Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, March 14, 2011

William Butler Yeats-"Hanahan and Cathleen the Daughter of Hoolihan"-

"Hanahan and Cathleen the Daughter of Hoolihan" by William Butler Yeats (1918, 6 pages)
Irish Short Story Week
Day One
The View from Mount Parnassus
William Butler Yeats

My first post for Irish Short Week was on the important and influential writer of the 20th Century, James Joyce.   My second post was on the most important playwright of the 20th Century,Samuel Beckett.   Both wrote marvelous short stories.    My third post keeps us firmly among the literary greats of all time.

To me William Butler Yeats, in the narrow range of my reading, is the greatest English language poet of all time.  I think the very best of his work is among the greatest literature of all times.   Yeats won  Nobel Prize in 1923.   Yeats deeply loved Ireland, its history, its people, and its mythology.   His work is deeply rooted in the Irish experience.   Like Beckett and Joyce, he created from the Irish experience, universal works.   I have been reading the poetry of Yeats on and off for all my adult life.   I know his political views and his philosophical constructions do not stand up to much scrutiny.    His giant ego makes him seem like a hard person to like.    I wanted to include one of his short stories on Day One just to make it clear the extreme high standard Irish Short Story writers have to live up to.  

"Hanahan and Cathleen the Daughter of Hoolihan"  is a story about a teller of tales, a wandering poet who makes his living from his tales and keeps the traditions of Ireland alive.     It is set in  a  time of hardship for the common people of Ireland.    The prose style is lyrical.

"Greetings to my old friend, as
one Nobel Prize Winner to
another I wish you happy
St Patrick's Day"-
Rabindranath Tagore
"It was travelling northward Hanrahan was one time, giving a hand to a farmer now and again in the hurried time of the year, and telling his stories and making his share of songs at wakes and at weddings." 

Hoolihan encounters a woman he knew in his younger days who has gotten a bad name.   The priest had driven her out of her home community.   She makes her living by selling herring and lives with another woman who has also gotten a bad name.    They invite Hoolihan to stay with them and he is happy to do so.   Mary Grace, one of the women, had some of his songs by heart as he was  well known singer of songs.   He made a bit of money singing his songs and saying his poems at weddings and celebration       The women fear that he has in mind leaving them.   Upon hearing this he recites one of poems and the women see him not just as man that had made them happy and brought people to their house but as one of the kings of poetry of Gael, a Celtic reference that  goes deep to the heart of the Irish literary tradition.   I will let the poet have his last words here  -the tears are for all of Ireland:

"While he was singing, his voice began to break, and tears came rolling down his cheeks, and Margaret Rooney put down her face into her hands and began to cry along with him. Then a blind beggar by the fire shook his rags with a sob, and after that there was no one of them all but cried tears down."

"Hanahan and Cathleen the Daughter of Hoolihan" probably is still read because Yeats wrote it, which is not a bad reason to read something.   I wanted to include it because it is so self-consciously Irish.

You can read it online here (along with of number of stories by Yeats)

Everyone is more than welcome to participate in Irish Short Story week-all you have to do is just post on one short story by an Irish author during the week and send me a comment.    

Tomorrow we will start out with a story by Oliver Goldsmith.    

"William, I am sure my beauty will
inspire your greatest work"-Carmilla
Mel u

Resources and potential ideas for the week


JoAnn said...

I posted on one of the stories from Dubliners today.

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

I just slipped in an Irish short story contribution before my vacation.

Good luck with all of this. Great fun.

ds said...

"Irish poets learn your trade
Sing whatever is well made"

I adore Yeats; will be reading him this week. Auden wrote "mad Ireland hurt [Yeats] into poetry" and I think that is true. Wonderful post Mel, and a wonderful story. Thank you.