Golden Codger and Siren: Yeats and Edith Shackleton Heald

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:
Golden Codger and Siren: Yeats and Edith Shackleton Heald

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Yeats extended his last, yearning grasp for the Muse toward Edith Shackleton Heald, whose Siren's evocation of the twin impulses of Eros and Thanatos propelled him to pursue sexual desire for the sake of desire, even as he learned to relinquish longing for life or death. The stasis of Yeats's relationship with the Muse is apparent in ‘News for the Delphic Oracle’, where eroticism leaves the ‘golden codgers’ depleted rather than energized. Chapter 9 traces these remarkable developments to their culmination in Yeats's recognition that ‘lust and rage’ were unreliable sources of inspiration. Their sterility is apparent in ‘The Circus Animals' Desertion,’ which describes the poet's vain search for a theme. Yeats's next poem, ‘Politics’ the one he intended to complete his last volume, eschews the Furies and — as he enjoined himself in ‘Those Images’ — calls the Muses home. The poet focuses on ‘That girl standing there,’ and his longing — that of a true Muse poet — ‘that I were young again/And held her in my arms.’ The wheel had come full circle with Yeats's decision to end his body of work with quite a different song from ‘Words,’ where his Muse's unattainability was essential to generating his poetry. The poet of ‘Politics’ is a devotee of a Muse who, speaking in ‘The Three Bushes,’ insists on being captured because ‘None can rely upon/A love that lacks its proper food.’

Keywords: Edith Shakleton Heald; News for the delphic oracle; Those images; The circus animals' desertion; Politics; Eros and Thanatos

Chapter.  3652 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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