J.M. Synge and the Ireland of His Time (Written 1910, published 1911)


by W.B. Yeats (1865 - 1939)

Yeats’ tribute to his dead friend opens dramatically with the riots that greeted Synge’s Playboy of the Western World. Yeats argues against picturesque, trivial or declamatory Irish writers, in contrast to Synge’s ‘salt and savour’.

He gives a biographical sketch of Synge – introverted by illness, politically detached, all character and little ‘mask’ – but also, incidentally, an account of his own stylistic development and ideas about Great Art. He contrasts rash ‘Young Ireland’ with the dignity of ‘old Ireland’ in Synge’s book The AranIslands, quoted at length and credited as prefiguring the dramatist’s use of Irish dialect ‘for noble purpose’.

Related recommendation: Yeats’ ‘Poetry and Tradition’ (1907)

Origin: Ireland

Themes: Artistic Method, Vocation and Celebrity, The role of Art or Artists

Genres: Biographical, Critical, Profile or character

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