Editorial

We are very happy to release the Number 2 of the Magazine just before the festive season. The issue was not thought of as separate one. We posted call for papers for the Special Issue on Yeats, where we wanted to include some articles on topics other than W. B. Yeats. But the we got great response from contributors and so we decided to make a separate general issue with the articles.

The response proves that the Golden Line, a magazine for students and teachers, is gaining popularity and acceptance among all. We look forward to releasing the print Version of Number 2 and 3 in the Bhatter College Book Fair, 2015 in December 2015.

Tarun Tapas Mukherjee

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Yeats and War Poetry

Rituparna Saharay, Burdwan University

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“I shall keep the neighborhood of the seven sleepers of Ephesus, hoping to catch their comfortable snores till bloody frivolity is over.”   (Yeats, 600)

The above comment made by W. B. Yeats in relation to the Great War is often quoted to reveal his notorious apathy on the subject. Yeats had always maintained a deliberate indifference with respect to the event that had endangered the whole of Europe, especially England. The same disinterest is vented in the poem “On Being Asked for a War Poem”:

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Time, Space and the Nature of Sin in W.B. Yeats’ Purgatory

Ishani Basu, Nur Mohammad Smriti Mahavidyalaya, Murshidabad

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And we shall feel the agony of thirst,
The ineffable longing for the life of life
Baffled for ever; and still thought and mind
Will hurry us with them on their homeless march
Over the unallied unopening earth,
Over the unrecognising sea . . .
And then we shall unwillingly return
Back to this meadow of calamity,
This uncongenial place, this human life;
And in our individual human state
Go through the sad probation all again . . .
                                            (Empedocles On Etna, 36-46) 

Thus spoke Empedocles in Arnold’s poem before he leaped into the crater of Etna, after his failed attempt to ‘rationalize’ the universe (Watt 13). Yeats’ prototypical Old Man too, like Beckett’s absurdist characters, is imprisoned by the manacles of such ‘mind’ and ‘thought’ which Empedocles once envisioned. Turning back time and recreating their trauma is the only occupation open to them in cycles of each performance. Purgatory, a short one act play is entirely dominated by the Old Man’s visions of the sinful past, his convictions and action to bring peace of mind to his dead mother ironically culminating in the murder of his son. The boundaries of time and space meet and coalesce seamlessly to suggest the inviolable flux of the universe, which mankind tends to structure as past, present and future, as Yeats writes in Into The Twilight (1899):

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Seeking Vigour in Myth: a reading of Yeats “On a picture of a black Centaur by Edmund Dalc”

Debadittya Mukhopadhay, Rabindra Bharati University      

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The tendency to relate literature with myth originated chiefly in the Twentieth century. There appeared a number of opinions that argued that literature has basically derived from myth. The way Eliot, while composing his magnum opus The Waste Land gave that apparently shapeless and complex poem a proper structure by joining several myths together to show how seriously the Twentieth century believed in an intimate relation between myth and literature. Eliot himself had talked in detail about this mythical method and its great importance in his essay “Ulysses, Order and Myth”. An even stronger argument in favor of myths being the forefather of literature was made by Northrop Frye, who pointed out that “ not one genre but all genre of literature derive from myth” (Segal 81).

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A Journey from Life, the Ephemeral to Art, the Eternal: A Comparative Study of W.B. Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” and “Byzantium”

Arup Ratan Chakraborty, Santal Bidroha Sardha Satabarshiki Mahavidyalaya, Goaltore, Paschim Medinipur

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I

“Sailing to Byzantium” and “Byzantium” are two of Yeats’ accomplished poetic works known together as the Byzantium poems. Written in the autumn of 1926, “Sailing to Byzantium” first appeared in October Blast (1927) and was part of Yeats’s poetry collection, The Tower, in 1928. The second poem, “Byzantium,” was written in 1930, while the poet was recovering from illness and was published first in Words for Music Perhaps and Other Poems (1932), and then in his poetry collection, The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933). Viewed together, two poems highlight Yeats’s yearning for immortality, as well as the beauty of art over the fleeting and carnal nature of sensuality.

