Poets: W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

These well known words, not only in reference to the poem itself, but as phrases themselves, are the words of the Anglo-Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Anglo-Irish poetry refers to poetry written by Irish poets in English; these poems were written originally in English, not translated from Irish.

For those of you who have been following the NRXN subreddit, you may have found this video linked by yours truly. Bowden, that English lion of reaction, does a review of the political dimensions of Yeats’ poetry, which is not my specialty. There are complaints that his lecture is so little about Yeats – but yet if you listen to it, it will give you an understanding of Irish politics and the political-culture of the 19th-20th centuries in Ireland that gives important context to Yeats’ work.

As works of art, Yeats’ poems tend to stand on their own and speak with their own voice. The philosopher of knowledge Polanyi said that one defining characteristic of a work of art – not art as mere artifice or technique, but what we mean when we use the term – is that it can stand on its own outside of direct reference to its creator. It is allopoiesis. Much of what we do is autopoiesis – recreating a simple copy of what we are. Heteropoiesis (this is probably just a term I hashed together so don’t take it too seriously) would be creating something not merely distinct but different from one’s self. This is important to understand because it is strictly impossible. Thus if someone has created something that seems not merely distinct from (as a work of art) but different from the creator, it is a sign they are deceiving you. Such deception is stock and trade of our literary culture now, so be on watch for heteropoiesis.

Allopoiesis means that the artist loses control of their work, much in the way people lose control of their children. The old saying is, “Like an arrow fired surely hits its target, so a child well raised will not stray from their path.” (If anyone wishes to offer the original text, feel free. I’ve freely paraphrased.) Aside from Kyudo, whose path is different than we might think, the arrow once-released is now at the whim of the weather and the laws of nature; so it is with art.

This is one reason why ‘cultural appropriation’, if it exists, cannot exist within our cultural tradition. For, if I can appropriate a work of art, it was by definition not a work of art, mere mimicry and autopoiesis. There is a temptation of an artist to try to hold on to their art (consider the copyright on a cultural icon like Mickey Mouse) and “Cultural Appropriation” is sort of like lazy copyright for the illiterate. Copyright as a theory exists not to refute or reduce the truth of allopoiesis, but because of it. A Pelican missile follows the laser target designator; why? Because targets move and the wind blows. The original gunpowder weapon, the fire-lance, was much like a Pelican missile; that man (probably a Chinese fellow) having seen a Pelican missile, would he have said it was wrong? More than likely he would have wished to know how it was that we could get the projectile to follow the light. So it is with art; copyright provides direction, but cannot override the laws of nature. The arrow has left the quiver.

Yeats was involved with a number of esoteric movements such as Golden Dawn and some of this is visible in his poetry. Despite this, his vision, as Bowden says, is for a different Europe, one of aristocratic character. He believed in a cyclical theory of history before Spengler popularized it, and this idea of rebirths appears in a number of poems, sometimes in direct conflict with the claims of his Christian belief. (– despite this he would be possibly the least contradictory figure who is not explicitly orthodox in hist time, I think.)

His work is also influenced by other mythologies, such as the Bhagavad Gita, consider his poem “The Indian Upon God”, which is about the contradiction of the native monotheism of all creatures with their tendency towards projection, which unchecked produces either a multitude of gods, or a God with multitudes of avatars (the latter is typical of the Hindu tradition.)

He is a carrier and guardian of older traditions of poetry, which even during his time were in full collapse. Only in his most whimsical moments does the poet T.S. Eliot find a voice similar to Yeats’. The reason for this is simple: liberal power viewed Yeats as an Irishman, a non-threatening white identity. Thus he was permitted for a time to speak in an authentic voice, and receive a Nobel Prize, while, as Bowden notes, our ‘English’ poetry might be represented by something as reprehensible as Maya Angelou, as though we men of English descent have no identity at all.

Because of this folly regarding the operation of liberal power, we get a glimpse at what genuine English-speaking poetry might be like in a different world. One of Yeats’ goals was to develop the Irish archetypes for the Irish, an important job of the bard or storyteller; a mythologization. This does not mean falsification or deception but rather a teasing-out of symbols and ideas that are rooted in ancestry, and form the background to the way a person sees the world. We are allowed to believe this in a poetic fashion about ‘people of color’ but not about ourselves. That delusion ends now.

