’s extreme paralysis of thought and action, his Murphy/Molloy/Belacquaism sitting in a corner cursing and despairing of existence – when not farting, evacuating, or masturbating. Inclusion of the latter theme to the field of poetry, (and rather insultingly to the Irish farmer as in Kavanagh’s half good poem, The Great Hunger,) can be traced back to Joyce, Ulysses and its anti-hero Bloom.

In accepting Joyce as high literature and a suitable object of academic study (he quite intended us to make it our life work!) we risk, and Ireland has risked, accepting him more metaphysically by osmosis. And the sad fact is that despite his obvious and undisputed brilliance, Joyce is at root unhealthy, certainly almost the last thing any new nation, not to say nascent poetic circles, should look to for prime inspiration, and if he wrote about the common man, apart from some early work, he certainly didn’t write what the common man could ever hope to understand.. Even just humanly Joyce does not come up to the mark, straining the kind of tolerance society normally reckons to extend to artists. Ignoring his questionable treatment of both parents at their death, this was a person so ungratefully arrogant he could turn even his main benefactor Harriet Weaver from the door. This was a person so merely contrary that having been keen to make Nora Barnacle his mistress, he prevented publication of his first biography because Nora was not portrayed in it as his wife. If Joyce wasn’t Lucifer he was periodically Judas and to follow him leads inexorably to precisely the Judas theme – it receives its fullest treatment in Brendan Kennelly’s bombastic, overflowing  succes de scandale,  Book of Judas (1991) which supplies the Messiah the traitors he is assumed to need to be himself and identifies Ireland itself with a species of Judas complex. (Jung considered both Joyce and Beckett Antichrist writers)

Such perspectives apart, practically, Joyce’s values were never truly liberal of an exemplary kind for us to follow; they were merely rebellious designed to shock like the basically unnecessary, irrelevant incest theme of Finnegan’s Wake. Even the repulsive reference in Ulysses to “the snot green, scrotum tightening sea” is merely a sideward glance to Dublin’s Forty Foot nude beach often frequented by gays. Anyone from his friends to the Trinity (as in the famous “my Mother’s a Jew, my father’s a bird” etc doggerel ditty) were the pretext of largely aimless, self-congratulatory Joycean humour and cynicism.

The Joyce and Beckett effect has been to divert energies from, rather than to encourage attention to the needed reform and development of modern Irish life including not least its spiritual life to which poetry might have been expected to contribute. One doesn’t need to plough through the earnest examination of the Catholic theme in modern verse that Andrew Auge pursues in  A Chastened Communion (2013), to realize that the poets, like the people at large, have  few religious ideas to offer (though it does have something – such poets as Padraig O’Tuoma and Micheal O’ Siadhail , both poets are respected including among theologians outside Ireland, a reason perhaps that  Wes Davis’s huge Anthology of Modern Irish poetry almost insultingly in the of academic secularism gives them no space or acknowledgement).  Mainstream Irish religion has been and remains too weak in theology and philosophy in the first place. This nonetheless means that once the roof has been blown off traditional pieties and reverence there is little substance left but instead just hollow, trivializing profanity like Patrick Fiacc’s whose poem Our Father begins, “Our Father who art a Belfast night /Pub bouncer”. Or again the purely bizarre like Brendan Kennelly’s God’s Laughter. This pictures God unable to stop laughing or “freezing in fear” when he hears words. As fear is a negative emotion plainly it could not be a meaningful attribute of any true deity. But at least Kennelly’s half dotty admirer, U2 frontsman Bono, (who has used the poem for U2’s pop theology), hasn’t controversially praised it as he did Kennelly’s The Book of Judas as poetry flying “as high as the Holy Spirit flies” for sheer inspiration!).

Scriptures and especially the reformist/prophetic Hebrew tradition scarcely register for Ireland despite some natural Celtic affinity for such, a reason perhaps that the Irish and Jews have been so associated, at least politically, in America. Irish Catholicism is, alas, more a matter of devotions, rituals and folk religion, not to say superstition, though in earlier centuries and before Catholicism invaded via England like Protestantism later, the Celts produced the likes of Pelagius and Erigena in theology and philosophy. The convolutions of Joycean thought which could serve an almost “rabbinical” examination of life and literature, are expended by Joyce and his imitators on what is often little more than lavatory wall scribble. The attack upon Irish religion given Joycean example has become a matter of aesthetics rather than thought, and there the matter has become largely stuck. Reform and development are highjacked by aimless, passive complaint which the poetry echoes. Joyce’s interest in Ireland may at one level have been futuristic in revolt against nationalist nostalgias of his time, but paradoxically his labours (eighteen years alone on the still almost unreadable, Finnegans’s Wake whose best effects are contained in the first and last sentences!) catch the culture in a circling, repetitive torpor from which it seems unable to emerge.

If it wasn’t clearer earlier, it is fully apparent in the wake of the Murphy and Ryan reports and ongoing church scandals, that the Catholic church has failed Ireland abysmally.The country has survived less because of Catholicism as long popularly maintained, than despite it. For long the hierarchy opposed most Irish moves and calls to independence, (notoriously one prelate declared that hell wasn’t hot enough nor eternity wasn’t long enough to punish Fenians). Meanwhile, hidden in  orphanages, monasteries and nunneries was behaviour fit for the Inquisition. Some of it (and despite the vein of quasi-Wildean preciousness in a lot of Irish culture) seems as though arisen from some, satanic, nightmare level of Celtic consciousness which the modern poetry almost celebrates in its vision of existence as virtual vomitorium and lavatory, a dream world in which one falls in a shower of waste as in a ridiculous short poem Free Falls by Thomas Kinsella. (You can read it with a commentary many times its length in Britain’s Guardian newspaper’s Poem of the Week for 9.12.13 where you will be assured Kinsella b.1928, “significantly helped shape the course of poetry in Ireland, and beyond”. By conducting it to Sam Beckett’s lavatory?)

Only Catholicism whose semper idem principle has almost automatically opposed change, fails to recognize the at once psychological and spiritual principle, that there is a duty to seek change for the sake of soul, and even for spiritual health and progress to question religion as mere tradition and “to let the dead bury their dead”. Biblically God is portrayed as departing from the Jerusalem temple (Ezek 10:18) when a certain level of evil is exceeded, this in itself a declaration that no institution however venerable is automatically, eternally sacrosanct in the eyes of God. The Judaeo-Christian tradition always declares “come out of her my people” (Rev 18:4 ) the reason being “so that you do not partake in her sins….so that you do not share in her plagues”. Christianity is, or should be, less about tradition than the in-break and formation of the new. In our own times and faced with certain features of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has proposed, (what Christians seem fearful of doing even while Christians are persecuted by Muslims and denied the legal right to use the Allah word in some places), namely that Muslims should reject their faith and become either atheists or Christians or (more recently she concedes) at least definitively reject the traditions of Sharia Law.

In The Invention of Ireland  (1995) Declan Kiberd proposes the Protestant perspective could have been more used and useful to Ireland. I agree. Maybe reform is yet possible for Irish Catholicism, but as the author of Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency who believes religion must work for people, I feel I could go further than Kiberd and maintain it’s probably high time Ireland abandoned the Catholicism it seems no longer able to trust, love and believe – not abandon for pure secularism which would be defeatist and perhaps even impossible given certain features of the Celtic mind, but some alternative. Obviously one would not recommend surrender to anything like Paisleyite Protestantism and Ireland wouldn’t go there anyway. But anything from Orthodoxy to Charismatics might serve….anything in order to start again and actually to exert a spiritual will, to integrate the levels of Celtic vision. This, where it is strong in persons, is currently sinking back into the vaguest neo-paganism, new ageism or  perhaps Buddhism, going everywhere and nowhere like the repeated ambiguities of Bono lyrics or an agnostic Heaney advising in Doubletake,

….“Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells”.

If even Latin America has been casting off Catholicism usually for Protestant alternatives, why not Ireland if it would help cauterize the wounds and go somewhere definite?

I think there can be no question but that influences on Irish leaders of opinion stemming from Joyce and Beckett and their often slavish successors colour the social outlook and have favoured poetic themes in a way to justify a certain victimology, a culture of complaint and aimless protest much of it just a Beckettian sinking Winnie passivity. And we readers of such authors are even encouraged by the guides and critics of their productions to take a “poor Joyce” and still more a “poor Beckett” line in estimation of their lives and work. Contrary to Yeats’ meaningful dictum “in dreams begin responsibilities”, it as though these artists’ deliberate life choices meant little or nothing. Especially depression in the style of Beckett somehow excuses speaking darkness and a sitting-Murphy despair to the rest of the world at every opportunity –the sort of thing some of us like myself, who has suffered clinical depression, have made actual effort to avoid.

