Friday, April 03, 2009

Civilization and its contents

I've been reading Yeats lately. Despite all the time (and prose) he devoted to his "ideas," it's hard to imagine a great poet with less to say. And this isn't because he relied on inspiration: notwithstanding his loony notions of automatic writing, this is the guy who claimed to write his poems out in prose, then versify them. If that's so, I wonder what prose paragraph this started with--

Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood's woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love's bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.


Lift your tender eyelids, maid, my Aunt Fanny. I believe the classically Woosterian response to this is, "Pish. Oh, and tosh, too."

And yet. And yet. Was Yeats a great poet? You betcha. I'd sigh with contentment if I could have written those last 4 lines, and I have no idea what they mean. It's a very mysterious thing, Great Poetdom.

5 comments:

Nic Sebastian said...

Um, I think you mean Great PoetHOOD. HOOD. Surely.

Anonymous said...

Here is the Poet Hood:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hood

Agnes said...

Of course you love those lines, Richard. Come on. Wood and breast. What's not to love? ::smooch::

epsteinsternator said...

Is that "conTENTS" or "CONtents"?

RHE said...

I'd say both. That's the fun of it, isn't it?