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_THE TREMBLING OF THE VEIL_




PRIVATELY PRINTED BOOKS

(_Uniform with this Volume_)

THE STORY-TELLER'S HOLIDAY (_George Moore_) _July 1918_

AVOWALS (_George Moore_) _September 1919_

ESTHER WATERS (_George Moore_) _October 1920_

THE COMING OF GABRIELLE (_George Moore_) _December 1920_

HÉLOISE AND ABÉLARD (_George Moore_) _February 1921_

NINE TALES FROM "LES CONTES DROLATIQUES" OF BALZAC
(_Translated by Robert Crawford_) _November 1921_

A PORTRAIT OF GEORGE MOORE IN A STUDY OF HIS WORK
(_John Freeman_) _May 1922_

THE CAULDRON OF ANNWN (_Thomas Evelyn Ellis_) _June 1922_




[Illustration: _Emery Walker Ph.oc. From a picture by Charles Shannon_]




THE TREMBLING OF THE VEIL


By W. B. YEATS


LONDON
PRIVATELY PRINTED FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY BY
T. WERNER LAURIE, LTD.
1922




_To_
JOHN QUINN
_my friend and helper,
and friend and helper of certain people
mentioned in this book_.


GIFT

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN




THE TREMBLING OF THE VEIL

_This edition consists of one thousand copies numbered and signed._

_This is No._ 24




PREFACE


_I have found in an old diary a quotation from Stephane Mallarmé, saying
that his epoch was troubled by the trembling of the veil of the Temple. As
those words were still true, during the years of my life described in this
book, I have chosen The Trembling of the Veil for its title._

_Except in one or two trivial details, where I have the warrant of old
friendship, I have not, without permission, quoted conversation or
described occurrence from the private life of named or recognisable
persons. I have not felt my freedom abated, for most of the friends of my
youth are dead and over the dead I have an historian's rights. They were
artists and writers and certain among them men of genius, and the life of
a man of genius, because of his greater sincerity, is often an experiment
that needs analysis and record. At least my generation so valued
personality that it thought so. I have said all the good I know and all
the evil: I have kept nothing back necessary to understanding._

_W. B. YEATS._


_May, 1922.
Thoor Ballylee._




CONTENTS


PAGE

BOOK I FOUR YEARS 1887-1891 3

BOOK II IRELAND AFTER THE FALL OF PARNELL 83

BOOK III HODOS CAMELIONIS 135

BOOK IV THE TRAGIC GENERATION 157

BOOK V THE STIRRING OF THE BONES 225




BOOK I FOUR YEARS--1887-1891




THE TREMBLING OF THE VEIL




_FOUR YEARS_ 1887-1891


I

At the end of the 'eighties my father and mother, my brother and sisters
and myself, all newly arrived from Dublin, were settled in Bedford Park in
a red-brick house with several mantelpieces of wood, copied from marble
mantelpieces designed by the brothers Adam, a balcony and a little garden
shadowed by a great horse-chestnut tree. Years before we had lived there,
when the crooked ostentatiously picturesque streets with great trees
casting great shadows had been a new enthusiasm: the Pre-Raphaelite
movement at last affecting life. But now exaggerated criticism had taken
the place of enthusiasm, the tiled roofs, the first in modern London, were
said to leak, which they did not, and the drains to be bad, though that
was no longer true; and I imagine that houses were cheap. I remember
feeling disappointed because the co-operative stores, with their little
seventeenth century panes, had lost the romance they had when I had passed
them still unfinished on my way to school; and because the public house,
called The Tabard after Chaucer's Inn, was so plainly a common public
house; and because the great sign of a trumpeter designed by Rooke, the
Pre-Raphaelite artist, had been freshened by some inferior hand. The big
red-brick church had never pleased me, and I was accustomed, when I saw
the wooden balustrade that ran along the slanting edge of the roof where
nobody ever walked or could walk, to remember the opinion of some
architect friend of my father's, that it had been put there to keep the
birds from falling off. Still, however, it had some village characters and
helped us to feel not wholly lost in the metropolis. I no longer went to
church as a regular habit, but go I sometimes did, for one Sunday morning
I saw these words painted on a board in the porch: "The congregation are
requested to kneel during prayers; the kneelers are afterwards to be hung
upon pegs provided for the purpose." In front of every seat hung a little
cushion and these cushions were called "kneelers." Presently the joke ran
through the community, where there were many artists who considered
religion at best an unimportant accessory to good architecture and who
disliked that particular church.