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A Missing Link in the Chain: W. B. Yeats, Mysticism and “Sailing to Byzantium”

Pawan Kumar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

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W. B. Yeats’s oeuvre, especially his poetry, is studied as a part of courses on Modernism and Irish Literature all over the world. However, despite being in the mainstream English Literature Syllabi, Yeats’s mystical aspect is not given serious academic attention, both in terms of teaching and learning, which, according to my research, is essential for a better, more comprehensive understanding of the poetic-artistic persona of Yeats. It is a fact beyond reasonable doubt that mysticism was an integral, indispensible part of who Yeats was and what he wrote. In his oft-quoted line from a letter to John O’Leary (1892), Yeats wrote: “The mystical life is at the centre of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write.” But, in an act which almost undermines this key to the understanding of the towering personality and creative rigour of Yeats, what one usually encounters in the academic arena is that Yeats’s literary works are analyzed and explained through theories that give little or no space to his mystical aspect. Only at the level of independent research has the mystical aspect of Yeats always fascinated writers and critics, because it projects a different persona of Yeats, which is still, in some ways, beyond theoretical analysis and logical explanation.

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Yeats’s “No Second Troy”: A Reworking of the Hellenic Myth

Indrajit Mukherjee, Durgapur High School

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“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?

And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.”

— Marlowe: Dr. Faustus (v.i. 99-101).

“Helen, whose beauty summoned Greece to arms

And drew a thousand ship to Tenedos”

—- Marlowe: Tamburlaine II(II.iv. 87-88)

“Helen, thy beauty is to me

Like those Nicéan barks of yore,

That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,

The weary, way-worn wanderer bore

To his own native shore.”– Poe: To Helen

 Since the days when Marlowe (1564-’93) studied the classics at Cambridge, Helen, historically a destructive wanton, and dramatically a demonic phantom, in terms appropriate for the female wisdom figure, retained in Christian theology as a created analogue for Christ, the second person of the Trinity, had been his cynosure of comparison — comparison with Tamburlaine (1590) and even with Gaveston in Edward II ( 1592). But metaphor is never enough for Marlowe; he must have the real thing, beauty in person; in The Jew of Malta (1592) policy was personified by Machiavelli himself, and the consummation of Faustus’s desire — or the consolation, at any rate, for his regret — is to have Helen as his paramour. To sum up the classical myth: Menelaus, one of the many kings to rule Greece, had a beautiful wife, Helen. She was abducted by the beautiful but cowardly Trojan Prince, Paris, one of the fifty sons of King Priam of Troy, who took her to Troy. The Greeks, led by Menelaus’s brother Agamemnon, the High King, laid siege to Troy, but the city held out for ten years, until the Trojan horse, containing the Greek soldiers, was introduced to the city. Thus, the Trojans were butchered and battered “on the threshold of their undone years” and “the topless towers of Ilium” were destroyed “on the ringing plains of windy Troy”. Helen , Western’s culture prime example of the catastrophic social consequences of private obsession, appears in Shakespeare ( 1564 – 1616) too:

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Vision of Birds: A Comparative Study of Yeats’s Swans and Hughes’s Hawk

Krishnendu Das Gupta, Asansol Chelidanga High School (H.S.), Asansol

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A close look into the poems “The Wild Swans at Coole” from the volume bearing the same name and “The Hawk in the Rain”, from The Hawk in the Rain reveals a similarity — the persona watching birds; in the case of Yeats a flock of swans swimming and in the case of Hughes a lonely hawk soaring in the sky. The poems reveal some sort of turmoil that both the personae encounter in their own way. The settings of the poems are strikingly different; Yeats’s persona, who is undoubtedly the poet himself, is in the placid surroundings of Coole Park, while the man in “The Hawk in the Rain” is out in the midst of wild Nature trying to fend off the torrential rain and storm.

