Saturday, June 13, 2015

Happy 150 B-day, William Butler Yeats, from the Girl with the Yellow Hair

Of all the poets I love, Yeats is first among equals in my heart. His sensibility, the imagery, the unrequited love of Maude Gonne, founding of the Abbey Theatre, the Irish Republic Nationalism coming from a scion of the Protestant Ascendancy: Yeats is simply magical from every angle. Wiki tells us that the Nobel Prize Committee described his work as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation."

His phrases and imagery are instantly recognized and much beloved around the world: that "pilgrim soul" and he who "hid this face amid a crowd of stars; that is no country for old men; an aged man is but a paltry thing/a tattered coat upon a stick; wings have memory of wings; tread softly; a terrible beauty is born; I know that I shall meet my fate/Somewhere among the clouds above; Those that I fight I do not hate/Those that I guard I do not love; nearly every line of The Second Coming: Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity. . . And what rough beast, its hour come round at last/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I studied Yeats quite a bit in college and grad school, but there was one poem I had not read until a psychiatrist I was going to brought it up in a session. I never understood the dear doc's point, but I love that Yeats had some thoughts specifically for blondes.  "For Anne Gregory"

NEVER shall a young man,
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-coloured
Ramparts at your ear,
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.'

'But I can get a hair-dye
And set such colour there,
Brown, or black, or carrot,
That young men in despair
May love me for myself alone
And not my yellow hair.'

'I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.