II

I could not understand where the charm had gone that I had felt, when as a
school-boy of twelve or thirteen I had played among the unfinished houses,
once leaving the marks of my two hands, blacked by a fall among some
paint, upon a white balustrade. Sometimes I thought it was because these
were real houses, while my play had been among toy-houses some day to be
inhabited by imaginary people full of the happiness that one can see in
picture books.

I was in all things Pre-Raphaelite. When I was fifteen or sixteen my
father had told me about Rossetti and Blake and given me their poetry to
read; and once at Liverpool on my way to Sligo I had seen Dante's Dream in
the gallery there, a picture painted when Rossetti had lost his dramatic
power and to-day not very pleasing to me, and its colour, its people, its
romantic architecture had blotted all other pictures away. It was a
perpetual bewilderment that my father, who had begun life as a
Pre-Raphaelite painter, now painted portraits of the first comer, children
selling newspapers, or a consumptive girl with a basket of fish upon her
head, and that when, moved perhaps by some memory of his youth, he chose
some theme from poetic tradition, he would soon weary and leave it
unfinished. I had seen the change coming bit by bit and its defence
elaborated by young men fresh from the Paris art-schools. "We must paint
what is in front of us," or "A man must be of his own time," they would
say, and if I spoke of Blake or Rossetti they would point out his bad
drawing and tell me to admire Carolus Duran and Bastien-Lepage. Then, too,
they were very ignorant men; they read nothing, for nothing mattered but
"knowing how to paint," being in reaction against a generation that seemed
to have wasted its time upon so many things. I thought myself alone in
hating these young men, now indeed getting towards middle life, their
contempt for the past, their monopoly of the future, but in a few months I
was to discover others of my own age, who thought as I did, for it is not
true that youth looks before it with the mechanical gaze of a well-drilled
soldier. Its quarrel is not with the past, but with the present, where its
elders are so obviously powerful and no cause seems lost if it seem to
threaten that power. Does cultivated youth ever really love the future,
where the eye can discover no persecuted Royalty hidden among oak leaves,
though from it certainly does come so much proletarian rhetoric?

I was unlike others of my generation in one thing only. I am very
religious, and deprived by Huxley and Tyndall, whom I detested, of the
simple-minded religion of my childhood, I had made a new religion, almost
an infallible church out of poetic tradition: a fardel of stories, and of
personages, and of emotions, inseparable from their first expression,
passed on from generation to generation by poets and painters with some
help from philosophers and theologians. I wished for a world, where I
could discover this tradition perpetually, and not in pictures and in
poems only, but in tiles round the chimney-piece and in the hangings that
kept out the draught. I had even created a dogma: "Because those imaginary
people are created out of the deepest instinct of man, to be his measure
and his norm, whatever I can imagine those mouths speaking may be the
nearest I can go to truth." When I listened they seemed always to speak of
one thing only: they, their loves, every incident of their lives, were
steeped in the supernatural. Could even Titian's "Ariosto" that I loved
beyond other portraits have its grave look, as if waiting for some perfect
final event, if the painters before Titian had not learned portraiture,
while painting into the corner of compositions full of saints and
Madonnas, their kneeling patrons? At seventeen years old I was already an
old-fashioned brass cannon full of shot, and nothing had kept me from
going off but a doubt as to my capacity to shoot straight.


III

I was not an industrious student and knew only what I had found by
accident and I found nothing I cared for after Titian, and Titian I knew
from an imitation of his _Supper of Emmaus_ in Dublin, till Blake and the
Pre-Raphaelites; and among my father's friends were no Pre-Raphaelites.
Some indeed had come to Bedford Park in the enthusiasm of the first
building and others to be near those that had. There was Todhunter, a
well-off man who had bought my father's pictures while my father was still
Pre-Raphaelite; once a Dublin doctor he was now a poet and a writer of
poetical plays; a tall, sallow, lank, melancholy man, a good scholar and a
good intellect; and with him my father carried on a warm exasperated
friendship, fed I think by old memories and wasted by quarrels over
matters of opinion. Of all the survivors he was the most dejected and the
least estranged, and I remember encouraging him, with a sense of worship
shared, to buy a very expensive carpet designed by Morris.



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