W. B. Yeats, George Hyde Lees, And The Automatic Script

2738 words - 11 pages

W. B. Yeats, George Hyde-Lees, and the Automatic Script

In his biography of Yeats, Richard Ellmann remarks that "Had Yeats died instead of marrying in 1917, he would have been remembered as a remarkable minor poet who achieved a diction more powerful than that of his contemporaries but who, except in a handful of poems, did not have much to say with it" (Ellmann 223). Yet with his marriage to Georgie Hyde-Lees on October 21st, 1917, a vast frontier of possibility opened before Yeats, and through the automatic writing of his wife, he felt "wisdom at last within his reach" (Ellmann 224). Not only did the material within the automatic script (AS) help alleviate his anxieties about his marital choice, but it also pointed his poetry in a new direction, bringing together the separate remnants of his life and thoughts. Dilemmas over women and rejection, the frightening politics of his time, years of dabbling in the occult for answers, older ideas found in Blake, his own musings over Mask and Daimon, and the loose system of spiritual thought gathered in Per Amica: all these and other elements found their way into the cauldron of the AS, and with the help of Yeats, Georgie, and several "communicators," the medley was stirred and brewed for three years until everything began to come together, the final product being the system set forth in A Vision. In the following essay, we will begin by examining the AS from a general standpoint, and then focus in to see how advice from the communicators helped Yeats as man and poet, how older ideas were transformed, and finally, we will outline the major ideas of the AS which formed the core of Yeats's later mythology in A Vision.

A few days after their marriage, Georgie, who was probably "prompted by an effort to divert an unhappy husband who had been recently rejected by two other women" (Harper x), experimented with automatic writing. Automatic writing is a method commonly utilized by occultists, being a process wherein one lets go of conscious thought, all the while loosely holding a writing utensil over a piece of paper, and becomes a medium, either for one's own subconscious thoughts, or the thoughts of some spirit communicating through the "medium". When Yeats first met Georgie through Mrs. Shakespear and Ezra Pound, she was already interested in the occult, and Yeats often asked her advice on the authenticity of information given him by mediums. Later, she joined a group of Theosophists and eventually became a member of the Golden Dawn. Two things can be derived from these facts: George knew that Yeats believed in her as a spiritually "receptive" person, and she also knew that he took occult communication seriously. Thus, it seems highly plausible that there was a premeditated intent on her part to alleviate Yeats's fears about his having made the right choice in marrying her. After telling him that "`something was to be written through her'" (Harper 3), she wrote the following words: "`with the bird...

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