In my youth I tried to write poetry but had no models; it served primarily as an academic exercise in rhyming. Then, when I was in college (and not because of college but in spite of it) I ran into this poem:

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

My favorite poet is W. B. Yeats, and my favorite collection is ‘The Wind Among the Reeds’. I prefer his early poetry (the first four collections: Crossways, The Rose, Wing Among the Reeds, In the Seven Woods.) Though of course, all of it is good in comparison to what often passes for verse in our day.

All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, remade, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

We can draw a great deal of inspiration from his work; these lines in particular

“I hunger to build them anew and sit upon a green knoll apart”

Are significant to his involvement in esoteric political-cultural movements. Also see “Into the Twilight” and “To his Heart, bidding it have no Fear“. As with Goethe these associations leave a bad taste, but yet his sentiment here – his ambition here – is laudable. We may disagree that the proper response to these thoughts is Rosicrucianism, but we cannot disagree that we also have these thoughts. We can take inspiration from his ambition and choose to follow a more narrow way.

Here is my imitation of his style (which is similar to my own:)

We mark the times, not knowing, my love
What shall become of us, not knowing
And what is there to know, below or above
That would take the place – stand beside
We walk hand in hand, though woe betide
That we died together here, as going
Down to the lake to see the fish play
It is not for us, my love, not knowing
That we live on, that this is not the day
When some Jove would find our hospitality
And make each into an immortal tree–
It is not for us that we are going.

I will leave you with a poem of his which I’ve set to music (though I’ve not yet made a good enough recording; that will have to wait.)

The Jester walked in the garden:
The garden had fallen still;
He bade his soul rise upward
And stand on her window-sill.

It rose in a straight blue garment,
When owls began to call:
It had grown wise-tongued by thinking
Of a quiet and light footfall;

But the young queen would not listen;
She rose in her pale night gown;
She drew in the heavy casement
And pushed the latches down.

He bade his heart go to her,
When the owls called out no more;
In a red and quivering garment
It sang to her through the door.

It had grown sweet-tongued by dreaming,
Of a flutter of flower-like hair;
But she took up her fan from the table
And waved it off on the air.

‘I have cap and bells’ he pondered,
‘I will send them to her and die;’
And when the morning whitened
He left them where she went by.

She laid them upon her bosom,
Under a cloud of her hair,
And her red lips sang them a love song:
Till stars grew out of the air.

She opened her door and her window,
And the heart and the soul came through,
To her right hand came the red one,
To her left hand came the blue.

They set up a noise like crickets,
A chattering wise and sweet,
And her hair was a folded flower
And the quiet of love in her feet.

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  1. I think you’re correct to point to Yeats’ “Irishness” as one reason the liberal mainstream overlooks or plays down his politics. Even though he was a member of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, he could still be coded (and in some sense worked hard to code himself) as a harmless, charming, marginal “ethnic” white, writing twee poems about faerie lond & unrequited love for Maud Gonne. (Though scratch the surface and you’ll find a very illiberal worldview animating even those “safe” poems. And there’s a reason why you’ll find “Mythologies” but not “A Vision” in your local Barnes & Noble: I began reading the latter this week, and its remarkable how often he namechecks not just Spengler but Giovanni Gentile as well.) Recovering a European (or Anglosphere) Yeats from this quaintly Celtic, “official” caricature would be a worthy project.

    1. Yes. Though what form a project of that sort would take in this time is unknown; the first question to answer would be ‘whom’ – the audience for it. Then from there one might be able to determine the best medium and therefore something of the structure to the work to come.

      Like Rachmaninoff, we often connect with an artist before we realize they are an aristocrat. We as members of the right have a very strong need to re-evaluate our dying tradition of art and take for it a path it did not take, not because it couldn’t, but because its patrons lost faith.

  2. These Poets posts are excellent. They will make a great series. I, and I’m sure many others, grew up thinking poetry was super gay — primarily because of the harpies and harridans promoting it to us in school, and mixing it with Maya Angelou instead of Gilgamesh and the Iliad.

  3. In your eigth paragraph you talk about his “Irishness” being the reason for his acceptability among liberals. This plays directly into an idea of been thinking about (though, I have no time to explore it or express it in an article, so I hope someone reading this will), that there is a certain romance surrounding conquered peoples (Celts and Native Americans in particular, though other minorities fall into this group).

