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1 Maud Goone in W. B.

Yeats' Poetry Maud Goone and her impact on Yeats' motifs in his poetry have been a subject of many critical and literary investigations. (Khan 127) Yeats met Goone in 1889, at the age of twenty four, while she was at the time a year younger. He became obsessed with her, while she became his all-time muse in almost every work the poet wrote from that day on. The first time Yeats proposed to Goone was in 1891, only two years after their first encounter, but Goone rejected him which is usually seen as the beggining of all Yeats' emotinal trauma and suffering. He stated later that Maud's rejection to his proposal was the day when the troubling of his life began. (Yeats 40) Maud Goone clearly exists in Yeats' works, her character can easily be distinguished in the lines of his poems, letters and memoirs that describe the dynamics of their relationship and poet's longing. According to crticis, all of Yeats' works represent different stages of his love towards Maud and the way his love frustrations affected his writing and style. Yeats himself stated that he was in fact always longing for love that would have shaped him as a poet, no matter how painful it might have been. (Khan 128) Maud Goone suited poet's own ideals Yeats preffered an exciting, unusual woman to be his lover and later his wife. She was both independent and very open-minded, some might say even violent in her nationalistic activism in Irealnd at the time. This Dublin actress changed Yeats' thoughts and mind and consequently managed to shape his attitude towards life and especially poetry. Although they shared similar thoughts and ideas on nationalism, revivalism and mysticism, Yeats found her attitudes too extreme. From the very beginning, they were too different in their approach to politics and philosophy, still the poet was amazed by her beauty, her nature and self-confidence. His early

2 poetic works are idealizing the figure of Maud Goone, as well as they are in a way pleading for her love in return to his obsession and worship. ...But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. The poet evoked the traditional approach to love, for Maud is now being described as a lady superior to the poet's role in the poem where he adores her and admires her as if she were a goddess. His early poetry is all written in such manner where the lady is standing above the lover who is at her feet, pleading for her love. (Khan 130) However, unfortunatelly for Yeats, Maud Goone was never really interested in the physical notions of love and the consumation of their or pretty much any sexual atraction. Maud described counsuming love as a horror and terror of physical love. (Yeats 132) Yeats proposals were all rejected, but they somehow managed to develop a very complicated and sort of a platonic relationship that can merely be described as a mystical marriage of its own kind. They agreed on having the kind of relationship in which they would completely ignore the need and experience of the body, mostly because of Maud's insistence. She urged Yeats to be strong enough to cope with and embrace what she could offer to him at the time, and that was only the spiritual love and union. In her autobiography, she wrote a paragraph that provided Yeats (and later the public) an explanation of why she wouldn't marry him - You would not be happy with me. The world should thank me for not marrying you. You make beautiful poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and you are happy in that. (MacBride and Jeffares 326-30) Not only did she reject him for the sake of his poetic production and the ability to write extrordinary poetry only when trapped in extreme emotions such as love pain, longing and

3 heartache, but she also understood their differences that could (or would) occur sooner or later in their relationship and would eventually lead them to an even more painful break-up. Maud Goone later in her life once again looked back on their never ending love story and stated that all of the pain she caused Yeats by rejecting him, eventually proved to be more than useful, especially in his career that was at a large scale based on their platonic relationship. (Khan 132) The great interest Yeats had in mysticism and surreal can easily be connected to the platonic love relationship he tried to maintain with Goone. He was in fact introduced to Maud by the same person who initiated Yeats' curiosity and interest in such matter John O'Leary, a famous Irish nationalist who drew important figures of the time to nationalism. Even Maud described their relatinship (or better their encounters) as a sort of astral visitations that would probably, as they both believed and hoped for, outlive their lives and continue, even if they never see each other again in this world. Such a perspective can be understood as a logical explanation of platonic relationship that was never really consumated in a common way, but was rather described through mystical and supernatural point of view of the two. Not only Yeats' literary work, but also his public appearance was adjusted to Maud's wishes and volition. He became more engaged with the political situation of Ireland at the time, especially in Irish national life. Yeats' plays Cathleen Ni Houlian and The Countess Cathleen, both very famous, were written especially for Maud who was supposed to impersonate the main character(s). The first play that was written in 1891 actually depicts author's disapproval of Maud's behaviour, especially in politics. Yeats considered her almost extreme activism as something that was consequently in a way ruining her beaty and pure energy she was wasting in her political engagement. Critics believe that Cathleen was in fact the character through whom the author was dramatizing something that was unacceptable in Maud's behaviour and life in general. (Khan 134)

4 Maud eventually decided to settle down, but, to Yeats' unpleasant surprise, she had chosen another man to be her beloved husband Major John MacBride. If we look up his biography and compare it to Yeats', it is more than evident why Maud had chosen MacBride over him. MacBride was far more eagerly or even violently involved in the political situation of Ireland and nationalism, and that is what drew Maud closer. Their marriage ended soon after, and Maud found comfort and peace in Yeats whom she spent the night with. However, Yeats' affection and love towards her weren't enough to keep Maud by his side. She wrote him a letter stating: "I have prayed so hard to have all earthly desire taken from my love for you and dearest, loving you as I do, I have prayed and I am praying still that the bodily desire for me may be taken from you too." (Foster 394) About twenty years after the first and the last consumation of their still platonic love, Yeats wrote the poem depicting the night he spent with Goone entitled "A Man Young and Old". But since I laid a hand thereon And found a heart of stone I have attempted many things And not a thing is done, For every hand is lunatic That travels on the moon. Maud addressed Yeats' poems dedicated to her as their own children. Letting him suffer from the unrequited love, she considered herself being responsible for most of his poetic production. She wrote him a letter reminding him of the duty of the motherhood, insinuating as if they really are in a marital relation:

5 Our children were your poems of which I was the father sowing the unrest and storm which made them possible and you the mother who brought them forth in suffering and in the highest beauty... (Mac Bride 294) Maud Goone had been the center of Yeats' emotional, professional and imaginative life for over twenty years. The frustration the poet had to cope with after falling in love with his muse, Maud Goone, is the main reason for comprising spontaneously the elements of self-condemnation in his poetry. His unrequited love can be distinguished as his most common, if not favorite motif in his works. It can be frequently found even in the titles. (Khan 138) Although thay had many differences and disagreed on various things and ideas, Yeats and Goone appreciated each other, which can clearly be percieved in their private letters. Through their lives, they exchanged hundreds of them. Some might think that Maud did not have the feelings for Yeats, at least not that strong and passionate, but she undoubtedly admired him as a writer, a poet and as an artist. Maud believed that Yeats' poetry could in fact have a greater positive impact on Ireland than her own (political) activism. (Khan 136)

6 Works cited:

Cahill, Christopher. "Second Puberty: The Later Years of W. B. Yeats Brought His Best Poetry, along with Personal Melodrama on an Epic Scale". The Atlantic Monthly, December 2003 Foster, R. F. W. B. Yeats: A Life Vol. I: The Apprentice Mage. New York: Oxford University Press 1997 Khan, Jallal Udin. Yeats and Maud Goone: (Auto)Biographical and Artistic Intersection. Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics. No. 22. 2002: pp. 127-147 Mac Bride, Anna. The Gonne-Yeats Letters 1893-1938. London: Hutchinson, 1992 Mac Bride, Anna. Jeffares, Norman. The Autobiography of Maud Goone: A Servant of The Queen. London: Gollancz, 1983 Yeats, William B. Memoirs. Denis Donoghue, ed. London: Macmillan, 1972