We need moreover to wake up and realize that like the bad tree which can only produce bad fruit, in pursuit of their aims these persons have, however unwittingly, contributed to establish new and unacceptable restrictions. Obviously much censorship in Joyce’ youth was absurd and we have all heard of how the accomplished prose of Dubliners got refused for publication because of inclusion of the word bloody. Yet a century later admirers and inheritors of the Joycean legacy are not themselves without their prejudices and the society which readily tolerates what today would have the likes of Beckett executed if he were a Muslim for repeated profanities, behind the scenes can prove  controversially censoring in the area of religion and much else. Even to include such words as “conduct” and “bestow” can be sufficient to refuse you publication.

I had no special intention to make this article personal, and I don’t really have any need now that the scandals and injustices experienced in relation to persons of the literary establishments and publishing is available for anyone to read as an aspect of my memoir Reflections of an Only Child. (amzn.to/1rRagvl). However if I do include a personal note at this point, it’s because while preparing this article I received from The Irish Review, and not unexpectedly – I only applied to satisfy pressures on me to do so – an incoherent refusal from a writer (ironically and almost hilariously of all people  the author of Deconstructing Ireland) as regards a request for some exposure of my poetry.

ROAOC     NPTCDRAMAS

I was informed in one and half lines they couldn’t publish “it”, whatever poem could have been meant by “it”, since I’d suggested seeing a collection of verse (New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas) from which something might have been selected. As self-recommendation I had pointed out a poetic drama of mine on a Celtic theme had been performed in Australia. I also suggested my Coming To Syracuse mini epic could  be looked at on my blog [it’s now a 6 part Canadian made You Tube video at http://bit.ly/1pi8Hn1 ] as proof of some basic competence in poetry (It would be too long for their publication so I didn’t offer it for such). As no one from specifically Ireland visited the poem between my sending the email and receiving the refusal two days later, plainly those of The Irish Review didn’t bother to check.

Had he/they done so, it would have been clear, apart from shortage of space or a special theme of the month such as could have been told me, there would be at least no moral right to refuse me. Any occasionally expressed claim of mine to be writing and as a Protestant of Irish nationality closest to Yeats in theme and style is not any boast but a statement of fact. I am more inclined to the mythic, metaphysical and visionary theme, and I deserve the attention denied me and not for the first time, but continuously in Ireland for anything poetic or otherwise. And I could well demand it in the face of the sometimes insulting and selfish way those of the diaspora are too easily dismissed as having no inheritance, no stake in anything Irish at all. (I can’t imagine Jews or Italians suffering the same kind of treatment). I suspect what the refused “it” was and which damned me, was that I also mentioned, (and I admit I was testing the waters!), that he could also look on the Net at my (quite popular) Remembering Seamus Heaney. No one today is allowed to blaspheme the Heaney god. He is Irish poetry, even if some of us like Camille Paglia (who refused to anthologize him) would consider him third class Yeats.

“OUT OF SHAPE FROM TOE TO TOP”

Heaneyverse

Well might Yeats’ valedictory Under Ben Bulben almost prophetically declare:

Irish poets learn your trade
Sing whatever is well made
Scorn the sort now growing up
All out of shape from toe to top…

Well made” here is key. Poetry (above the simple entertainment level) is first and foremost the art of excellence. It’s because it is about excellence that Yeats like his virtual mentor, Shelley, often felt that what he had produced was not quite good enough. ”True” poetry is what is as distinctively finished as a piece of sculpture or memorable as the strains of a major  symphony. And despite the self-doubt, it was this absolute quality that at his best Yeats was able to achieve and it’s why he continues to be internationally celebrated. Obviously he wouldn’t have appreciated those many Irish poets who have followed him who are too often writing what is almost an anti-poetry that has not issued from heart and intellect working in harmony. And there is something else here.

It is an admitted embarrassment that the elderly Yeats should have leaned towards fascist views of genetics and eugenics and that his Under Ben Bulben too baldly refers to the new Irish poets in terms of:

Their unremembering hearts and heads
Base born products of base beds

but there is arguably a kernel of truth here to be considered.

POETRY THAT REMEMBERS

Ben Bulben

It was and still is yet another mistake of post-Yeats poetry that it too lightly assumed there is scarcely anything Irish to represent whether through the “remembering” of Yeats’ Great Memory (read Collective Unconscious) or raw temperament. By the latter I mean those things like a sense of rhythm, pattern, even a way of observing people and objects that seems as distinctive as La Tène Celtic art yet spontaneous and minimally acquired through cultural means.

There are two ways in which persons belong or deeply feel they belong to a country. One may do so, as the perhaps more Anglo-Irish than Irish Yeats seemed to, namely by some hard-to-understand and as good as occult principle of earth consciousness of the kind Jung accepted. It is a belief that the land itself can leave some imprint beyond any effects of culture or the length of time spent there. (Like actress Joanna Lumley, unquestionably many Anglos born in India have felt there is some “touch” of Asia left on them that time and cultural education away from it will not erase or explain). Plainly there was something in Yeats that would always want to arise and go to Innisfree or stand beneath Ben Bulben even when dying in France. Just recently I read on the Net the poem of an Irish American plainly in the grip of the same kind draw to the Irish earth itself. Some accomplished late poems of the mostly self-exiled C.Day Lewis could be deriving their strength from the principle.

The other important way one belongs to a people is – likely enough – genetically. It is almost taboo in a multicultural society to speak of race as any determinant of anything, but there may even be a hidden injustice to that position, one which obscures certain realities. How do we explain (as the last week that I have been writing this, one hears of the Lebanese son of an Australian mother and the Libyan son of a French Canadian mother, both feeling themselves different and maladjusted and turning against family, homeland and every sensible advantage to become IS fanatics.

Multiculturalism is a value system relying much on the empirical/pragmatic outlook Yeats held suspect, and it is apparent the kind of society it encourages too often produces divided, discontented even tormented individuals left to feel an impulse to realize – precisely what? It may be, and probably is, the ineradicable drumbeats of something profoundly genetic that feels unaccepted, inalienably different and struggles to reach expression beyond whatever a post-enlightenment culture of reason lays out. I have myself protested in Reflections of an Only Child what seems like the blithe indifference to questions of race and inheritance among Irish leaders of opinion. If some nations have had too much race theory, Ireland has arguably had too little, even almost none though of no people group might something like racial inheritance be more obvious – the character of the Celts is easily recognizable in the descriptions of the ancients over two millennia ago. It is too easily imagined in Ireland (and originally because pragmatic, empirical England had assumed something of the kind) that as long as a person can make a living and be fed, it doesn’t much matter where on the face of the globe they reside. Accordingly, immigration is almost regarded as necessary and convenient even while it may in fact prove quite disorientating and take a real psychological toll on individuals.

Reacquainting myself after many years with Irish poetry and its issues, I found a reading of Stan Smith’s Irish Poetry and the Construction of Modern Identity (2005) and Wes Davies’ compendious An Anthology of Irish Verse (2013) dispiriting. There were fine examples of poetry from numbers of poets, but overall I would judge the collection, especially as it covers the scene over the last two generations, trashy. Too often it presents a punkish anti-poetry in which the only Irish thing about it is the will to act and pose, in this case to act out not being Irish, to uncharacteristically understate oneself, to be cool because it’s hip, sophisticated and neo-international to be so. (As I shall inevitably be accused of exaggeration, I was pleased to read a Paris Review interview (The Art of Fiction. no 82) in which even Edna O’Brien, whose concern is with prose fiction not poetry, charging modern Ireland with just imitating Anglo-American mores).

“STILL THE INDOMITABLE IRISHY”?

