Out of a Medium's Mouth: George Hyde‐Lees

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:
Out of a Medium's Mouth: George Hyde‐Lees

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Seeking refuge in marriage to George Hyde‐Lees posed a potentially lethal threat to Yeats's poetic enterprise. Because the essence of the courtly love poem was its praise of an unattainable woman, marriage and sexual satisfaction threatened to cut off the source of inspiration. Yeats found his way out of the inspirational impasse, but this time it took what he described as ‘something very like a miraculous intervention.’ To relieve her husband's post‐marriage gloom, George feigned automatic writing, but then, she maintained, a superior force took over. The fascinated Yeats pressed her into five years of intensive communication with the unknown spirits. George's Pythia‐like exchanges with the spirits answered the question whether sexual success would still the voice of the Muse. Au contraire, they said, ‘What is important is that the desire of the medium and her desire for your desire be satisfied’ because ‘there cannot be intellectual desire…without sexual & emotional satisfaction’ and ‘without intellectual desire there is no force — or truth especially truth because truth is intensity.’ In other words, whereas sexual fulfillment was inconsistent with the courtly lover's access to inspiration, it was the sine qua non of revelation from George's instructors. Chapter 5 situates the automatic writing and its product, the extraordinary philosophical, historical and aesthetic essay, A Vision, in the context of Yeats's pursuit of the Muse, and examines the way in which the great poems of his maturity reflect the influence of George Yeats as oracle and Muse.

Keywords: George Hyde‐Lees; Pythia; marriage; Yeats's maturity; great poems of Yeats's maturity; A vision

Chapter.  11011 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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