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By A. Norman Jeffares

Publication: Poetry - W.B. Yeats Coomentary

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Additional resources for A Commentary on the Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats

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Emain : Yeats glossed this as 'the capital of the Red branch kings' (P (1895)), and their 'chief town' (P (1895 ; rev. 1899)). The 'Red Branch' cycle of Irish tales was probably transmitted orally early in the Christian period, written down by monks in the seventh or eighth centuries and incorporated in late manuscripts between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries. The ruins of Emain Macha are still to be seen some miles south-west of Armagh. Warriors came there each summer for training at Conchubar (or Conor) MacNessa's court, he being King of Ulster.

It had its supernatural aspects : At the northern corner of Rosses is a little promontory of sand and rocks and grass : a mournful, haunted place. Few countrymen would fall asleep under its low cliff, for he who sleeps here may wake 'silly', the Sidhe having carried off his soul. There is no more ready short-cut to the dim kingdom than this plovery headland, for, covered and smothered now from sight by mounds of sand, a long cave goes thither 'full of gold and silver, and the most beautiful parlours and drawingrooms'.

The source of the river that passed his garden at home was a certain wood-bordered and islanded lake, whither in childhood he had often gone blackberrying. At the further end was a little islet called Innisfree. Its rocky centre, covered with many bushes, rose some forty feet above the lake. Often when life and its difficulties had seemed to him like the lessons of some elder boy given to a younger by mistake, it had seemed good to dream of going away to that islet and building a wooden hut there and burning a few years out rowing to and fro fishing, or lying on the island slopes by day, and listening at night to the ripple of the water and the quivering of the bushes - full always of unknown creatures -and going out at morning to see the island's edge marked by the feet of birds.

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