When Yeats wrote that, just a few years before his homeland would separate from the UK as the Republic of Ireland, he was speaking in terms of history, having just come out of WWI.
Prophetically, the words convey the same sense of history today, as the UK decided to leave the European Union (in which, ironically, the Republic of Ireland is currently a member).
In a sparkling illustration of how democracy works, the people decided they had enough of the (previously) 28 nation conglomeration and felt they could do better on their own.
Of course, in today’s world, no one can do it “on their own”, since we live in a global economy and have nearly limitless access to instantaneous communication everywhere.
If this is simply a choice to the effect that the UK feels it would make smarter decisions without the intervention or obstruction of the EU, then it is a strong decision. If, however, it is no more than veiled isolationism, the decision will surely be disastrous.
As well, the choice will have global ramifications, beyond the immediate terrorizing of financial markets. If there is one thing, above all others, that financial markets don’t like, it is uncertainty.
Will the UK be able to handle its internal problems? Will the UK stay involved in external problems? Will those other discontent nations begin to depart the EU? Will the EU survive?
Surely some of the beleaguered countries in the EU will clap their hands in glee at the thought of expunging those restrictive rules and austerity programs forced upon them by the EU leadership. But will their economies survive long enough without the EU to show how they are better off on their own?
The decision the UK has made is world-shaking. Military power is no longer the true power for social and political change; it is undeniably economic power that rules the world. Has the UK strengthened itself of put itself on the edge of the abyss?
I cannot decide if I should be saluting the UK’s courage or mocking its short-sightedness. As with most historic events, only time and distance will reveal the answer.