The period between 1917 and 1919 when the title poem of the volume The Wild Swans at Coole was written and again reorganized, was a significant period in Yeats’s life. The political turmoil in the country owing to the 1916 uprising, the turning down of Yeats’s proposal by Iseult Gonne following his years of failed courtship with Iseult’s mother, Maud and his realisation that the autumns of his life were fast fleeting away had so shaped his mental state that the vision of the swans evoked strangely a state of despair and solace at the same time. The very opening stanza brings out the image of timelessness and eternity through the lines: “Mirrors a still sky; / Upon the brimming water . . . .” (Yeats 64). And within this timeless eternity are placed the “nine-and-fifty swans.” (Yeats 64). Yeats who had great knowledge about the Irish and Celtic myths deliberately preferred the antique Middle English way of counting in order to give a mythic shape to his vision of the swans. Anybody well acquainted with the Irish ballads and folk literature would be able to trace the link of the fifty-nine swans to the fifty-nine silver bells hanging on the side of the Queen of Elfland’s horse[1] in the popular Irish Ballad “Thomas Rymer and the Queen of Elfland”. Through this deliberate attempt the poet possibly equated the persona with Rymer and the swans with the Queen of Elfland. It is an attempt to reach a mental solace on the part of the poet, very much like the escapist traits of the Romantics to remain oblivious of the present state, an aging poet torn by personal and social problems. Like Thomas Rymer’s flight to the immortal world of the Queen of Elfland, it is the wishful thinking of the persona to be carried off to the ever immutable world of the world of the happy swans. But like Keats in “Ode to a Nightingale”, who could not forget his forlorn state inspite of his sojourn into the fanciful world of the nightingale, the persona here as he mentions the fifty-nine swans is immediately reminded: “The nineteenth autumn has come upon me / Since I first made my count;” (Yeats 64). He is aging, his “Decrepit age” is being tied to him “As to a dog’s tail” (Yeats 105). He knows that there is no escape from the flux of time and that is why before the count is “well finished / All suddenly mount / And scatter wheeling in great broken rings / Upon their clamorous wings.” (Yeats 64). The three words with negative connotations “scatter”, “broken”, “clamorous” have fore grounded the state of suffering in his life. This state is not only due to his awareness of the axe of time, but is more intensely due to his state of loneliness resulting from his failed relationship. Stéphanie Noirard comparing the poet’s state with the loneliness and isolation of the Lady in Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot points out that “it is no coincidence that the persona should see “nine-and-fifty” — as opposed to fifty-eight — swans and that the reality he experiences after they have scatter[red] wheeling in great broken rings” should make his heart feel “sore.””[2] The hint is clear enough, the fifty-ninth swan is lonely, and therefore is never a party to the other swans in pair and be “Unwearied still, lover by lover”. (Yeats 64).

The stanzaic ordering of the 1917 version was different from the present one. The third stanza was the last stanza in the 1917 version and through that he presented a defeated image of himself. The expression “Unwearied” state of the swans betrays the subjective condition of the persona revealing his wearied broken down state. The swans paddle in the “cold” water with ease. The word “cold” again carries a negative connotation and it rings in the reader’s ears reminding him of the cold, loveless, aging state of the poet. “Their hearts have not grown old”, obviously tunes the readers’ mind to that recurrent image in Yeatsean poetry — the image of the poet aging poet. In this poem through the line “The nineteenth autumn has come upon me”, and in others, as in “Sailing to Byzantium”, “Consume my heart away; sick with desire / And fastened to a dying animal” (Yeats 105), or perhaps the most forceful of such images, “Decrepit age that has been tied to me / As to a dog’s tail” (“The Tower”), the poet is time and again surfacing his same aversion for his growing age and in contrast his passion for eternity of which he cannot be a part. The image of the golden nightingale that the poet created much later in “Sailing to Byzantium” (1927) is a step towards that eternity. The swans however in this poem serve a better option than his latter creation. By reordering the stanzas, the poet had accepted one thing that it is not important whether he remains immortal or not as he tried to do later, through the tour-de-force of the clockwork golden nightingale singing forever to the Byzantine people, “Of what is past, or passing, or to come” (Yeats 105), what is important is that love becomes immortal, love becomes universal. The flesh and blood life of the poet or that of a particular swan is immaterial. The swans in the last stanza become beautiful with the mysticism of love. So these love birds would forever continue to “Delight men’s eyes” (Yeats 64) wherever and however they may be. The broadening of the poet’s mental spectrum, the personal becoming transpersonal overcoming his personal sorrow is a new realisation, a transcendence which has taken the poem to a higher level.

