Celestial home. George William Russell depicts man as a king who has descended to earth from the celestial realm he never describes. In the opening poem, “Recognition” and later in “Tragedy,” Russell anchors the idea: “Recognition’s” plowman, though a “slave” on earth, “finds himself a king” deep inside. The “gods” his “brothers” reside in this realm. The reading man in “Tragedy” is scorned by the evening stars: “King . . . thou art slave and we are free.” He is an “exile” turning “homeward” to the stars “sick and slow.” In “Comfort”: “In the great ancestral spheres waits the throne for you.”
Nature. Russell views nature neoplatonically, as a window through which readers darkly see the higher reality. The wind, clouds, and ever-passing time remind readers of the instability of life. Its beauty (well served by Russell) is a dim reflection of the higher realm’s beauty. Fittingly, the natural world provides metaphors: his arid heart is like the “arid desert sky” (“Dawn of Darkness”); the hills are altars on which “sacrifices burn.” While in this life, the wanderer is closest to his real home while in nature.
Cities. Sparse references to the urban world in these poems are invariably negative, expressed in terms such as “iron city,” the city’s “din,” and the “fierce-pulsed city.” The poet’s life typically is portrayed in villages, in cottages, and on hillsides, to which “the city” provides a dark counterpoint.
*India. Despite Russell’s Irish roots, the only land he specifies by name is India, and that in but three poems. He taps the mystical side of the land and people.