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Drawing on personal commentary from diaries and letters and the more public documentation of reviews, essays, and concert programmes, as well as existing criticism and biography, Schuchard reconstructs a movement led by Yeats but joined by many others along the way. The Last Minstrels is less about the poems Yeats composed and more about his vision for and practice of the chanted word.

One of Schuchard's most valuable contributions is to tell the stories of Yeats's collaborators. She accompanied herself on the psaltery, an instrument made for her by Arnold Dolmetsch, who led the twentieth century early music revival and inspired other modernists, including James Joyce and Ezra Pound. Aided by Dolmetsch, Yeats and Farr brought musical performances of traditional Irish ballads and nineteenth century lyrics to stages throughout Britain, and the multi-talented Farr performed in plays and masques of her own and Yeats's composition in London and Dublin.

None of their recordings remain, so the accounts of what such performances sounded like make especially fascinating reading. Yeats and Farr worked to broaden their movement by training actors and actresses in chanting and establishing a number of dramatic groups, including the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, which Yeats envisioned as a way of bringing musical speech and choral lyrics to the whole populace. Schuchard brings to light the richness of the world of performance arts around , subsequently overshadowed by more easily preserved visual and literary works and flashy modernist promotion techniques.

An amusing episode is Farr's popular three-month tour of the United States, during which she performed solo in exclusive venues throughout the East and upper Midwest, resisting Yeats's hints that he should join her there. Farr and Yeats substantially influenced the development of Imagism by their contributions to T. The variety and detail of these international and inter-art exchanges make Schuchard's account an essential resource for understanding the early modernist milieu in London and Dublin.

Yeats believed that the ancient art of the bard had gradually died out with the advent of print and through the nationalistic suppression of oral tradition in Scotland and Ireland. Although Wordsworth and Coleridge were inspired by the ballad tradition, and Blake, Tennyson, and Swinburne chanted their poems in private, by the mid-nineteenth century oral performance had disappeared from streets and stages. Aestheticism too was a reaction against modernity and utilitarianism, and perhaps against the dominance of print culture.


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Both Rossetti and Swinburne sought to detach poetry from moral education and encourage its synergy with the non-verbal arts of painting and music. Schuchard's dramatic story about Yeats's bardic ambitions sets the poet somewhat apart from both Aestheticism and modernism, but the narrative about his renewal of poetry by an infusion of ideas from other arts makes Yeats a key figure in the transition from the s to the avant-garde movements of the early twentieth century. Yeats's transitional work becomes particularly clear in the closing chapter of the book, which documents his writing and performance for radio in the s.

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To the end, Yeats strove for communality through the spoken word, working tirelessly for his social and artistic ideal in the theatre and the BBC recording studio, and as he composed his poems aloud, chanting and gesturing in the air. While Wood executes a book-length reading of a single Yeats poem, Schuchard examines a substantial archive from across Yeats's career, with hardly a single close reading. Textual interpretation and contextual history, more often found mixed together, here produce outstanding results when pursued separately.

There is something refreshing about the methodological dedication and single-mindedness of the authors. In contrast, Joseph Hassett's W. Yeats and the Muses sticks to an old-fashioned mode of biographical criticism that ties individual poems to romantic episodes in Yeats's life. Some of these women, such as Mannin, played an insignificant role, and one wonders if there might have been others who didn't make the list once it had reached the magic number of nine. Hassett describes the qualities in each of them that drew Yeats, analyses how each functioned as muse, and explains individual poems in terms of her influence.

The concepts of White Goddess and Beatricean muse are grounded in Yeats's own knowledge and usage, but even so these categories raise questions. Collected Poems. On Writing. Stephen King. Selected Poems of Sylvia Plath. Autumn Journal. Louis MacNeice. Country Girl. Edna O'Brien. James Joyce. Ted Hughes.

The Living Stream

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Forgotten password? Schuchard's study enhances our understanding of Yeats's cultural nationalism, his aims for the Abbey Theatre, and his dynamic place in a complex of interrelated arts in London and Dublin. With a wealth of new archival materials, the narrative intervenes in literary history to show the attempts of Yeats and Florence Farr to take the 'new art' of chanting to Great Britain, America, and Europe, and it reveals for the first time the influence of their auditory poetics on the visual paradigm of the Imagists.


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The penultimate chapter examines the adjustments Yeats made for his movement during the war, including chanting and other adaptations from Noh drama for his dance plays and choruses, until the practice of his 'unfashionable art' became dormant in the s before the restless rise of realism.

The final chapter resurrects his heroic effort in the s to reunite poetry and music and reconstitute his dream of a spiritual democracy through the medium of public broadcasting.

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