Last Wednesday (28th January 2009) was the seventieth anniversary of the death of W. B. Yeats. Living between the nineteenth and twentieth century, Yeats (1865-1939) was one of the writers who attempted an Irish Literary Revival and his poetry, in particular, draws heavily on Irish mythology and history.
The relationship between the archaic and the modern in Ireland at this time is presented as fairly antagonistic, and the problems which modernity can bring are explored in ‘These are the Clouds’. Yeats writes of the ‘discord’ which follows ‘upon unison’, and despairs for the time when all is in ruin; writing of the ‘fallen sun’, and of that all will ‘be tumbled that was lifted high’ and, mostly, his despair that ‘all things at one common level lie’ in a modernising society.
These Are The Clouds
THESE are the clouds about the fallen sun,
The majesty that shuts his burning eye:
The weak lay hand on what the strong has done,
Till that be tumbled that was lifted high
And discord follow upon unison,
And all things at one common level lie.
And therefore, friend, if your great race were run
And these things came, So much the more thereby
Have you made greatness your companion,
Although it be for children that you sigh:
These are the clouds about the fallen sun,
The majesty that shuts his burning eye.
W. B. Yeats, 1916