The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

March 7, 2016

March 7, 1890

William Butler Yeats (June 13, 1865 to January 28, 1939) opens his book The Vision (1937) by describing his own setting, which was Rapallo. It was perfect for someone "who had been forbidden Dublin winters" and needed quiet away from crowded scenes. In these pages he recalls the situation of cats.

Cat are oppressed. Dogs terrify them, landladies starve them, boys stone them, everybody speaks of them with contempt. If they were human beings we could talk of their oppressors with a studied violence...

Recall we are not just  talking about Fascist Italy. We  also hear in Yeats' words not just current realities but a more callous time of past European centuries.

The Vision was a summary of the poet's lifetime occult interests. His wife contributed much to the volume, with her mediumistic accounts. Yeats joined the Order of the Golden Dawn group on March 7, 1890.

According to his Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article:

.[Yeats] fell out with the theosophists, [but] they provided an important staging post in his journey towards the kind of occult society which most closely answered his emotional and psychological requirements. He found this, more or less, in the Order of the Golden Dawn.

Despite the impression given by Yeats's autobiographical writings (and several commentaries on his life), this was not an 1890s rite of passage that petered out about the turn of the century, but an involvement that stayed with him for most of his life.

The Golden Dawn presented Egyptians motifs and we see this in Yeats' major poem: "The Second Coming" (1920). Here is the last part of that poem:

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all around it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

It may be time to fall back in love with William Butler Yeats.

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