WB Yeats Letter to Maud Gonne on Her Marriage

“Poets should never marry,” Maud Gonne told WB Yeats shortly before she, without telling him, became engaged to another. “The world should thank me for not marrying you.”

The other man was John MacBride, in every way WB’s opposite. A soldier instead of a poet, a hard drinker where Yeats was abstemious, a man of action instead of words.

Yeats wrote beautiful poems about his sexual torment and her infuriating commitment to the wrong kind of action. His letter when he heard of her conversion to Catholicism and intention to marry is equally moving.

Dear friend, I appeal to you in the name of 14 years of friendship to read this letter… It is perhaps the last thing I shall ever ask you… Your hands were once put in mine and we were told to do a certain great work together. For all who undertake such tasks there comes a moment of extreme peril. You have come to your moment of peril…
This weakness which has thrust down your soul to a lower order of faith is thrusting you down socially, is thrusting you down to the people…
And they, thirsting for what is above and beyond them, will never forgive it.
You possess your influence in Ireland very largely because you come to the people from above.  You represent a superior class, a class whose people are more independent, have a more beautiful life, a more refined life.  Maud Gonne is surrounded with romance.  She puts from her what seems an easy & splendid life that she may devote herself to the people.  I have heard you called ‘our great lady’.  But Maud Gonne is about to pass away… 
Now I appeal of you, I whose hands are placed in yours by eternal hands, to come back to yourself.  To take up again the proud, solitary, haughty life which made you seem like one of the Golden Gods.  Do not, you who seem the most strong, the most inspired, be the first to betray us, to betray the truth…
Maud Gonne is surrounded with romance. She puts from her what seems an easy and splendid life that she may devote herself to the people. But Maud Gonne is about to pass away”.


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