The Irish case does not figure in Elie Kedourie’s Nationalism, except in one undeclared respect.footnote1 Below the book’s titleface there stands a passage from Yeats’s ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’:

We pieced our thoughts into philosophy,
And planned to bring the world under a rule,
Who are but weasels fighting in a hole.

The epigraph is interesting on two counts: firstly, for the way it has been selectively torn out of context. The powerful preceding lines of the stanza run:

Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare
Rides upon sleep: a drunken soldiery
Can leave the mother, murdered at her door
To crawl in her own blood, and go scot-free;
The night can sweat with terror as before

‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’ was written, as its name suggests, in the midst of the Irish war of independence. The ‘drunken soldiery’ were Lloyd George’s imperial forces, then brutally holding much, though not all, of Ireland against its will. The poem contrasts Ireland’s sunny confidence before the Great War, when ‘we dreamed to mend/ Whatever mischief seemed/ To afflict mankind’, with what unfolded after: ‘We, who seven years ago/ Talked of honour and of truth/ Shriek with pleasure if we show/ The weasel’s twist, the weasel’s tooth’.footnote2