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Chapter 23

I used to tell the few friends to whom I could speak these secret
thoughts that I would make the attempt in Ireland but fail, for
our civilisation, its elements multiplying by divisions like
certain low forms of life, was all powerful; but in reality I had
the wildest hopes. To-day I add to that first conviction, to that
first desire for unity, this other conviction, long a mere opinion
vaguely or intermittently apprehended: Nations, races and
individual men are unified by an image, or bundle of related
images, symbolical or evocative of the state of mind, which is of
all states of mind not impossible, the most difficult to that man,
race or nation; because only the greatest obstacle that can be
contemplated without despair rouses the will to full intensity. A
powerful class by terror, rhetoric, and organised sentimentality,
may drive their people to war, but the day draws near when they
cannot keep them there; and how shall they face the pure nations
of the East when the day comes to do it with but equal arms? I had
seen Ireland in my own time turn from the bragging rhetoric and
gregarious humour of O'Connell's generation and school, and offer
herself to the solitary and proud Parnell as to her anti-self,
buskin following hard on sock; and I had begun to hope, or to
half-hope, that we might be the first in Europe to seek unity as
deliberately as it had been sought by theologian, poet, sculptor,
architect from the eleventh to the thirteenth century. Doubtless
we must seek it differently, no longer considering it convenient
to epitomise all human knowledge, but find it we well might, could
we first find philosophy and a little passion.

William Butler Yeats

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