BL. W. B. Yeats

18. ‘Four Years, 1887-1891’. London Mercury 3 (June 1921): 129-40; 4 (July 1921): 259-70; (August 1921): 364-77.

    Reprinted in Autobiographies.  

Twice Yeats’s thought turns to Japanese painting in this autobiographical account of his early years in London and his early interests in occultism. In section XIV he describes his wish as a young man to incorporate the ‘general pattern of [Irish] myth’ into his poetry, ‘much as a mediæval Japanese painter’ was able to ‘[leave] his style as an inheritance to his family’. Later, in section XX, he recalls an interest in the occultist experiments of acquaintances in London in the 1880s, and is reminded of a remarkable painting he had read of while a boy in Dublin, in a ‘pamphlet on Japanese art’ at the Royal Irish Academy. The horses painted on a temple wall had come to life and ‘slipped down after dark and trampled the neighbours’ fields of rice’; someone who had visited the temple in the morning was ‘startled by a shower of water drops, had looked up and seen [the horses of the painting] still wet from the dew-covered fields, but now “trembling into stillness”’. Yeats wondered in the late ’80s if the ‘barrier’ between the trampled fields of rice and evidence of occultist experiments was ‘impassable’, and supposed that it was, ‘yet all [then] was uncertainty’. Reprinted in 27.





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