"The Only Jealousy of Emer" and "Fighting the Waves"
Edited by Steven Winnett
Yeats is a poet as much of fact as of feeling. Every work of his has a source—whether from folklore, legend, mythology, the occult, or history: each a source that for him had a definite objective reality. The demands of this world and of that other world of Yeatsian spiritual reality often conflict. His verse play The Only Jealousy of Emer, particularly in its early drafts, offers a vivid portrayal of such a struggle. Premiering in 1922 in Amsterdam and first staged in Ireland at the Abbey Theatre in 1926, it marked one of the turning points of Yeats's career, because in its final form it is a synthesis of two profound experiences that were to shape his later work: his marriage to Georgie Hyde-Lees in 1917 brought him a certain degree of contentment with the joys of this world, while her automatic script provided a philosophical framework for his poems and plays.
Fighting the Waves—a prose version of The Only Jealousy of Emer staged at the Abbey Theatre in 1929 and revived in London in 1930, but never performed again—is an integral part of the history of Yeats's composition and revision of The Only Jealousy of Emer, and its manuscript drafts are therefore included in this volume as part of the direct sequence of the composition of The Only Jealousy of Emer, even though Yeats himself ultimately considered Fighting the Waves a lesser work.