BL. W. B. Yeats

21. Meditations in Time of Civil War. London Mercury 7 (January 1923): 232-38.


A poem in seven sections responding to the Irish Civil War of 1922-23, mainly written at and set in and around Yeats’s home at Thoor Ballylee in 1922. The central image of section 3, My Table, is a sword given to Yeats by Sato Junzô, here representative of the changelessness of art and set in contrast to troubling changes Yeats perceived in the souls of men. Sato and his family ‘house’, where the sword ‘lay five hundred years’ (l. 11), are invoked by name; the ‘embroidered dress’ that ‘Covers [the sword’s] wooden sheath’ (ll. 6-7) is explained by Sato himself in ‘A Sketch of My Life’ (see 124g); the sword is recalled in the seventh section, I See Phantoms of Hatred and of the Heart’s Fullness and of the Coming Emptiness, where Yeats observes from the tower-top ‘the light of a moon / That seems unlike itself, that seems unchangeable, / A glittering sword out of the east’ (ll. 3-5). Oshima (124, p. 124) suggests of this closing section that ‘the claim that Yeats was . . . under the spiritual influence of Japan might be justified’. Reprinted in 24. Yeats’s earliest association of Sato’s sword with the moon comes in the voice of the ‘control’ Dionertes in the ‘automatic script’ of 21 March 1920 (57d), and he returns to the symbology of the sword in A Dialogue of Self and Soul (30a) and SYMBOLS (32b); his fullest explanation of how he came to receive the sword from Sato is in 48k; see also 28, 46a, 48o-p, 57e, 57g, 70, 89, 124, 170, 184, and 242.





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