Irish Rebellion (03:51)
Ireland marked the 50th anniversary of the 1916 rising. Bob Geldof recalls nationalistic "guff" on the television and his teacher reading the poetry of W.B. Yeats. Geldof considers Yeats one of the weirdest revolutionaries that sang Ireland into being.
Yeats' Background (02:38)
During the Irish Famine, hundreds of thousands died of mass starvation and millions emigrated. Yeats was born into the Protestant, land owning class. His father enrolled in the Slade School of Art, forcing the family into poverty, and kept his children away from school.
Protestant Bourgeoisie (06:06)
Yeats' mother regularly took the children to her prosperous family, the Pollexfens, in Sligo. Yeats was immersed in folklore that significantly influenced his writing; his works help save a culture. Hear "The Stolen Child" and "The Song of Wandering Aengus."
Bedford Park, London (03:00)
Yeats was educated in Dublin and London, and found himself in the heart of revolutionary ideas; he was obsessed with the mystical and spiritual. Geldof visits Yeats' "cheep" lodgings in London.
"Myself I Must Remake" (06:18)
In 1888, Oscar Wilde triggered Yeats' fascination with image. In 1889, Yeats met Maud Gonne, who pulled him into her world of radical nationalism; he fell in love. Hear "The Folly of Being Comforted," "When You are Old," "Adam's Curse," and "The Cloths of Heaven."
Castle Island, Lough Key (01:57)
Charles Stewart Parnell led a charge for Irish home rule while the Irish Republican Brotherhood advocated revolt. Yeats wanted to return to a time of Homeric warrior heroes; he and Gonne imagined creating a new Irish faith.
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree" (03:31)
While in London, Yeats missed Sligo; a memory triggered "Celtic Twilight." Hear "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." Geldof visits the lakeside, listens to the water lapping, and reflects on Yeats' choice of words.
Irish Nationalist (02:04)
In the 1880s, Dublin was a hotbed of debate and political force; Yeats believed Ireland could stand on its own. Yeats attributed his fervent nationalism to John O'Leary.
Gonne's Children (02:40)
Yeats' political, spiritual, and emotional life revolved around Gonne. Gonne, Æ George Russell, and Yeats gathered for a séance. Gonne has another child with Lucien Millevoye in hopes of reincarnating their deceased son. Hear "The Pity of Love."
Yeats' Intimate Life (04:44)
Yeats' lost his virginity at the age of 31 to Olivia Shakespeare, but he craved violent eroticism. Lady Augusta Gregory and Coole House became important to Yeats' work; hear "Adam's Curse."
Irish History, Nationality, and the Arts (04:21)
Geldof equates Yeats' work with the musical history of America; he visits an ancient stone said to be connected with Cú Chulainn. Yeats elevated heroes into a pantheon that people should emulate. He, Gregory, and John Sing established the Abbey Theatre.
"Kathleen ni Houlihan" (03:27)
Yeats and Gonne chaired a committee to commemorate the failed 1798 rebellion. He co-wrote a nationalist play with Gregory in which critic Stephen Guinn said encouraged men to shoot and be shot. Tom Hollander reads "Man and the Echo."
"No Second Troy" (02:47)
A broken heart ultimately distanced Yeats from the revolutionary cause; Gonne married John McBride. The couple later separated and the IRB supported McBride while pushing out Gonne.
Irish Independence (03:22)
By the age of 50, Yeats was growing bitter and he turned his support to John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party; the Home Rule Bill passed in 1914. Geldof examines a drawing of Yeats done at the start of the Easter Rising. Hear "September 1913" and "The Great Day."
Easter Rising (04:05)
The rebellion lasted six days and resulted in the death of nearly 500 people. Geldof and Prof. Roy Foster reflect on blood sacrifice and heroism.
Reaction to the Rising (04:03)
British authorities executed three leaders of the rising—Pearse, Clarke, and MacDonagh. Geldof browses the books of Yeats' library. Hear "Sixteen Dead Men" and "Easter, 1916."
Astrological Deadline for a Wife (03:17)
"Easter, 1916" represents upheaval in Yeats' life. After the rising, he descends into confusion and depression. He proposes to Gonne, her daughter Iseult, and Georgie Hyde-Lees. Hear "To a Child Dancing in the Wind."
"Gratitude to the Unknown Instructors" (02:43)
Yeats wife engaged in automatic writing, encompassing Yeats' sense of the mystical and spiritual.
"The Second Coming" (01:54)
England's hesitation in implementing home-rule provoked the Irish War of Independence; Yeats sensed impending doom.
"The Fisherman" (02:55)
Geldof views the family home Yeats created in western Ireland. The country was embroiled in the War of Independence, and Yeats was outraged by atrocities. He verbally attacked the English during his 1921 speech at Oxford University.
Irish Free State (05:02)
Yeats became a senator and fought against legislation that might alienate Protestants and hinder the chance of a united Ireland. Hear "Among School Children." Yeats chaired the coinage committee and advised on the design of new robes for the Irish judiciary.
World Recognition (02:12)
Yeats received the Nobel Prize in 1923, but the Irish New State and Catholic Church failed him.
"The Plow and the Stars" (02:24)
In 1926, Yeats featured Sean O'Casey's play at Abbey Theatre. Geldof reflects on the play's symbolism and Yeats' anger and disappointment with the populace.
Stark, Sexual Poems (01:41)
Yeats retired from the senate in 1928 and expressed outrage through his new works, sometimes written in a woman's voice. Hear "Leda and the Swan," "A Last Confession," and "A Drunken Man's Praise of Sobriety."
Fear of Communism (02:45)
Yeats believed in the Homeric view of aristocracy. He predicted a dark era in Europe and briefly wrote marching songs for Ireland's Blueshirts. Hear "In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz, " "Remorse of Intemperate Speech," and "The Spur."
Rejuvenating Vigor (04:31)
Yeats underwent a Steinach operation; frustration was a keynote in Yeats' last decade. Hear "Politics" and "Sailing to Byzantium." Yeats wrote to Olivia Shakespeare about aging.
Yeats' Later Years (02:24)
Yeats' relationship with his wife became more like that of nurse and patient. Hear "A Drinking Song" and "Imitated from the Japanese." Geldof reflects on Yeats' ability to love.
Yeats' Final Acts (02:43)
Yeats died January 28, 1939. Before his death, he changed the title of "His Convictions" to "Under Ben Bulben" and gave instructions to be buried for a year in Roquebrune before a final burial in Sligo. Geldof discusses the controversy of Yeats' final trip home.
Yeats' Legacy (04:29)
Geldof and Foster reflect on Yeats' importance to Ireland. Geldof examines Annie West's illustrated images of Yeats' love life. Fifty years after Yeats' death, the fear and power of the Catholic Church collapsed. Hear "What Then?"
Credits: A Fanatic Heart: Bob Geldof and Yeats (00:45)
Credits: A Fanatic Heart: Bob Geldof and Yeats
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