Shamrocks

If I hardly recognize any distinctive, perennial Celtic character in the poetry of especially the last thirty years (beyond perhaps, however negatively, a quality of  violent/surrealistic “vision” in elements of Brendan Kennelly), it is because something counter-intuitional is going on. There is a refusal of the “remembering” which Yeats rightly considered essential to poetry, Irish or any other. It will be protested that Heaney, a poseur if ever there was one, does remember – he remembers a dark ancient bog past and a rough farmland present or recent past. But his roughness is either inauthentic or unnecessary or both. If he genuinely aimed to represent a rural coarseness he should not have weighed his verse down like an over burdened Christmas tree with jargon and obscure technical vocabulary that avoids, or substitutes for, real emotion or committed statement (a really great and passionate poet could, like Racine, say everything with only two thousand words). Also if Heaney is indifferent (as in The Early Purges) to the killing and drowning of kittens and pups, then he was just a rough cur who we can and should just dismiss as such. I can only say, as indicated in my memoir, my own forebears in Ireland didn’t take that kind of attitude towards animals despite being raised on a farm and I know plenty of Irish didn’t and don’t either. Indeed I looked up an article on the Net where some protested similar things, in one case someone insisted their people had been farmers not far from the Heaneys and didn’t approve such views. Heaney’s sentiments cannot just be excused on the basis they are only “representative” of Irish life and farmers.

In response to Early Purges words like

….Still, living displaces false sentiments
And now, when shrill pups are prodded to drown
I just shrug, “Bloody pups”, it makes sense.

one disgusted correspondent was even moved to extemporize:

Seamus is dead thank God
I hated the words of this man
Cruel and unthinking and more than a little odd
Now he’s gone, give his work an outright ban

My chief overall impression of modern Irish poetry is of so much quasi-journalism presuming to call itself verse. (And again, having arrived at that conclusion, I was again fascinated to note that from her different sphere Edna O’Brien opines in the mentioned interview that the trouble today is so many writers are just journalists). Ireland’s poets sound too often depressed, glum, sullen, resentful, mocking and shocking, even occasionally cruel like Michael Hartnett – his Pigkilling belongs with Heaney for indifference to animals – almost totally devoid of a smile and certainly lacking any good story to tell. Indeed it’s can be so remote from any light touch that isn’t outright clown-silly with Paul Muldoon (”with a stink and a stink and a stinky-stick”) that it’s hard to imagine Oscar Wilde ever came out of Ireland. It’s typical of what’s wrong that a quite well known, almost popular poem by Sean O’Riorain called Saoirse (Freedom) includes such sentiments as:

I’ll bear affection for people
without anything original
in their stockthoughts.

One can of course do that; it belongs today to various relativist and egalitarian tendencies – Yeats’ “levelling wind” – but if you surrender to the humdrum in this way you won’t be going on any Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage to anywhere (certainly not to Yeats’ Byzantium)  and have much to say or be at all. Ultimately most modern Irish poetry, like too much poetry elsewhere, is just a bore, an activity for in-groups, precisely the scene Yeats would encourage us to turn from and even scorn. And necessarily so if one doesn’t want to lose all sense of social, let alone literary direction.

According to one of his reviewers, the essential idea behind Colin Graham’s The Deconstruction of Ireland (2001)  is that what’s called ‘Ireland’ just “stages its own deconstruction and that at every turn the idea unravels and reforms itself, always in anticipation of the next act of definition and criticism which…will be inadequately applied to it”. It follows that both affirmation and deconstruction for Ireland are but a “momentary stop on a seemingly runaway train” and Ireland, itself a concept in flux, “is a future which is always posited and never attained”.

Undeniably Ireland and our world is changing, but change is not everything; and notions of an ungraspable, indefinable “Ireland” bespeak how things are – or will just feel and seem – to the secular consciousness for which there is no “remembering” in the Yeatsian sense, little or no scope for poetry in the broadest sense as contributing to culture, and perhaps most importantly as indicated, no personal or collective willingness to take real control of the spiritual life from which so much else flows.

We inhabit an almost post-poetic age in which the magic, the mystery, the spirit of the poetic art has been lost, but which the policy direction behind the granting of  bursaries, prizes, professorships of poetry, publications are almost busy helping us lose, putting what was once a fairly public medium – even when difficult, Isaiah, Dante and Shakespeare were essentially for everyone – into the hands of cliques. Yeats, even in his greatness may not be the perfect poet – who is? – and most could never reckon to follow him into ritual magic. But if poets and modern Ireland cannot regain some grip upon his magic and the magic of existence, we shall continue in the shallows rather than the heights of literature if we don’t bring it to near  outright extinction. Hopefully Yeats 2015 will provide new inspiration and beginnings.

IRISH AUSTRALIAN  (Irish Australian Heritage Flag)

 

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Posted by on November 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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UNDER PARNASSUS (An Under Ben Bulben variation)

[The aim of this experiment in poetry is not to rival Yeats’ impressive valedictory Under Ben Bulben.  It aims rather to offer a variation upon it, to “correct”, so to speak, the poem’s theories ranging from reincarnation to  dubious, quasi-fascist notions of eugenics and war which have grated with me as with many. Some of my beliefs re especially poetry colour the piece, but I have not exactly encapsulated my beliefs on poetry or anything;  it would not be possible given I have confined myself to following, however loosely, themes and development of Yeats’ own poem. Arguably I should have just composed my own poetic and spiritual credo but I think the exercise has its value. This poem with  others is included in a new edition of New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas,http://amzn.to/1tKdkJr  .  This  month another very different poem, can be found on my other Additions blog at http://bit.ly/1sUmAsO %5D. 

Parnassus

UNDER PARNASSUS (AN UNDER BEN BULBEN VARIATION) 

1

Swear by what the sages spoke
At Corycian Cave [1] and Sinai’s side
That Orpheus and Elijah [2] knew,
They who for darkness of the earth
Seized fire from fields of paradise.

Swear by those seers, those bards,
Names only known, their earthly form
Obscured as though by mists of dawn
Even while their Mosaic faces shine
Like light of noon upon the mount.[3]
They view the fated journeys done
The paths from Troy to Ithaca and Rome [4]
And Egypt into Jericho all won.

Here’s what that lasting radiance means:

11

Once only does man live and die
Through measureless eternity,
What earth or ashes cover now
In grave or in memorial urn
Awaits but only more decease if not
A resurrection. This is because,
Soul’s core is most like fires
Of God (or self-consuming will alone),
Its natural end and flight thus primed
For highest light or lowest dark;
And vision and poetry declare
Truth’s quest can only reach above,
For wisdom lies with choosing life.[5]

111

All you who heard a call to war
And thought it served both God and world
Go into none, unless with self
Or for the defenceless of the earth.
Time’s past when for some greater good
Peace was established by the sword,
And strength and merit lay in power.
For if it was blind Homer failed
Most sightless was his “unchristened heart” [6]
For which, though what’s most noble,
Is most calm, mere violence made for majesty.

1V

Poets like sculptors do your work
Shape into sound as they to sight
What is most sure in form and style
And brings to mind eternal lines.

With Isaiah and with Aeschylus
Personality through verse began
Then Plato taught the archetypes
And Pentecost spread wide the Word.
If measurement began our might
It bore as well with Aristotle
Division for the heart and mind
So that increasingly we dwelt with earth
And lost most vision of the higher,
First source of ecstasy and song.
But then, even Plato could be wrong.
His God was passionless, his poets
Banned since poetry is music too
And not just thought and words alone.

Renaissance and Baroque in verse
Through Shakespeare, Milton and beyond
Knew passion and a God of same
While taking Plato for the forms.
Then Wordsworth, later, part agreed
But Shelley cursed the Miltonic God
And saved most love for Lucifer [7]
And after that much poetry fell
From vision to a Satanic hell
Words found less meaning, feeling took
A lesser place, until it’s
Mostly objects steal the scene.

The passing ages run their course,
Now lightning of Aquarius waits
To make again and to renew and
Like great Michelangelo’s roof
To save Platonic forms and also show
Supposed unnatural’s natural too.[8]

V

But poets still perfect your art
One never learned but always given
Which speaks to where it cannot grow,
The crowd which throngs about below
The sacred mount you must ascend
Charged with the elect vocation.
Then sing the music of the spheres
Stars, planets, symbols, history, [9]
Great lyric loves and ways of God,
All shapes and forms of mysteries.
Ignore the upstart trivial kind
Whose labour is to strain at words
And mire the mind in earthiness.
Such make a show for passing days
Your work serves what it is transcends:
The task is vision’s truth and
Even the truth you are alone.

V1

Beneath Parnassus poets lie or else
Their soul is everywhere. On Nebo’s side
Where Moses died remains unknown
And since they fled into the night,
Doubt must surround the Magi’s tombs [10].
But whether in earth, or with Elijah
Into sky, small matter where the poet
Ends, nor what carved epitaphs declare.
Let only the work and vision stay,
Words echoed to eternity
Paths pointing still to ecstasy.

