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June 23, 2011



“His own side” is complicated in the matter of Yeats. He was a nationalist with some Fenian connections, but he was also very much a Southern Protestant and proud of it, like the fellow played by Graham Chapman in Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life.” He did explore varieties of mysticism and if he was not a Fascist per se he was certainly playing footsie with the movement.

It should also be noted that in Ireland the religious bigotry business has been largely on one side. You don’t have any orders of Catholic laymen vowing never to set foot in Protestant churches.

Why the evangelicals are taking an interest in him, I can’t imagine. At least they’re reading, I guess.

John Petty

It's hard for me to see Yeats as much of a right-winger. The Irish nationalist movement undoubtedly included a wide range of folks, some of them with a fascistic bent.


Yeats' fascist tendencies and admiration for Mussolini had little to do with his nationalism. The pro-Fascist Irish who went to Spain to fight for Franco were anti-IRA and got into street fights with them and a number of IRA men went to Spain to fight for the Loyalists and died there. Yeats initially was an admirer of the Irish Blueshirts until it became apparent that their leader O’Duffy was a moron. It is true that the IRA played footsie with Germany during the war, but that was more along the lines of the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend, not that that’s a proper excuse. And of course Frank Ryan wound up dying in Germany after Franco handed him over to the Nazis, but that’s a long story.

As to how seriously Yeats took fascism, that’s certainly a matter for argument. Some scholars downplay it.

John Petty

Thanks for your comments, Hypatia. It has inspired me to read more on the subject.

By the way, did you notice the plug I gave your namesake a week or two ago?

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