Chapter

Where the Blessed Dance: Florence Farr

Joseph M. Hassett

in W.B. Yeats and the Muses

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780199582907
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723216 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582907.003.0003
Where the Blessed Dance: Florence Farr

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From the outset of Yeats's relationship with Florence Farr Emery, there was a powerful impetus to see her as a priestess of the White Goddess. On the night of 5 May 1890, Yeats was in the audience at the clubhouse in Bedford Park to hear Farr, playing a priestess, summon the Egyptian Moon Goddess Selene. The occult studies she would soon undertake with Yeats in the Order of the Golden Dawn led her to identify the Wisdom Goddess as the essential source of artistic inspiration. Yeats and Farr became lovers, and she inspired his work in fundamentally important ways. Both as an actress in his plays, and as a reciter of verse accompanied by a stringed instrument called a psaltery, Farr embodied Yeats's dream of restoring poetry to its origin as an oral form of enchantment. Nonetheless, Farr could not maintain a status as Muse because she insisted upon being an equal, rather than a dominant dispenser of wisdom. Always independent, she pursued her own career as novelist, playwright, actress, translator and teacher. Nonetheless, Farr reclaimed her status as Muse after her death. Chapter 2 shows how the poem she wrote and sent to Yeats from her death‐bed gave birth to ‘All Souls' Night,’ that magnificent poem about the ability of the dead to inspire the living poet. A close reading of ‘All Souls' Night’ shows how it arose out of Yeats's and Farr's shared understanding of the work of Theodor Fechner on the role of the dead in the lives of the living.

Keywords: Florence Farr; Theodor Fechner; psaltery; order of the golden dawn; poetry as enchantment; All souls' night

Chapter.  11844 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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