Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why Yeats is great

In my blog reading this morning, I learned that today is the 147th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats. This from Today in Literature:

On this day in 1865 W. B. Yeats was born in the Sandymount area of Dublin. Until his mid-teens, Yeats's youth was mostly spent not in Dublin but divided between London, where his father attempted to establish himself as a painter, and his mother's hometown of Sligo, on Ireland's Atlantic coast. In Reveries over Childhood and Youth -- #39 on the Modern Library's list of the best hundred non-fiction books of the 20th century -- Yeats describes his time in Sligo as a portal to the story-spirit world that would be of such importance to his life and poetry....

It was here that Yeats saw his first fairy, sliding down a moonbeam; at the age of twenty-seven he was still seeing them, at Rosses Point, when they came in a rush of noise and music to the magic circle he had drawn in the sand. On this occasion the "queen of the troop" wrote back in the sand, "be careful & do not seek to know too much about us." Yeats did not follow this advice. His first published poem was "The Song of the Faeries," and his increasingly complex -- some say embarrassing -- theories and visions and spirit-studies were a lifelong obsession.

All right, the guy was a little strange. But he could string words together like nobody's business. Here's one I really like:

The Song of the Old Mother

I rise in the dawn, and I kneel and blow
Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow.
And then I must scrub, and bake, and sweep,
Till stars are beginning to blink and peep;
But the young lie long and dream in their bed
Of the matching of ribbons, the blue and the red,
And their day goes over in idleness,
And they sigh if the wind but lift up a tress.
While I must work, because I am old
And the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold.

While I am a middle-aged mother and have just become an empty nester, it's my grandmother who comes to mind when I read that. She was a farmer's wife and the mother of nine children.

I shook off my reverie, telling myself to forget the poetry; I needed to find something to blog about and then I had to get to work on my novel. I went back to scanning blogs for ideas--and look what I found at The Kenyon Review:

Here’s why Yeats is great: He can make you a better kisser.

You can't not read a blog entry that begins that way, and I didn't not read it. I bet you can't not read it, either, so I'm not going to quote it here, but encourage you to click over there and--

Hey. Where'd everybody go?


BJ said...

Here's to Uncle Willie, my favorite poet, and to those who write about him as well. God rest his soul and bless yours.

And, yes, didn't he have a few strange inclinations, even as he made music with his words.


Anonymous said...

I love the book excerpt! My favorite part was when she used Anna Karenina as a weapon. ha! :-)

Brenda Coulter said...

B.J., I should have figured that a good Irish lady like you would be a Yeats fan. Thanks for stopping by.

Julia, the book was originally Little Women, but my editor said "Little Women is not that heavy. What about Anna Karenina?"

I rushed to my bookshelf and compared the two books, both of which I have in hardcover. The rest is history....

(If anyone doesn't know what we're talking about, see this page of my website.)