Reviews of A Vision B

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The Illustrated London News

22 January 1938

p. 126

C. E. B.


The review takes a number of Irish books together, reviewing Seventy Years Young: Memories of Elizabeth, Countess of Fingall, told to Pamela Hinkson, A Memoir of Ć, George William Russell, by John Eglinton, and The Living Torch, essays of AE, edited by Monk Gibbon, before coming to A Vision.


    One of Ć’s closest friends—a famous living poet—has published a revised and amplified version of a book setting forth the principles, doctrines, and experiences behind his inspiration—namely, “A VISION,” By W. B. Yeats. With Portrait by Augustus John (Macmillan; 15s.). This abstruse work, with its intricate symbolism and esoteric philosophy, baffles me, but I am consoled to find that Ć himself was similarly affected. In a review of it (included in “The Living Torch”) he says: “I have written round and round this extraordinary book, unable in a brief space to give the slightest idea of its packed pages. . . .  It may come to be regarded as the greatest of Yeats’ works. It is conceivable also that it may be regarded as his greatest erring from the way of his natural genius.”

    Ć, however, extracts a little fun even from such grave material. After indicating Yeats’s system of cycles and phases, “all of a bewildering complexity,” he remarks (in a passage recalling the circles of Dante’s “Inferno”): “When he - Yeats - illustrates these phases of human life by portraits of men and women, dead and living, typical of the phase, I suspect the author to be animated . . . by an impish humour. . . .  I am a little uncomfortable with some of my fellow prisoners in phase twenty-five. I welcome George Herbert, but am startled to find myself along with Calvin, Luther and Cardinal Newman.” In another essay given in “The Living Torch,” Ć pays a high tribute to his poet-friend. “Yeats,” he affirms, “has made the name of his country shine in imagination to the rest of the world a hundred times more than any of the political notorieties. . . .  It was by the literary movement of which Yeats was the foremost figure that Ireland for the first time for long centuries came to any high international repute.”

    Just as Ć was disconcerted by Yeats’ visionary philosophy, so Yeats himself appears puzzled by another poet’s magnum opus, continued in “THE FIFTH DECAD OF CANTOS,” By Ezra Pound (Faber; 6s.). In “A Vision,” Mr. Yeats writes of “Ezra Pound, whose art is the opposite of mine, whose criticism commends what I most condemn, a man with whom I should quarrel more than with anyone else if we were not united by affection.”

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