• $5.99

Publisher Description

Like Voltaire's proclamation that if God did not exist it would be necessary to invent him, so too is the case with history: if the past is not recorded, it becomes necessary for a culture to partake in a narrative that invents (or re-invents) it. In this way, history becomes am imagined one, woven into the tapestry of the culture through storytelling and oral tradition and fortified by subsequent generations who re-tell, re-invent, re-imagine. This is the particular case of the Irish, who, faced with the absence of any substantive written history of their Celtic past, resorted to the fertile ground of imagination from which to paint the blank canvas of the past. In Yeats' poem "Cuchulain's Fight with the Sea" the Celtic Irish hero Cuchulain, so prominent in Celtic oral tradition, leaves his wife Emer and goes off with a younger woman; Emer trains their son to be a hero to one day avenge her right and appease her anger, knowing full well that when Cuchulain and their son confront one another, the father will slay the son. However, this knowledge of paternity remains a secret until the moment, toward the end of the poem, when the son proclaims, "Cuchulain I, mighty Cuchulain's son." At this juncture of the poem, this suddenly revealed paternity changes me power dynamic, now favoring the son and indicating a legacy to which Cuchulain must inevitably concede. Emer is a woman scorned, a woman who in the end possesses that which will destroy the scorning father. It is that unknown entity, that which cannot be named, which does the destroying: "Cuchulain stirred/Stared on the horses of the sea, and heard/The cars of battle and his own name cried;/And fought with the invulnerable tide" (Yeats 36). For the once Celtic hero, the sea becomes the overwhelming force which he can never defeat and upon which he engenders the eternal struggle between what is past and what is present, a fusion into a "twilight" between them. Cuchulain becomes an ancient hero transformed by a poet's vision: Yeats' Cuchulain is formed in a place between the ancient folklore drawn from a Celtic past and his own place in modern literature as a distinct poet with a distinct voice. As Declan Kiberd points out, this poem, along with many of his early works, "rework traditional themes and images as if redeemed by Yeatsian style" (306).

Professional & Technical
September 22
Murphy Newsletter Services
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

More Books by Yeats Eliot Review