Unlike Yeats, the poetic background of Ted Hughes was not marked with social, political or personal problems, at least when he wrote his first volume The Hawk in the Rain. Hughes from a very early stage in his life was greatly influenced by Robert Graves’s The White Goddess, a book believed to have shaped his understanding regarding the pervading presence of a Mother element, manifested as Nature. However it would be better to see Graves’s book just as an inspiration because Hughes was spiritually inclined to feel the presence of the Goddess even before reading Graves’s book. Hughes’s “Song” written two years before his reading of Graves’s book was a hymn to Muse Goddess. In fact while reading The White Goddess for the first time he felt, as he wrote in a letter to Nick Gammage, “slight resentment to find [Graves] taking possession of what I considered to be my secret patch.”[3]

It is of important to know what shape the realisation of Nature had taken in Hughes’s mind. This would help in understanding the relationship of the soaring hawk and the persona referred to as “I” in “The Hawk in the Rain”. In “The Wild Swans at Coole” the “paddling” swans and the persona in accordance with the romantic tradition share a personal relationship. The swans become the spur for all the feelings of the poet. But the hawk flying and the man in the field at no level share any personal relationship with the poet. As in Yeats, the man here too watches the hawk. The hawk is the epitome of perfection, “Effortlessly at height hangs his still eye. / His wings hold all creation in a weightless quiet, / Steady as a hallucination in the streaming air.” (Hughes 11). The man on the other hand flounders as one drowning in the sea, “completely overwhelmed by the elements.”[4] The earth where the persona is standing is like a “dogged grave” (Hughes 11) and he is nothing more than a “Morsel in the earth’s mouth” (Hughes 11), counting his last. In comparison to the helpless state of existence of the persona, the hawk whose “diamond point of will” (Hughes 11) is as steady as the polestar and who can hang still at “the master- / Fulcrum of violence” (Hughes 11) is symbolically at a level much higher than the struggling weather beaten man. Keith Sagar remarks as he opens his discussion of the poem: ““The Hawk in the Rain” stands appropriately at the threshold of the book, for it announces the major themes — man in relation to animals, the weather, time and mortality.”[5] This is true not only for this volume but for the volume that follows, that is, Lupercal which also includes similar themes. The animal poems “The Hawk in the Rain”, “The Jaguar”, “The Horses”, “Pike”, “Thrushes” and the non-animal poems like “Wind”, “October Dawn”, “Snowdrop” all express man’s relation to Nature. Hughes felt that the human civilization particularly the western world was fast moving away from Nature. In his “Environmental Revolution” Hughes wrote that “the story of the mind exiled from Nature is the story of Western Man.”[6] The animals, the hawk, the macaw, the jaguar, the bull, the pike are true representatives of Nature. Regarding the majestic hawk in “Hawk Roosting” Hughes said in his famous interview to Ekbert Faas:

That bird is accused of being a fascist . . . the symbol of some horrible totalitarian genocidal dictator. Actually what I had in mind was that in this hawk Nature is thinking. Simply Nature. It’s not so simple may be because Nature is no longer so simple. I intended some Creator like the Jehovah in Job but more feminine. When Christianity kicked the devil out of Job what they actually kicked out was Nature . . . and Nature became the devil. He doesn’t sound like Isis, mother of the gods, which he is. He sounds like Hitler’s familiar spirit.[7]

The hawk soaring high is actually this true face of Nature and therefore can remain still at the “master- / Fulcrum of violence” (Hughes 11). On the other hand it seems to the persona that the earth which created mankind (Genesis 3:19) is like a “dogged grave” (Hughes 11). This is because modern man has so much distanced himself from Nature that he no longer remains a part of Her. Again, the persona feels that the elements of Nature, in this case the hawk, can exist not only with quietude even at the core of violence, but chooses his hour of death willingly.

That maybe in his own time meets the weather

Coming the wrong way, suffers the air, hurled upside down,

Fall from his eye, the ponderous shires crash on him,

The horizon trap him; the round angelic eye

Smashed, mix his heart’s blood with the mire of the land. (Hughes 11).

This mixing of the hawk’s blood with the earth gains greater significance when various mythological aspects are considered. Many North Indian and Jewish legends believed that blood contained the life and spirit of the beast.[8] So spilling of blood enhanced greater crop production. The hawk then is not only an aspect of Nature, but one whose life force can enrich the earth. And what is important, in contrast to the man who shirks from earth, the hawk willingly performs self sacrifice for the enrichment of the earth.