NOTES

[1] The Corycian cave on Parnassus was the home of the  Muses of poetry. Orpheus originally dwelt on Parnassus. Sinai is not just associated with Moses. The likes of Elijah and St Paul sought affirmation and clarification of vision by visiting Sinai.
[2]  Orpheus originally dwelt on Parnassus. Sinai is not just associated with Moses. The likes of Elijah and St Paul sought affirmation and clarification of vision by visiting.
[3]  When he had bee on Sinai and spoken with God his face shone so that it had to be covered with a veil. (Ex 34: 29-35)
[4]  Troy to Ithaca refers to the Odyssey and  “Tory to Rome”  is a  reference to Virgil and his epic of Rome’s foundation, The Aeneid.
[5]  As in “For the wise the path of life leads upwards in order to avoid Sheol below” (Pro 14:24) and “all who hate me[Wisdom] love death” (Pro 8:36).”Choose life…”(Deut 30:19)
[6]  Yeats identifies with Homer and his “unchristened heart” in Vacillation V111, without perhaps thinking out all implications of this.
[7] Shelley is radically atheistic as in Queen Mab and crypto satanistic in Prometheus where Jupiter is symbolic for the Miltonic God who must be overthrown. For Shelley the devil is heroic and light bringing.
[8]  Although Michelangelo’s art, mentioned by Yeats, followed a version of Christian Neo-Platonism, his inspiration and nature was essentially gay and the coming age of Aquarius is the sign of freedom and often of the homosexuality which the age may be expected to accept as part of nature itself. Yeats curiously suggests the artist’s work incites particularly female desire.
[9] Orpheus traditionally proclaimed star lore and astrology.
[10] A disputed tombs of the Magi site does exist in Iran to the south of the capital Tehran. Reputed remains of the Magi found their way to a shrine in Cologne via Constantinople.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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SECRET YEATS AND THE IGNORED ARCANA

Yeats2YEATSASTRO    (click to enlarge)

SECRET YEATS AND THE IGNORED ARCANA

[re Ireland’s Yeats 2015 see feature:  http://goo.gl/T3AUV9%5D

In the extravagantly magical/mystical life of Yeats, astrology was major and arguably this strangely secret public figure is insufficiently understood without factoring in this aspect of the esoteric. The poet frequently cast horoscopes or, because he hated the maths, got his maternal uncle George Pollexfen to do it for him, and he was always noting transits to his pattern (terrible argument tonight under Mars square moon; Venus to Mars, meeting Maud Gonne today etc). Yeats’ affinity for astrology is obvious – he even had the planet of astrology, Uranus, conjunct his sun if widely. But then this same Uranus exactly trined the also astrology associated asteroid Urania. Even so, it was mainly for practicalities of life and some basic decision making that Yeats had recourse to horoscopes.

Had Yeats accepted that the pattern of a natus also and even especially speaks for the unconscious, inspiration and thus art, he might have been less confused and confusing in his curious understanding and core doctrines of the self and much more. However it’s also true that on the best reading for his times, what Yeats most needed to know, (similarly to critics and biographers subsequently!), would remain largely hidden. That includes even as regards his relation to the modern Ireland he helped define. Possibly the only meaningful item of information he obtained from the disillusioning séances he attended was to be told his horoscope was “incomplete”.

Actually it was. For purposes of understanding the mind of a notable literary/historical figure, perhaps few horoscopes read along standard lines would seem more “incomplete”. But today more information is available, not least because such factors as Pluto, Chiron and the name, place and concept asteroids can all be added to the picture and they prove remarkably descriptive and informative. It is for example impossibly correct that for the man who so long desired marriage and family yet who married past fifty only to come within days to the painful realization he’d made a serious mistake, should have his Part of Marriage conjunct the wounded healer factor, Chiron. The marriage only worked, survived and was sufficiently “healed” one might say, after the pair managed to collaborate on their mediumistic project of The Vision. But there is much more to say.

I have long admired Yeats’ work, not just for some very fine specimens of poetry and drama  – even if some of the early and late material is a bit dated or just weak – but his invaluable critical capacity to summarize across the too long fragmented Irish/Celtic tradition which he helped save, revive and popularize. Yeats was not just a poet and dramatist but an important prose writer of many ideas. Nevertheless what appears to be the truth about Ireland’s unofficial poet laureate is not as reassuring as one might wish. It raises questions, and I do mean more seriously so than, at the gossip level, how much his otherworldly visions may have owed to hashish and mescalin imported from Paris rather than the collective Celtic unconscious most of us, even including co-workers like Lady Gregory, may have supposed. Yeats, the poet and theorist of the mask, tended to show people the face he knew they wanted to see.

What concerns me is more radical. And the personal interest I bring to it and whose reasons will become clear by the conclusion where I ask what is poetry today, is linked to my own poetic and dramatic work published this month, New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas  amzn.to/1eJXHGC. This is material closer to at least elements of Yeatsian tradition than majority literary trends current within Ireland today. (Perhaps it helps to be outside Ireland in this generation to cultivate a certain type of vision!).  First however, I will briefly describe main features of Yeats’ natus as it would be known to the poet and then describe the  more acute and disconcerting truth, secrets in effect, that a modern reading can supply.

BASICS OF THE NATAL CHART

Yeats was born in Sandymount Dublin on June 13th 1865 at 10.40 pm. This means he was a divided, intellectually curious, multi-tasking Gemini with eccentric, independent, often rebellious Aquarius rising at 0 degrees. There is more than one type of Gemini, and ascendant signs physically modify any sun sign, but Yeats still strongly corresponded to the textbook typical Edward Snowden image of the Gemini – tall, slim and intellectual looking. The poet’s birth time seems more or less correct. His career/destiny Midheaven at 4 of philosophical Sagittarius is on what is called a strong, “critical” degree. And the fact that at birth the Part of Fortune falls exactly on Gemini’s “ruler”, Mercury, the planet of writing and writers, itself in Gemini its sign of rulership and in its natural house the third too, all augurs well for the data of a celebrated writer and indefatigable conversationalist. For that matter so too does the Part of Soul conjuncting the rising. Yeats is about nothing if not the colours and intuitions of “soul” as against the para-intellectual directions of spirit. So the birth time appears correct.

Since the moon was rising for Yeats in Aquarius at 19 degrees (a reason he always regarded himself as “lunar” not “solar”), this strengthens any Aquarian input and personal style as well as inclining him to be either dominated by or associated with women as we know he was. Also, not only could Yeats prove astonishingly, ultra-Aquarian eccentric on occasions such as cutting up a fur coat in order not to disturb the magic sleep of a cat lying on it, but he was oddly accident prone in Aquarian style – like scoffing a box of cough drops mistaking them for regular sweets and sending himself to sleep for 30 hours as a result. Also his spelling and punctuation could be amazingly idiosyncratic for a writer, and it’s odd he could never master French despite often visiting France and even dying there.

The fact that the ruler of this Aquarian rising, Uranus, falls in writerly Gemini widely conjunct Yeats’ natal Sun (the core self) further entrenches the eccentricity of style at the same time as it promises great originality of personality and/or creativity (his love of the avant-garde in theatre and design was notable) especially from within the creative fifth house. (Shelley, Yeats’ early model, likewise had Sun conjunct Uranus in the fifth house so Shelley would naturally stir Yeats, especially as that Romantic era poet’s Sun/Uranus conjuncts Yeats’ own Mars in Leo).

Yeats’ Gemini Sun trine Saturn in the arts and genteel society sign of Libra shows Yeats can get somewhere through great effort, but also good patronage like that of Lady Gregory and the tea heiress Annie Horniman; also that he can live long enough to do so unlike one of his siblings who died young. Jupiter in Sagittarius inclines to religion, philosophy, the kind of big generalizations Yeats directed upon Ireland – unlike his father who had been intended for the church, Yeats admitted to be unable to live without some kind of religion.

