His Nobel Lecture is a fascinating insight into the mind of early 20th century Ireland. Referencing Lady Gregory’s play, he said “The Rising of the Moon could not be performed for two years because of political hostility. A policeman discovers an escaped Fenian prisoner and lets him free, because the prisoner has aroused with some old songs the half forgotten patriotism of his youth. The players would not perform it because they said it was an unpatriotic act to admit that a policeman was capable of patriotism. One well known leader of the mob wrote to me, ‘How can the Dublin mob be expected to fight the police if it looks upon them as capable of patriotism?’“
When Yeats suggested “that we would like to perform ‘foreign masterpieces’, a Nationalist newspaper declared that ‘a foreign masterpiece is a very dangerous thing’!
Read Yeats’ Lecture here: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1923/yeats-lecture.html