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Essay on The Fiddler of Dooney
According to Ryan Campbell, in his essay: The Idea of Artifice in The Mood of W.B.Yeats’ poetry,”Yeats was a very compassionate man. His involvement with the nationalism of Ireland and his majestic occult beliefs made him a very “human” person”. In fact, this notion of nationalism is highly expressed throughout his lyric The Fiddler of Dooney. The mood, tone, images and diction used depict the Yeatsian sense of romantic nationalism which has nothing to do with politics. He glorifies Ireland: the pure, agrarian, fertile and virgin land.
Although dreams can be a rich source of inspiration for an artist, it is not the case for Yeats since the very source of his inspiration is Ireland itself thanks to its landscapes folklore music and culture. In Yeats’s universe, the role of an artist surpasses that of a priest as the former reaches the sense of communality on Earth and in Heaven, while the latter fails to attain it.
Within this frame of discussion, the following paper will examine the five elements applied by Yeats to convey the concept of his romantic nationalism: the folklore music, landscapes, separation to achieve union, plainness and simplicity of language and finally the mystical experience undergone by the fiddler of Dooney.
Yeats’s poetry draws heavily on Irish myth and folklore. Indeed, the fiddler of Dooney is regarded as an Irish tableau. Folks are gathered around the fiddler while he is playing with his fiddle and they start «danc[ing] like a wave of the sea». This image provided in the form of a simile is highly associated with the idea of communal life and the light-hearted atmosphere in Dooney where the fiddler symbolizes the essence of this joy and communality. This instrument, which represented by metonymy Art, is the only way that makes people united. The music folklore, according to Yeats, is able to gather people as it has a unique goal to achieve which is bringing happiness to them.
The indication of “Dooney”, “Kilvarnet”, “Mocharabuiee”, and “Sligo” enhances the concept of nationalism. In fact, the poem is centred on celebrating Irishness though the various images mentioned in the first as well as the second stanza. According to Yeats, what makes Ireland stronger and stronger is the fact of naming some of its towns. This wise technique makes The Fiddler of Dooney an immortal poem and in return immortalizes Ireland itself. Shakespeare, in his Sonnet 19, protects his love from« the devouring time » through verse in «My love shall in my verse live young».Yeats’s lyric echoes this Shakespearian technique but not to immortalize his love to a woman. It is rather to make Ireland an ever lasting country and in the same time it is a way to protect his poetry from stagnation and keeps his art alive. Through his verses, Yeats immortalizes Ireland and and liberates it from any external cultural influence by celebrating locals from its core. Therefore, this technique becomes a way by which Yeats serves and secures his nation from the dominance of England,the industrialized country,that wants to disfigure the virginity and purity of the agrarian nature of Ireland.
Yeats’s poetry dwells on separation only to eventually present a sense of unity which leads to the notion of nationalism. Kinship is what characterizes Yeats’s poetry. In the second stanza, the fiddler refers to a “cousin” and a “brother”, who are , in fact, priests. The fiddler does not refer to them as real cousins and brother. He uses them as a metonymy. The fiddler casts light on the concept of one nation, a unified Irish nation. Although he and Irish people have different vocations, that fact strengthens the union between them and this is what exactly Yeats means by romantic nationalism. He sees things in relation to one another not as separate as self-sufficient. Otherwise, this union becomes weak and ends up to separation and division. This kind of nationalism is not understood in its political sense. It is rather a celebration of Ireland as a country which unifies itself through its people’s diversity.
Simplicity and plainness seem to be the key to Yeats’s aesthetics to achieve the sense of nationalism. The language used in this lyric is austere and more direct for Yeats to approach his themes. In fact, Yeats’s nationalism is not only expressed through Irish locals and tradition but also through language which is addressed to common people who are able pretty understand it without any needed explanation. In addition to that, language helps Yeats in expressing this idea of nationalism in prose and this fact makes Ireland immortal.
This poem is a lyric on the theme of love, harmony and especially on mystical experience of the fiddler. Indeed, art does not only help to gather people on Earth but also in Heaven. Music as a part of art is the unifier in Paradise. The fiddler is the leading figure in Paradise as everyone cries: “Here is the fiddler of Dooney!” and they gather around him again. He is the first who enters Heaven since he is “cal[led] first through the gate”. His presence is vital because he is the source of jollity and merriment. He is always associated with happiness and goodness and makes Heaven a real Heaven thanks to his ability to make people dance and gather. In here, Yeats wants to ensure that art is the unique source of union and not religion. He wants us to come to the conclusion that religion separates while art unifies since Ireland is having a complex religious structure and a conflict between Catholics and Protestants. This fact does not make religion the right catalyst that serves the nation. Only art is able to accomplish this mission as it unifies regardless people’s differences and vices. This noble goal makes the fiddler a bringer of joy who is, actually, undergoing a honourable mystical experience which makes him transcend the role of a priest.
The Fiddler of Dooney particularizes and does not universalize. It is about a particular reality which is the Irish geography. This subjective experience celebrates Ireland in terms of music folklore, kinship, language, tradition and landscapes. While writing this lyric, Yeats has a specific unifying goal in his mind that helps him to give an accurate tableau of Ireland not in its political sense but rather in a romantic and aesthetic taste.