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

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"The Wisdom of the King" by William Butler Yeats (1893, six pages)

Irish Short Story Week Year Two
March 11 to July 1
Nobel Prize Winners Only
April 8 to April 15

My Prior Posts for ISSW Year Two

Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two.   All you are asked to do is to post on one or more Irish short stories (or a work of non-fiction that related well to this topic) and let me know about it.  I am also now opening the event up for writers from New Zealand and South Africa of Irish descent.  I very recently began to become aware of the large number of Latin American writers of Irish ancestry, the biggest concentrations are in Mexico and Argentina.   There are very serious groups in both these countries studying and honoring their heritage.   Mexico and Argentina have both had a president with Irish Grandparents.  There will  be an Irish/Argentine day in May.  It just shows the vast cultural reach of  the Irish Short Story.  Any and all posts on Latin American writers of Irish Heritage (stick to an Irish grandparent as your minimum tie, just like the Irish National Football team) are very welcome.
"I am a changeling but
I prefer this form"-

I have been reading the poetry of William Butler Yeats (1865 to 1939-Nobel Prize 1923) on and off for decades.   I regard him as the greatest of all English language poets and I shrug off his political and social views.   As we have already seen during the event, Yeats was very into the traditional Irish folktale.  To some Irish Folktales are an absorbing hobby, to others they are just something for fun while to many they are seen as the basic cultural structure psyche of the Iirsh and an as older religion that was displaced by the Christians.   Many believe in these tales just as others believe in the fundamental texts of their religion.

"The Wisdom of the King" is a short story beautiful enough to be worthy of the world's greatest poet.  It is set in the days of ancient Ireland.   It is meant to evoke Christian themes (and this is a common religion short story) suggesting great wisdom to be found in the words of a very young man.   When he is born he is visited not by three wise men but by "three crones of the gray hawk".   Everyone is terrified by them an do not understand why they have come and they are too ignorant to know properly value their standing.  In an ancient blood ritual going back to the Druids, one of the crones mixes her blood with the boy.  When the hawk crones leave, the nurse of the boy goes at once to the king and tells him his wife has died giving birth to his first son.

As the boy age, he develops a reputation for great wisdom.   His council is sought by everyone.   There is one big problem, he does not have hair on his head but eagle down.  Everyone is told not to mention this and when they are around the boy they must mix feathers in their hair.  In time the boy becomes the King but he still has not known love and does not know there is something very different about himself.   The ending is very wonderful and very deep and I will not spoil it for you.

You can read this story here

I  will next post on one of our guest, Rabindranath Tagore from India, a mentor of Yeats and a very close friend. His influence on Irish Literary culture is very well documented and was quite strong.

"Welcome to my Event!)-Carmilla
Mel u


ds said...

I love Yeats, too. Thank you for sharing this, and for the post on Mr. Beckett as well. Your points on the central themes of the Irish short story are spot on, methinks.

Mel u said...

ds-thanks very much as always