I became intoxicated with Yeats when I was a schoolboy in West Cork, by way of poems like Sailing To Byzantium, Among Schoolchildren, An Irish Airman Forsees His Death, The Circus Animal’s Desertion….
Although I did well enough in tests & exams, it wasnt the meaning(s) of the poems that enchanted me, but their melodies. I found them pleasurable to read & to say & to hear & to repeat – they eased themselves into my memory by way of their adhesively musical qualities.
The portentous tone, omenic old-world imagery, weird symbols, intimations of secret codes & subterranean fellowships & hidden mist-infused realities also suited me. I had been taught to read as an infant from the bible by my grandmother Julia Lordan. The prophetic & apocalyptic books had left a deep impression on my imagination. Therefore, Yeats was right at home in there.
He got me out of trouble several times. I would be on my way to the principal’s office & suspension for disruptive behaviour & my Inter Cert English teacher, taking pity on me since I was always about to be thrown out of/leave school & never come back, would challenge me to say The Fisherman or The Lake Isle of Innisfree off-by-heart as a get-out clause. I would do so & then she would tell me to sit back down & count myself lucky. It’s really down to Yeats I managed to stay in school throughout a troubled period.
Most of the recordings of Yeats currently available are read in a ham upper class english accent. But Yeats didnt get his music from listening to posh english accents & to interpret the poems this way is to betray an ignorance of – maybe it would be more precise to say an elitist disinterest in or blindness to – the true origins of Yeats musical patterns in the half-sung, half-spoken natural speech rythms of the peasant class of the rural west-of-Ireland, in which Yeats was immersed, with which he was surrounded, enveloped.
Reading The Second Coming in a Stephen Fry kind of way is like playing Stairway to Heaven on the Ukelele – its sad, ham, ridiculous.
I make the claim that my hiberno-english accent is the correct instrument, & the natural speech rhythms of the west-of-Ireland the only really appropriate tuning, for the airing of Yeats.
Judge for yourself – & support my work by buying the 13 track soundscaped album Into The Twilight, right here