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Thread: Yeats: The Valley of the Black Pig

  1. #1
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    Nagoya, Japan

    Red face Yeats: The Valley of the Black Pig

    The Valley of the Black Pig

    The dews drop slowly and dreams gather: unknown spears
    Suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened eyes,
    And then the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries
    Of Unknown perishing armies ...

    We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,
    The grey cairn on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,
    Being weary of the world's empires, bow down to you,
    Master of the still stars and ...


    What are your thoughts/interpretations of this poem?

    Obviously the first half relates to the "black pig" and I think the next half switches to a human tone... I have several ideas of how the first and second half are related but I'd like to hear what you guys think!
    Last edited by elinzme; 09-25-2009 at 10:39 AM. Reason: copyright issues

  2. #2
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    Jun 2011
    This is no "thought" of mine; simply something I've found at

    "Yeats provided this note on the poem "The Valley of the Black Pig":

    All over Ireland there are prophecies of the coming rout of the enemies of Ireland, in a certain Valley of the Black Pig, and these prophecies are, no doubt, now, as they were in the Fenian days, a political force. I have heard of one man who would not give any money to the Land League, because the Battle could not be until the close of the century; but, as a rule, periods of trouble bring prophecies of its near coming. A few years before my time, an old man who lived at Lissadell, in Sligo, used to fall down in a fit and rave out descriptions of the Battle; and a man in Sligo has told me that it will be so great a battle that the horses shall go up to their fetlocks in blood, and that their girths, when it is over, will rot from their bellies for lack of a hand to unbuckle them. If one reads Rhys' Celtic Heathendom by the light of Frazer's Golden Bough, and puts together what one finds there about the boar that killed Diarmuid, and other old Celtic boars and sows, one sees that the battle is mythological, and that the Pig it is named from must be a type of cold and winter doing battle with the summer, or of death battling with life."

    The dews drop slowly and dreams gather: unknown spears
    Suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened eyes,
    And then the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries
    Of unknown perishing armies beat about my ears.
    We who still labour by the cromlech* on the shore,
    The grey cairn** on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,
    Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.
    *Cromlech: a prehistoric stone construction, usually one large horizonal stone supported by several vertical stones.
    **Grey cairn: probably a reference to the mound of stones, supposedly marking the grave of Queen Maeve, on the mountain of Knocknarea outside Sligo.

    I don't know whether the poem you've posted is a different version but this one is one line less.
    Last edited by Thankless; 06-21-2011 at 10:05 PM.

  3. #3
    Ditsy Pixie Niamh's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Marino, Dublin, Ireland
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    Here is some possible background info for you.
    The "Black Pig" is the name of a long dyke with embankments on either side to make it appear like a valley that runs from the Cooley Peninsula in the East of the country, through County Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, etc and ends at the west coast in Donegal. The Dyke was constructed to separate the kingdom Ulster from the rest of the Island during the Iron Age, and some of it still survives today. (thing of a ditch and bank equivalent of Hadrians wall and you'll understand what I'm talking about).
    The dyke was very important in the Celtic Period of the Iron age, it was a border on magic, as the kingdom of Ulster was cursed. At the time of Yeats' life, Finians and the IRA would have used it to provoke fear in their enemies, and even up until 1990s it was considered bandit country and most of it lines the border of Northern and Southern Ireland even today.
    When Yeats wrote the poem in c1899, the country he was living in was one of great change, He at one point had been a member or the IRB, And it was a time og the Gaelic revival. Stories about Cuchullain and the Knights of the Red Branch, of Emain Macha and the whole Ulster cycle were being brought to life by the Anglo-Irish Literary revival, and Yeats was knee deep in the mythologies, and in his usually way, he is using his mystical insight and approach. Yeats in my opinion, is using the Black Pigs Dyke or Dorsey as it is also known, as that symbolic "in-between", a dream state place, where battles of the past are appearing as reality; a prophetic state.
    "Come away O human child!To the waters of the wild, With a faery hand in hand, For the worlds more full of weeping than you can understand."

    "If it looks like a Dwarf and smells like a Dwarf, then it's probably a Dwarf (or a latrine wearing dungarees)"
    Artemins Fowl and the Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer

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