Outside France symbolism found eager response among young poets, but rather as a literary than as an ethical doctrine. In Germany Dehmel, the most powerful personality among her recent poets, began as a disciple of Verlaine; in Italy, D’Annunzio wove esoteric symbols into the texture of the more than Nietzschean supermanliness of his supermen and superwomen. More significant than these, however, was the symbolism of what we call the Celtic school of poets in Ireland. For here both their artistic impressionism and their mystic spirituality found a congenial soil. The principal mediating force was Mr. Arthur Symons, friend of Verlaine and of Yeats, and himself the most penetrating interpreter of Symbolism, both as critic and as poet. And to the French influence was added that of Blake, a poet too great to be included in any school, but allied to symbolism by his scorn for ‘intellect’ and for rhetoric, and by his audacities of figured speech. But Mr. Yeats and ‘A.E.’, the leaders of the ‘Celtic’ group, are in no sense derivation voices. They had the great advantage over the French of a living native folklore and faery lore. Hence their symbolism, no less subtle, and no less steeped in poetic imagining, has not the same air of literary artifice, of studio fabrication, of cultured Bohemianism; it breathes of the old Irish hills, holy with old-world rites, and the haunted woods, and the magical twilight and dewy dawns. And beneath all the folklore, and animating it, is the passion for Ireland herself, the mother, deathless and ever young, whom neither the desolation of the time nor the decay of hope can touch:
’Out-worn heart in a
Come clear of the nets of wrong and right;
Laugh, heart, again in the grey twilight;
Sigh, heart, again in the dew of the morn.
Your mother Eire is always
Dew ever shining and twilight grey;
Tho’ hope fall from you and love decay
Burning in fires of a slanderous tongue.
Come, heart, where hill is
heaped upon hill;
For there the mystical brotherhood
Of sun and moon and hollow and wood
And river and stream work out their will.’
For that, the French had only the Fauns of a literary neo-classicism. The passion for France was yet indeed to find a voice in poetry. But this was reserved for the more trumpet-tongued tones of the contemporary phase to which I now turn.
1. Philosophic Analogies