The swans of Yeats symbolise universal love, youth and an emblem of peace and saturation in life. The sight of the swans and their fancied disappearance affect the mental state of the persona and at the same time instil a realisation, a greater understanding of the meaning of life. But the hawk in Hughes’s poem is the symbol of Nature. The persona unlike Yeats’s feels no personal attachment towards the bird. This is because the hawk is not just a bird but a representative of Nature from whom modern man has moved away. It is for this reason the reader cannot feel any connection between the hawk and the man. They are two separate entities who have distanced themselves.

Poems Cited

Hughes, Ted. The Hawk in the Rain. London: Faber, 1968.

Yeats, W.B. W.B. Yeats Selected Poetry. Ed. A. Norman Jeffares. London: Pan Books, 1974.

References

[1] Puhvel, Martin. “Yeats’s ‘The Wild Swans at Coole.’” Explicator, (45:1), 1986 Fall, 29-30.

[2] Noirard, Stéphanie. ““The Wild Swans at Coole”: Poem Analysis”. Cercles: Occasional Papers Series (2009).    Web. 24 June 2015.

[3] Hughes,Ted. Letters of Ted Hughes. Ed. Christopher Reid. London: Faber, 2007. 679

[4] Sagar, Keith. The Art of Ted Hughes. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1976. 15

[5] Sagar, Keith. The Art of Ted Hughes. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1976. 15

[6] Faas, Ekbert. Ted Hughes The Unaccomodated Universe. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow, 1980. 186

[7] Hughes, Ted. “Ted Hughes and Crow”. By Ekbert Faas. London Magazine. January 1971.

  1. Rpt. Faas, Ekbert. Ted Hughes The Unaccomodated Universe. Santa Barbara: Black

   Sparrow, 1980. 199.

[8] Frazer, James. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Hertfordshire:

   Wordsworth, 1993. 228.

Krishnendu Das Gupta is Ph.D. scholar who has submitted his Ph.D. thesis on Ted Hughes. He is a senior Teacher of English (Assistant Teacher) at Asansol Chelidanga High School (H.S.), Asansol.

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“Faustian Bargain” in W.B. Yeats’s The Countess Cathleen: Construction and Critique of Irish Nationalism

Mir Ahammad Ali, Independent Researcher

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Introduction

From the very basal days of its foundation in 1899 (by W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Edward Martin) the Irish Literary Theatre serves as the first formal cornerstone of the Irish Dramatic Movement. With its debut production of Yeats’ The Countess Cathleen, the theatre strives to bring together Irish national, religious and socio-political issues and helps to the embodiment and construction of ‘Irish national identity’ but there lies at the same time a sharp appraisal and a nebulous critique of these issues. Set ahistorically in the legendary Celtic world Yeats’ The Countess Cathleen presents the sempiternal wrangle between good and evil and the eventual exultation of the good at the cost of self-sacrificial dissolution. In a Pre-Elizabethan English Morality fashion, this verse drama conveys a ‘Faustian bargain’ of bartering the soul of the eponymous Countess for the wellbeing of others. The playwright himself admits that the play was primarily written for Maud Gonne in order to “please her” in his own words and it was subsequently dedicated to her. This paper aims to focus on the dual concerns: how this particular play serves as a tool for the ideological construction of ‘Irish Nationalism’, Irish ‘Hero/Heroine Worship’ and the eventual contour of ‘Irish National Identity’; and on the other hand, it manifests how the implicit and nebulous critique of these principles and beliefs helps to the deconstruction or demythologization of this ‘Irish National Consciousness’.

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Mythopoeic Vision of the Apocalypse: Re-interpreting W.B. Yeats’s ‘The Second Coming’

Mir Mahammad Ali, Bhatter College, Dantan

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Earth, receive an honored guest;
William Yeats is laid to rest:
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.
—W.H. Auden’s eulogy for William Butler Yeats in his   dirge   ‘In Memory of W.B. Yeats’.

In an article, entitled “What W.B. Yeats’ ‘Second Coming’ Really Says About the Iraq War”, published in The New York Times on February 12, 2007, the columnist Adam Cohen writes:

“The Brookings Institution, the prominent Washington research organization, just released a report on the Iraq war entitled “Things Fall Apart.” When Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, took to the House floor last year to demand that President Bush present a plan for Iraq, he called his speech “The Center Cannot Hold.” Blogs are full of the observation that “the blood-dimmed tide is loosed” in Iraq these days.

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