Mars in spectacular, dramatic Leo in Yeats’ unions house promises plenty of argument and problems with associates, spouses or long term lovers. Very much so as Mars stands in affliction square to a close, obsessive, Venus/Pluto conjunction in fixed, immovable Taurus. Though Yeats wouldn’t have known of Pluto unless in his latter years, the combination describes especially the lifelong obsession and frustration with the fiery, theatrical Maud Gonne, an image of Ireland itself/herself – Ireland, by tradition at least, has always been under Taurus though Gonne herself wasn’t. (Gonne was a Sagittarian which means she could dominate, as she certainly did, in the sector of Yeats’ career and destiny. But as the tormented Venus/Pluto falls in the 3rd of writing, Gonne and love’s frustrations can be much written about personally and also nationalistically as a Cathleen ni Houlihan image).  I should perhaps mention that we arguably only  know Yeats’ poetry because of the (seventh house) agency and original support, including financial, for the poetry and its publication by the retired Fenian John O’Leary (b. 23 July 1830). O’Leary’s sun at 0 Leo falls exactly on Yeats’ seventh house cusp of  agency. Moreover O’Leary’s 23 degree Venus in Gemini falls conjunct Yeats’ sun so that he really liked and favoured the poet who would later suitably write  of him, “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave”.

To be mystical, one normally needs something in the 4th, 8th or 12th houses which will reflect the types of mysticism. Yeats only, but importantly, had Saturn (and itself exalted in Libra) in his eighth of sex and mysteries, (i.e. the occult) and death. Yeats’ mysticism does in fact incline to the occult or sexual/tantric and he was obsessed with contacting the dead via seances. Saturn here can make for a lot of testing, structuring or ritual in the realms of the erotic. Saturn could nonetheless also indicate some sexual limitation or frustration which Yeats had an admitted fair share of despite his many affairs, and/or Saturn could reflect the sheer effort of attempting union with especially the elusive Gonne via astral means (which apparently Yeats was able to do in the form of a serpent!). We also know that in old age (Saturn) Yeats underwent the Steinach operation (apparently a partial vasectomy) to release more libido. But it worked (Saturn helpfully trine Sun) even if it proved a bit embarrassing. Such are the main, visible features of a horoscope Yeats would recognize. But what of the rest of the data that the poet didn’t know and which almost better describes but also rather betrays him?

WHAT YEATS DIDN’T KNOW

At first glance the new information is satisfying, especially if we pose it a question the traditional data can’t quite answer like: was Yeats fated to be the poet, voice and revealer of specifically modern Ireland to itself?….The answer is yes and the efficiency of the supplementary data able to demonstrate just that should be proof to the uninitiated that it reliably works. The asteroid Yeates (interpretation of asteroids follows sound not spelling) conjuncts the asteroid Ireland and The Part of Revelation. These three factors then fortunately trine asteroid Poesia (Yeates at 22. Pisces conjuncts The Part of Revelation at 21 Pisces and Ireland at 20 Pisces, which trines Poesia at 19 Cancer). Then too, Erato (traditional muse of specifically lyric poetry) rises at 15 Aquarius (a world point, helpful for fame) loosely conjunct the poet’s rising moon – asteroid aspects don’t exceed 2 degrees unless as here to sun or moon.

Erato itself is closely and surely significantly conjunct at 16 degrees to Lugh, traditionally the versatile Celtic Mercury whom the gods of Ireland made the chief ollamh (poet) of the land. This tells us what seems true: Yeats’ Ireland-centred lyric poetry is more notable than the dramatic. And much of the lyric output is linked to an atavistic, ultimately pagan worldview (Yeats, though descended of Church of Ireland clergymen, would write of “my unchristened heart”) which reckons to speak, and is mostly accepted as speaking, for all Ireland. But since the 19 degree moon is favourably exact to Prometheus at 19 Aries, we can also appreciate why for Yeats, Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound provided his virtual call to the bardic role. Also why the youthful Yeats rated Shelley’s work not just good poetry but truth-in-itself, something to rank with world scriptures, a strange and significant point to which we can return.

In view of things said later, I should stress that the muse Erato can be taken as the equivalent of Yeats’ all-powerful “daimon”, that principle without which he believed no true poetry could be written. The “daimon” could however only possess and inspire if one had assumed the “anti-self” or “mask”. Yeats’ concept of “mask” is interesting because the first house in which Erato is found is always the house of any persona, the filter or mask for the core will and personality of an individual’s often different sun sign. However, Yeats’  poetic “anti-self” is an awkward, misleading word (much Yeatsian jargon is confused, not least because he was bound not to reveal secret society principles). Essentially it designates the unconscious as opposed to everyday consciousness. But ‘anti-self’ can get combined with theories of the (astral) mask because in the rituals of the Golden Dawn and its Isis-Urania temple, Yeats learned to reach unconscious planes invoking spirits while wearing the appropriate god mask which obviously would seem the antithesis of the human. With the “anti-self” concept (which might also be involved with orgasm and the sex magic Yeats sometimes practiced but didn’t discuss), we can see how Yeats is going to trap readers and even confuse himself because modern psychological astrology would not allow that the unconscious has anything to do with the first house energies in which the nearest thing to Yeats’ daimon resides.

It seems no accident that many of Yeats greatest poems as in The Tower are about simply himself and his various roles and masks rather than unconscious deeps! We can also see that asteroid Memoria (i.e. memory but also the ancient world equivalent of the unconscious or Yeats’ “Great Memory” or “Great Mind”) is not in aspect to Erato. Instead it afflicts the writer’s Mercury and his IC angle (base of chart). Small wonder Yeats is going to make poetry amid conflict, misdirecting himself as regards inspiration and arriving at any “anti-self” closer less to the unconscious than to precisely an opposite of the self in terms of roles, an opposite with which he struggles like Jacob with the angel.

If you enter the unconscious to mine inspiration, you do so via your 4th, 8th or 12th houses. These are untenanted by any planets for Yeats – except as we have seen for structuring, limiting Saturn which, though planets as opposed to asteroids are symbolically multivalent, by tradition has been the devil symbol.  And Saturn is at very least the archetype for any fear. Yeats, whose name in magic is devil associated, reaches the “anti-self” through precisely fear. Admittedly at the planetary level (as opposed to the mentioned levels of houses) the moon just by itself enjoys some traditional associations with the unconscious as opposed to the consciousness of sun. This is one reason that Yeats’ own “masks” tend to be golden and glittering or yellow reflecting things solar, or complete silvery lunar to rouse unconscious energies. Even so, Yeats’ moon by being in the non-mystical first house and in a masculine (i.e. extravert) sign, is poorly placed to assist him in his strivings towards sublime oppositions or magical unions of conscious with unconscious for purposes of magic, poetry or whatever. This may also be the reason Yeats was so reliant upon women – he wanted or needed them to do his mental and symbolic work for him!

I at first wondered why Yeats’ crucial Poesia should be in his 6th house (even though I maintain it’s in the same house for Shakespeare) as opposed to somewhere obvious like near his destiny/reputation Midheaven as for the career poet Rilke. However the 6th house is not just work (and Shakespeare apparently regarded his labours in dramatic poetry as a bit beneath him, a kind of money spinning venture allowing him to become a big property owner) but the house of any “practical magic” i.e. magical operations. Magic was Yeats’ mysticism, but magic is very much what a lot of Yeats’ poetry aimed to be, whether readers realize it or not. Many poems like Wandering Angus are evocations, symbolizations, active dreamings along occult society lines. And note too that the Shakespeare of at least The Tempest, seems to identify his poetic labours with a species of magic, “but this rough magic I here abjure” etc.

Yeats however never abjured any magic. Magic was his religion. The Part of Occultism exactly conjuncts the cusp of his ninth house of religion/philosophy. Suitably for this, if possible Yeats would have founded full blown Celtic rites at Key Lodge, Galway and he certainly put much work towards that. Like many readers, aware how haunting and beautiful the long slow twilights of Yeats’ western Ireland could be, I managed to overlook how Yeats’ obsession with “The Celtic Twilight” was less poetic than a reflection of the principle that druid rituals to raise power were performed in hour before sunrise. Yeats is all about bringing back the light of the god Lugh! Significantly Yeats’ Part of Race Consciousness at 24 Aries conjuncts the Part of Religion at 24 Aries. Accordingly he even maintained it was essential to experience Ireland rather than Judaea as a, or the, holy land, an idea which has a touch of pagan Nazi love of die Heimat and unsurprisingly Yeats had a brief flirtation with the Nazis. That his aim for a new Celtic religion did not fully succeed is involved with the fact that Saturn opposes these factors from 23 Libra. In this case forces of tradition (Saturn) oppose it.

WHAT DID YEATS BELIEVE (BEYOND THE SACREDNESS OF IRELAND)?

