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By William Shakespeare, Liang Shiqiu

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Extra resources for King Lear (The Complete Shakespeare Translated by Liang Shiqiu, Book 33) (Bilingual Edition)

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44 In this way, the modern world literature anthology revisits a general question concerning the project of the European Enlightenment – and, inferentially, the cultural prestige of Paris. Voltaire’s ironic preface to his Philosophical Dictionary written in 1764 provides a definitive instance of reflection upon the bind of the modern compendium of ‘world’ materials: This book does not demand continuous reading; but at whatever place one opens it, one will find matter for reflection. […] It is only really by enlightened people that this book can be read; the ordinary man is not made for such knowledge; philosophy will never be his lot.

Self-consciously exiled from the whole drama, which would allow direct correspondence between addressor and addressee, the ‘lonely’ lyric voice requires from the reader explication of its own absent conditions. Jahan Ramazani points the way here by reminding us how unusual it is for a military poem of any stripe to lack an afterlife image: there is no implied redemption in Yeats’s poem; and unlike Tennyson’s famous Victorian elegy for the Duke of Wellington, which celebrates the dead man as a soldier who fought nobly for an official cause, the Irish Airman is left only with the existential thrill of his own finitude.

On the other hand, however, his work entailed a rejection of French cosmopolitanism and the supremacy of Paris as a literary space. The counsel he famously gave to Synge to ‘give up Paris’ was only a version of the advice he had been following himself for years. The complexity of Yeats’s position was worked out through his poetic practice and marked most conspicuously in the lyrics which comprise the collection often regarded as the culmination of his early-period work, The Wind Among the Reeds (1899).

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