    This idea, I’m sure, would have been associated with the English, should we have been conquered by Celts and Britons. But because we English are the winners of wars, a conquering race of people who conquered it’s neighbours, and subsequently conquered much of the world, we are not viewed through such rose tinted glasses. The Celts, however, are seen as some sort of slighted race, who are misunderstood and full of poetic wonders that we conquerors could never truly understand (this plays into the history of the druids and Celtic bravery etc). The native Americans also, are viewed as some sort of flowery simple people, and this gives them a romantic sheen.

    Undoubtedly, this has a relationship with the modern day victim culture, that is so central to the modern leftist ideology, and strategy.

    Love to know your thoughts.

    1. This tendency goes hand in hand with the stupidity of liberalism itself; personally, I do not believe that cosmopolitans exist (people of the ‘world’) but people are always parochial. So-called cosmopolitans are parochial to places where people are directly interacting with a number of different, powerful cultures, places like major trading cities.

      What is unique about liberalism, as opposed to other forms of worldliness, is that it erases its own culture. In a sense, the culture of the liberal IS erasure; but not erasure of others, as they and their more radical cousins may claim, but self-erasure. They become only able to experience anything associated with culture vicariously, not because their own group does not have struggles, victories, defeats, etc, but because they erase them. Thus a wise reactionary from a white ‘minority’ can easily trick a liberal into thinking they are just a minstrel.

      That sort of mild agnosticism, often associated with liberalism going back hundreds of years, is itself a form of erasure; erasure of one’s own religious struggle. These people can only experience religion either through someone else’s religiosity who meets their approved criteria of ‘really having a religion’ or by joining a religion they have yet to erase. The same goes for culture.

      The underlying and perhaps unconscious game here is to erase everything; perhaps there is a spiritual tension between the safe ‘colorless’ space of erasure and the dangerous, interesting ‘colorful’ space of the museum of ‘others’, and so gradually all of the colorful spaces will be erased (or turned into museum-pieces for deploy against their enemies) just by the presence of the liberal and by the liberalization / progressivization of these colorful ‘others’. (BLM is an example of this phenomenon.)

      It works via the traditional tactic of ‘come bearing gifts’, that is, on our time, promises of whatever those people want; they’ll affirmative action them into Harvard and set up special grants for their heritage, so long as they will take on the Poz, they can dance for money until they too are erased. Feminism is intriguing because it’s a ‘color’ created by this ‘colorless’ entity to use against its enemies, and within it are all these contradictions, self-erasure among them, which is experienced by feminists (as with gays) as conservatives and others further to the right ‘erasing’ them.

      What is not realized is that feminism IS itself a form of erasure; that is, it is erasure of important parts of human nature itself, and as ‘erasure’ it implies that the thing is not removed but just wiped off the page so it cannot be seen.

      All of that Romance is indeed that spiritual tension, which is all contained within the need to see things as equal, and the egalitarian moral impulse that gives birth to Red Republics, Reigns of Terror and Gay Marriage among other dysfunctions.

  4. ConantheContrarian July 19, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Gray, I liked your poems, very nicely done. The first could do with some proper punctuation, however. I encourage you to keep writing; you have talent.

  5. It seems you’ve hit on the essence of White Identity here, possibly inadvertently, although that would be an inherent contradiction. The essence I refer to is the English self-regard.

    This highly refined narcissism (finessed and perfected into a voracious and rapacious appetite for self-validating predation over the centuries) may have originated around 600AD when Pope Gregory gazed upon the faces of Angle children in what is now Norway and declared they had “faces as comely as angels”.

    English identity may well be the result of a grammatical coincidence mumbled unwittingly by a sitting pope and then seized upon by generations as a divine mandate. This may explain the unabashed solipsism at the heart of its cultural inheritance wherever it finds free expression. It should come as no surprise that its culmination is teen pornography and immolation at the hands of the Muslim horde.

    One might liken English Identity to a poodle so enamored of its own scent that it follows its tail with ever more devotion until it finally consummates itself.

    The great challenge for inheritors of English Identity is to allow it to be transformed from the inside out, that its children would know that God’s creation begins when a people can see beyond their own colon.

    The Alt-Right is responsible for showing how this is done.

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