To the extent that Credo at 20 Gemini (near to Yeats’ sun at 22) trines his lyrics-associated moon at 19 Aquarius we might say that women and poetry constitute Yeats’ “truth”; but real poetic truth for Yeats began with Shelley and not least because Shelley was Promethean. Shelley’s Prometheus and The Witch of Atlas also seemed after a fashion so magical they were the inspiration for even Yeats’ fellow Society of the Golden Dawn member, Alistair Crowley, the Satanist who (though no great truth teller) accused Yeats of being a demonologist who used black magic against him. In turn Yeats accused Crowley himself of being a disgusting person who used black magic.

But why did both Yeats and Crowley find such inspiration in Shelley? Shelley was self-described and often thought of as an atheist, but he admitted to belief in an immanent Spirit of Nature and he was chiefly “atheist” against the Christian God. He had invoked the devil while still at Eton. Prometheus Unbound is effectively Shelley’s response to Milton’s Paradise Lost with Prometheus as a kind of do-good devil, a Lucifer light challenging God. Seeing that Yeats called Prometheus Unbound a scripture, we notice that at Yeats’ birth asteroid Shelley at just 1 Scorpio opposes Isa (Ar. Jesus) at nearly 1 Taurus, while in parallel to this the Christ asteroid at 19 Taurus is in afflicting square to Yeats’ lyrical moon. This is not a person who much likes Christ and Christianity and Yeats indicates as much in many places like the conclusion to The Magi who are left “unsatisfied with the mystery of the bestial floor” and in the dance drama Calvary which assures us God has not died for the white heron (meaning Yeats himself who in one of his last poems insists he wants no conventional phrase and who certainly had no cross, on his gravestone at Drumcliffe where his ancestors were buried). We should take this more seriously than many critics do. Susan Johnston-Graf’s important study (W.B.Yeats: A Twentieth Century Magus, 2000) seems correct to maintain the occult side of Yeats is insufficiently known, understood or acknowledged by scholars of Christian or Jewish background who finish up giving Yeats’ occultism a merely secular humanist reading it shouldn’t have.

If Yeats really had any feeling for Christ and Christianity as some Christian critics imagine, it is unlikely he would have taken as his first lover the strange and some said decadent Olivia Shakespear whom Ezra Pound declared “hated Christ like the devil” or let Nietzsche, the author of Der Antichrist and radical critic of leading Christian values become a major influence. We know Yeats declined to attend church with the fairly devout Irish Anglican Lady Gregory during his extended residences with her at Gort. More to the point, he surely would not have associated with Maud Gonne, a woman who admitted to having sold her soul to the devil (though she did feel some remorse about it when her father died shortly after the event!). Later after a pragmatic conversion to Catholicism to marry someone from whom she soon separated, Gonne reckoned to work with Yeats to unify Christianity with paganism having decided the devil was simply England.

Gonne is the model for Yeats’ drama The Countess Cathleen whose eponymous heroine, surrounded by predatory demons, sells her soul on the behalf of the Irish peasantry, a Shelleyean sort of good diabolism. This odd, Faustian style drama was the first offering of the Irish Literary Theatre aiming to change the face of Irish national culture. It would be hard to describe just how mad the real life, but by all accounts stunningly beautiful Gonne was, and how much she drew Yeats into her madness which in a lucid moment he confessed to Lady Gregory would be sufficient to have her locked up. Despite despising marriage and apparently sex too, unbeknown to the besotted Yeats she had an illegitimate child by a French lover, a child which died and which she then tried to get reincarnated by having occult sex with the father in front of the child’s tomb. (Regrettably there are no asteroids for either Maud or Gonne). Even Yeats’ attitude towards Christ is however only an aspect of a wider negative feeling about God and religion about which I feel the chart is fairly graphic in line with the fact that at the Golden Dawn Yeats assumed the remarkable name DEDI or Demon est Deus Inversus (the Demon/Devil is God inverted). The initiate name seems involved with Yeats belief in Blakean, Gnostic notions of Good needing Evil. What does the horoscope show?

YEATS AND GOD

There are two deity asteroids Theotes (Godhead) which is more like Trinity and there is Bhagwat which is in effect Lord as in Bhagwat Gita (Song of the Lord). Both of these are notably afflicted for Yeats. Bhagwat at 25 Virgo is in affliction square both to Jupiter, the planet of religion and beliefs (and some of us would say the Bethlehem Star), at 24 Sagittarius and to Yeats’ natal sun at 22 Gemini while Theotes at 28 makes square to Uranus at 29 Gemini. This suggests more than enough tension and oddity in the outlook. If there is a planet of God as biblically understood it is unquestionably Pluto. Since this planet can symbolize both creation and destruction and on the human plane obsession and hatred, its inharmonious conjunction with Yeats’ Venus belongs with lines like, “Hatred of the soul can bring the soul to God”. Except that it never especially did so for Yeats himself for whom God is at best a symbol of the All that embraces Good and Evil (hence Yeats’ name in magic circles). God is not any creator or end for Yeats. In typical Gemini fashion he prefers journey to arrival, and can thus feel free to describe God in many ways, none definitive, unless possibly as “The Great Mind” – but including if need be as demonic energy. At this point we come across the real problem, the vital question regarding Yeats’ beliefs and identity. Was he, as Crowley would have it, (virtually) a Satanist? Was Yeats himself merely bragging when he told the artist Beardsley that he had been much taken up with and studied what he called “diabolism” in certain occult circles in Paris? (R.M.Foster. W B Yeats, A Life, p, 158).

YEATS AND THE DEVIL

The evidence for at least some degree of attachment to “diabolism” or Satanism seems clear enough since we find that Lucifer at 20.16 Pisces is conjunct both Yeates and Ireland. Granted that on a matter so controversial one needs what any astrologer would look for in such a case which is some back-up (after all, there are many asteroids and all must be somewhere so they are not automatically significant for everyone!) but we do have this. There are two devil asteroids as there are two deity asteroids. They are Lucifer which seems to represent Satan as St Paul’s deceptive “angel of light” and Satan as darkness which is Malin (Fr. Devil) of which presently. There is however a possible, “sort of” third devil asteroid and it is Sethos, Greek for the Egyptian devil god Set or Seth. Sethos at 19 Pisces is conjuncting Yeats’ Lucifer at 20 Pisces. This obtains more significance in light of something else. Yeats (like the Golden Dawn) was quite taken up with Egyptian symbol and ritual – in the famous and rather sublime Second Coming poem Yeats pretty well identifies his second Christ/Antichrist with Egypt through a sort of Sphinx or Sekhmet solar figure. Suitably, therefore, Aigyptios (Egypt) at 23 Aquarius fortunately trines Yeats’ Saturn at 23 Libra in his mysteries-linked eighth house, while in the other direction his Aigyptios is favourably placed towards his beliefs-signifying and determining Jupiter at 24 Sagittarius.

Beyond and outside of the  Ireland he wanted to become the new Holy Land, Yeats believed in some kind of light from Egypt (“Swear by what the sages spoke/Round the Mareotic lake”) as did Crowley who received his essentially Satanic Book of the Law for the coming (Aquarian) era while in Egypt. And though she represented no secret occult orders, for what it’s worth the late Catholic seeress, Jeane Dixon, who notoriously claimed the Antichrist was born under Aquarius in 1962, maintained much of that individual’s youth was passed in Egypt. So if we follow the astrologer’s law of sensitive degrees, we could ask in heaven’s name what vibe might Yeats have been in touch with in this vision poem of an avatar seeing that the alleged birth time of Dixon’s false prophet shows that person’s moon at the same fated 23 Aquarius? Moreover if this person actually exists, Yeats’ relation to him is between astonishing and sinister. On the Pied Piper’s birth chart Yeates falls at 18 Sagittarius i.e. in favourable aspect in one direction to the prophet’s Venus at 18 Aquarius (Yeats could love this person) while in the other it makes favourable trine to the nodes at 18 Leo (planets in the degree of the nodes have something fated in terms of connection). Before we dismiss this as purest coincidence, let’s note that Nietzsche, himself author of Der Antichrist, has an exact Nietzsche asteroid in agreement to the 9 degrees of the avatar’s power and authority Pluto. There may even be, given Yeats’ visionary anticipations of an avatar, a further subtle message in the fact that the poet’s Sethos falls at 19 Pisces. I believe as per my Testament of the Magi http://goo.gl/SkWyf5 this degree is very provably that of the Bethlehem Star. Thus Yeats unconsciously (prophetically?) places Egypt, the new era and Antichrist against Christ and Sethos on what is in effect the chief degree of the Christian revelation and era.

