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The Circus Animals' Desertion

The Circus Animals' Desertion

by William Butler Yeats

Literature and Writing Quotes Page 2

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

And then a counter-truth filled out its play,

'The Countess Cathleen' was the name I gave it; (2.9-10)

Why is Countess Cathleen a counter-truth? Well, the play about her allows Yeats to trace all the torture and rage he feels as he watches a woman make the wrong choices. (Remember, this play is actually about one of his crushes, who spurned him over and over again, Maud Gonne.) First, he was in love with the idea of a beautiful woman, like the one in the Oisin legend. Now he's frustrated with Gonne's rejection.

Quote #5

First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose

Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams, (2.2-3)

What forms can poetry take? Yeats's first answer to the question is the epic. Ireland, like many other cultures, has a rich tradition of mythic and epic poetry, and it's that mythology that Yeats relied on in his early writing career.

Quote #6

It was the dream itself enchanted me:

Character isolated by a deed

To engross the present and dominate memory. (2.20-22)

"Character" becomes a stand-in for Yeats's own memories and desires, something he later comes to regret. The beautiful figures in his poems become mere projections of his own emotions, not representations of other aspects of the world. In the end, it's all about him.

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