Clark David R.
Yeats at Songs and Choruses

Yeats at Songs and Choruses


23.3 x 15. 8 cm.    xxiv, 283 pp.    with over 50 illustrations

A critical work about one of the leading figures in modern poetry, this book shows how Yeats perfected great songs – “Crazy Jane on the Day of Judgment”, “Three Things”, “After Long Silence”, “Her Triumph” – and great choruses – “Colonus’ Praise”, “From ‘Œdipus at Colonus’” and “From the ‘Antigone’”. The author follows the manuscript development of each poem to discover its full context in life and culture, to illuminate obscurities in the finished text, or simply to witness in amazement the emergence of a true poem from a tangle of abstractions. As a result, the reader is given original and interesting interpretations of the songs and choruses as final works of art.

“When I prepared ‘Œdipus at Colonus’ . . . wrote Yeats, “I saw that the wood of the Furies . . . was any Irish haunted wood.” Clark shows that Yeats re­membered Greece when he wrote songs for Crazy Jane. Greek myth appears in the songs, and Greek choruses appear in the “Irish” song cycles. The last word in “A Man Young and Old” is spoken of Œdipus and the last word in “A Woman Young and Old” of Antigone. Classical figures rub elbows with Huddon and Duddon and Daniel O’Leary. In “Her Triumph” the woman sees herself and her lover as Perseus and Andromeda.

Paintings, often of mythological subjects, were part of the context for Yeats’s poems. Yeats was an art student and the son and brother of well-known painters. The manuscripts show exactly what paintings – by Bellini, Carpaccio, Titian – were in Yeats’s thought when he wrote “Her Triumph” and Clark concludes that one of Burne-Jones’s Perseus series was the chief model for the poem’s imagery. Other poems, too, were written in the context of Yeats’s knowledge of art. Relevant illus­trations are included. Manu­scripts too are photographically reproduced.

Among the many comments on Clark’s skill as an interpreter of Yeats are: “Clark varies his approach to fit the materials at hand: with one poem he will emphasize the visual sources, for example, whereas with another lyric he will concern himself with biographical matters . . . Clark’s scholarship is quite sound, and he is working at the frontiers of Yeats scholarship.” – Richard J. Finneran, editor, Anglo-Irish Literature, A Review of Research

“Clark’s intricate analysis of Yeats’s ‘After Long Silence’ is a jewel of scholarship, moving and illuminating: in his analysis of the poem, and of the manuscripts out of which it emerged, Clark seems to have moved for a moment into Yeats’s mind.” - Robert O’Driscoll, The University of Toronto Quarterly.

'A pleasure to read....a book for anyone interested in Yeats or the creative process, a real contribution to Yeats studies.' Books Ireland'A pleasure to read....a book for anyone interested in Yeats or the creative process, a real contribution to Yeats studies.' Books Ireland

Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, David Clark was the author of Lyric Resonance: Glosses on Some Poems by Yeats, Frost, Crane, Cummings and Others and of Dry Tree: Poems. He has also either edited or co­edited a number of works on modern literature and on Irish culture.

More info →