YEATS AND AN OCCULT IRELAND

Yet with even this I digress because what is more immediately relevant here is that having determined there seems to be some kind of identification of Yeats with the demonic, we find that his Lucifer at 20.16 is to the minute of a degree exactly conjunct Ireland at 20.16. I believe this could be linked to a certain ideological identification of Yeats with Mme Blavatsky and her theosophy that influenced the Golden Dawn. (Yeats even described the Russian Blavatsky as like a wise old Irish peasant woman which I imagine recommended her to him!). Blavatsky taught (shades of Shelley’s Prometheus again) that the true ruler of the world is the light-bearing, heroic Lucifer. This could well mean that Yeats would assume Lucifer, perhaps identified with god of light, Lugh, was the true hidden ruler of Ireland for any invocation purposes. In a roundabout, unintended way Blavatsky was of course correct. The NT acknowledges that the devil is currently “the prince of this world” (Joh 14:30) and declares, (as most Christians never do lest it seem to compromise divine omnipotence), that the world has been given over to the forces of evil. Christ’s incarnation is a major stage in combating that – the devil offers Christ the world as the final temptation. The difference is that Blavatsky, like Shelley and almost certainly Yeats, regarded Lucifer’s rule as beneficent. DEDI Yeats probably believed that Lucifer is just God/”The Great Mind”/”The Condition of Fire” seen through another lens amid the endless perning of gyres, turning of ages and incarnations.

The destructive, often hate-bearing, sold soul Maud Gonne who for years was willing to birth Ireland in violence, took Yeats in directions he wouldn’t otherwise have chosen. Gonne, though she managed to mellow somewhat, was in many respects Yeats’ own Lucifer Light and Devil Dark together. Provided Lucifer was, so to speak, politically supreme, there was room of sorts for Christ and Christian mysticism more spiritually – the later Yeats could even allow for the notion of a future Irish druidic Christ, and when he talks about nations needing prophet, priest and king he can even sound like a kind of Christian; but this merely reflects the way he always lets good and evil merge. Nevertheless the 0.59, i.e virtually 1 degree Isa (Jesus) asteroid in Ireland-associated Taurus makes opportunity aspect to Malin at 2 Cancer, the sign, if any, of paganism and polytheism. I should say that Yeats just never bothered about any form of truth that didn’t seem “visionary” or symbolic. Not only can his sign of the Twins be notoriously dark/light, a Dr Jeckell and Mr Hyde because its intellectualism dissociates easily, but we do find the asteroid Lie, at 9 Pisces conjunct the poet’s Part of Boredom and Indifference. To discover the truth in the ordinary sense whether practical, philosophical or theological was almost too much trouble to a person like Yeats who found common reality a bore. Sometimes just superficial in a way most common under the air signs, he was usually unburdened by what he was teaching and the energies he was possibly releasing….Except in one major case. A séance could unnerve him and attendance at one in January 1895 seems to have been definitive for much subsequently and it was years before he would consult mediums regularly for mundane guidance.

YEATS IN POETRY AND THE ASTRAL LIGHT

It was at a séance that Yeats was suddenly jerking and shuddering uncontrollably in ways that frightened those in attendance like Kathryn Tynan and are suggestive of something akin to kundalini experience or possession by a spirit. We have echoes of the kind of experience, but in a more positive light in the poem The Cold Heaven, where the poet describes himself as “rocking to and fro riddled with light”. I don’t have a chart for this but plainly it would have something to do that month with transiting Jupiter in Gemini conjuncting and setting off the “electrical” natal Uranus. Jupiter trine Uranus in specifically fire was in evidence in Pentecost AD 30 when the Spirit fell on the disciples. But if Yeats was, let’s say, mildly rather than madly possessed by a spirit (his Discoveries portray him as already hearing voices and under certain “influences” from an early age), that would only be consistent with his early established belief that a poet was essentially someone possessed, a go-between earth and heaven and revealing messages accordingly. The Yeatsian experiential reality (as opposed to the convoluted theory!) was that daimonic/poetry experiences were, at best, of lightning and hence Uranus. The reason that in later life Yeats bought and assumed residence in the Tower of Thoor-Ballylee was because, practically, he associated true sudden inspiration as akin to the lightning of the lightning struck Tower of the Tarot card archetype. He also knew from the Cabbala of the Golden Dawn, loosely based on elements of Jewish mysticism, that lightning descended from the height of the God/Mind/Higher Self dominated Tree of Life for those who knew the right keys, symbols, deity names and vibrations, these being much associated at the Golden Dawn with Isis-Urania.

It is beyond present scope, but I would insist as per certain statements in my Puer Poems one of whose offerings is itself based on the structure of the “Tree” which links the names of God in a pattern, that the three highest nodes from which any lightning descends in fact correspond to the Trinity. Astrologically the Trinity can be symbolized by Pluto (the Creator), Uranus (the Holy Spirit) and Neptune (Christ). Yeats and Golden Dawn magicians who made alternative, less convincing astrological correspondences with the Hebrew divine names were not receiving from the Spirit but at the Isis-Urania temple spiritist energies related to the Urania representing whatever, which exactly trines Yeats’ Uranus, or perhaps in Yeats’ case the light energies the ancient Celts associated with Lugh. Any Uranian lightning for members of The Golden Dawn was also the “astral light”. Through Eliphas Levi and the French Occultism that also influenced him, Yeats obtained the notion that the astral Light is the vehicle of magic and inspiration. It can be variously God’s power, the awaited Holy Spirit of the coming age and the Edenic Serpent’s power all in one field.

YEATS AND MODERN IRELAND

But if Yeats (most of the time) didn’t care what he was doing and remained largely agnostic about who or what the spirits he invoked truly were, there are reasons why we, and I, might have some reason to care. The first point concerns the nature of Ireland and the second the perennial nature and meaning of poetry. Like it or not, modern Ireland inherits something from Yeats. I am certainly not suggesting modern Ireland should not have come into being, but the when and how of its doing so seems a little dubious and national self-understanding of the process to some extent the product of the Yeats/Gonne (mis)alliance, their symbol formation and policies. And we may recall that the English originally dismissed the Easter Rising as “a poet’s revolution”, just more Irish theatre and show. Granted that Yeats himself, who was more implicitly than overtly political, did not take part in the uprising whose immediate leader was the poetic and mystical Padraic Pearse with his loosely Christian theories of sacrifice. However, Gonne, though she hated Socialists along with Jews, had some history of stirring Pearse’s co-revolutionary, the socialist James Connolloy into action. Overall, what took place on April 24th 1916 was in many respects the effects of a Yeats/Gonne cultural revolution that was building for years. Stephen Gywnn famously observed after a performance of Cathleen-ni-Houlihan he wondered “if such plays should be produced unless one was prepared for people to go out to shoot and be shot”. Yeats if not Gonne did have a few twinges of conscience as in The Man and the Echo where he asks, “Did that play of mine send out/Certain men the English shot?”.

Revolutions are of Uranus……Yeats’ poetic birth moon at 19 Aquarius was exactly conjuncted by Uranus in Aquarius that Easter of 1916. The Venus of the day was fortunately trining it. Neptune was degree exact semi-sextile (any meetings of mind) to Yeats’ Uranus so he can glamourize the revolution – which he did. Mercury had just passed conjunction to his Venus/Pluto (it’s the basis of his famous poetic reaction “a terrible beauty is born” Venus being beauty and Pluto being the terrible!). And though Mars representing conflict at the time was at 16 Leo (rather than Yeats own 12, itself one of the reasons he did not actively engage in the revolution), what was happening was nonetheless very much in his spirit. And his spirit and values would endure.

If we look at the absolute foundation of modern Ireland, i.e. its complete, final republican rupture with England (April 18th 1949 at 12 am), a decade after Yeats death, we find Jupiter (religion/beliefs) at 0 Aquarius, the degree of Yeats’ rising. The novelty and eccentricity of this position, especially as it trines Saturn in Eire’s religion house gives, I believe, long term (Saturn) promise that despite the nation’s conservative, enduring, sad and bachelor signifying moon in Capricorn, entrenched traditional values and Catholicism would not be so secure. Instead, as has happened, they would considerably succumb to disillusion, scepticism and revolt. There would be a quiet revolution in many cases prompting return to a sort of Yeatsian style paganism. Uranus at foundation time at 27+ Gemini was conjunct Yeats’ 29 degree Uranus and asteroid Yeates was conjunct Eire’s Mercury (its writing, its thought patterns).

However, more significantly for permanently linking the poet to the life and arts of the nation, Eire’s sun and Venus in Aries exactly conjuncts Yeats’ 27 Libra/Aries nodal axis. But as one might suspect, the contact is not altogether fortunate or inspiring in the right way – one thinks for example how much the design and feeling of Samuel Beckett’s depressing nihilistic dramas owes to such as Yeats’ drama Purgatory. It is always the North Nodes which point the way forward and to what is best for person or entity, Eire’s 27 Aries falls on Yeats’ backward looking South Nodes. A little more positively, the one time “Isle of the Saints’ rising sign is 5 degrees of (religious) Sagittarius itself conjunct Yeats’ destiny and reputation Midheaven which was 4 Sagittarius. Ireland will always be thought of as religious even if it isn’t very notably so and it will always be somewhat Yeats country as to tourists it very much is. Taken all in all, I can imagine that those of charismatic persuasion or Catholics re-instating exorcism might think that the almost perpetually unfortunate, economically vulnerable, population haemorrhaging Ireland, could use a few banishing rituals at sacred sites where Yeats tried either to call down the gods or to confirm their fairy rule – even the unusually down-to-earth Seamus Heaney could say of Yeats “Reading Yeats, I can feel at times a transmission of dangerous force”. With that thought in mind what I will explore in conclusion is the question of what poetry is and does because for me that becomes a personal and oddly Yeatsian question.

YEATS AND THE IDEA OF POETRY TODAY

This month I have published New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas. The sometimes polemical poems have sundry themes but the dramas are based on the Welsh Mabinogion legend of Branwyn and various Irish legends of Oengus the love god and also Graine and the Fenian men. I think it can honestly be claimed and claimed as simple fact, not boast, and as something anyone reading the material could be hard put to dispute, that though I belong to no occult societies, since 1949 (or even 1916) no poet or Protestant claiming Irish nationality will have been closer to the spirit of Yeats and many (though by no means all) of his interests. In the interim as in Seamus Heaney’s to my mind ghastly The Vision (it leaves me feeling claustrophic and a bit queasy!) “imagination” has been downplayed in favour of an overwhelming, sometimes vulgar earthiness. And even the quasi-Yeatsian 1916 revolution, which was a revolution of consciousness as much as politics, is just a little bit mine to do something literary with because Ireland at my birth was conjunct the fatal Easter’s 16 degree Leo Mars, itself conjunct my almost 16 degrees Mars. When at the beginning of my writing career I wrote rather combatively on The Irish Nation, I was as unaware of this celestial tie-in as Yeats was of so much else in his chart. Whatever revolution of consciousness Yeats aimed at, I, spontaneously and broadly somewhat take up again, and even when not in specifically poetry have done so in prose as in works like Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency  ( http://amzn.to/Xz9L7X ) which effectively assume a hidden occult order of reality and which in their way are expressive of a Yeatsian ideal – “love for the Unseen”.

I could perhaps hardly help going in the direction taken. Mercury and Venus again in the house of writing, Uranus again in late Gemini, Jupiter again in Sagittarius (which with the Leo Mars makes for a somewhat similar emphasis upon the hieratic, the priestly, prophetic role etc), the Neptunes of both on an axis and unsurprisingly too I find, even Catullus. So… here we go again, except that now it’s poetry in itself, not specifically Irish poetry,that chiefly concerns me . After all, I don’t live in Ireland and for perhaps that reason have not been generously treated by anyone in literary Ireland for whom it seems I am merely someone outside and beyond, perhaps even a kind of inconvenient truth safely dismissed in the way I properly mock in my satirical Catullus Redux (http://bit.ly/1ci1WMX ).

POETRY AND SOME “MAGICAL” SYNCHRONICITY

New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas marks a new departure for me after nearly a quarter century’s poetic silence. I had abandoned poetry with the offerings of Puer Poems ( http://amzn.to/11i5hkI )because of the endless, sometimes quite hostile rejections which not even broadcast of a poetic drama on the ABC could overcome. But while, as I thought, I had abandoned poetry for good in disgust, there was a touch of relief that accompanied it too. Poetry and its effects had also begun to puzzle me in certain areas, especially in the way described in the introduction to Puer Poems. There, and citing a peculiar experience surrounding one of my poems, I perceive possible justification for the most traditional bardic/druidic notions that Yeats picked up and ran with, namely poetry as magic and spell à la Prospero or even as the Bible has it, “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov 18:21). Poet and poetry as the druids assumed can bless or curse. In modern times and outside Ireland both Ted Hughes and Robert Graves would have at any rate the curse associated with their work.

A lot of modern poetry is “ekphrastic”. It describes objects to offer possible epiphanies – even if these  are often told in flat, bald tones which depart from almost all previous poetic tradition stretching back into the night of time. It’s poetry for the agnostic, materialistic society Yeats abhorred, as I do myself. Traditional/classic poetry, even if it’s blank verse, has rhythm and aims to memorably compress certain ideas. The combination of rhythm and compression and then its repetition seems capable of assisting trance or creating something like thought forms or situations. (Modern exorcists for example find that many possessions can be traced back in the first instance to the psychic wound opened up by parents or associates just repeating to a child that they are ugly, worthless and so on). If Shakespeare was a Prospero, it is notorious that many actors are highly superstitious about “a certain play” (Macbeth) because of the amount of bad energy or ghosts its incantatory verse seems to generate in performance.

As recounted in Puer Poems, I presented what would become the first poem of that collection to a fairly celebrated Australian stage and TV actor as a present. Included were references to typical features of the Puer archetype with which I associated the actor in question so that I wrote “and if he fell he’d bleed and bleed”. Within days of presenting the poem the actor happened to switch to a leading role in the play Blood Brothers and not long after that was hospitalized because there was blood all over the place either in some dressing room fight with another actor (now internationally famous star of screen Russell Crowe), or something that occurred on stage where the future star was reckless – it has never been clear to me which since I have heard and read different stories. I don’t say I “caused” the fiasco, and it’s possible my timing was purest coincidence, but at very least it looks like there was what Jung would call a significant “synchronicity”. It was as though I had timed, declared or released effects of the Puer archetype. Moreover it wasn’t as though there hadn’t been people to have experienced my poetry of  entities that I didn’t believe in, as though I believed in them and that they were somehow real. The thought leaves one feeling a bit more cautious or responsible about literature and its potential to influence. A lot of art, I don’t say all, seems occult either in its generation or effects, or both. The world of Yeatsian poetic stands somewhere between celebration of things Celtic and (magical) imposition upon the culture with any distancing being purely aesthetic as in the admirable experiments with Noh drama. My own effort to achieve a needed distancing for especially the Celtic material of the dramas is through letting the characters establish certain understandings about the culture, history and psychology within which they exist. They are not all Yeatsian heart and emotion but intellect.

SO WHAT IS POETRY TODAY?

So what do I think poetry is? Of course it’s not one thing and some it will always be just entertainment like nursery rhymes or more seriously devoted to the history and myth of the people as in ballads. There is a variety of forms and functions. However, “serious” or “classic” poetry I do believe is “magic” or “mysticism” to the extent it is transcendent of the everyday. Its words, its rhythms, its different organization of language defamiliarizes us with common existence, encourages us to imagine different things, ideas, situations, perhaps begin to do so through a degree of participation in the different reality itself. The movement into the other plane can be either through a hearing or a seeing. Some classic poetry like Shakespeare’s is highly auditory, others as in much Latin verse and Ovid is highly visual; either way one goes beyond in a way that prose which belongs with the ordinary movements, observation and memories of life doesn’t.

In some respects poetry is, or borders, philosophy as witness Lucretius, Dante and in his way Yeats; but if poets have offered philosophy it is more like the work of the pre-Socratics who open minds towards the more developed schemes of the philosophers working with reason in prose rather than imagination and creative imagery. Poetry’s “magic” can be prophetic – much biblical prophecy is delivered in poetry rather than prose – but its messages can also be perennial, drawing us back into the essential and eternal underlying or overseeing our existence. At this point in time I should say that Auden was correct in looking forward to a return of “high style” which is to say a more transcendent poetry. It is time to say goodbye to modern or even post modern experiments in poetry and return to the art as the wisdom and vision which, no matter how much we may criticize and reject his particular beliefs, the legacy of Yeats represents and which no contemporary poet should disdain to follow.

My poem Under Parnassus: An Under Ben Bulben Variation  can be found at https://wp.me/p2v96G-vy

 

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