Monday, June 15, 2009
WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS b. JUNE 13TH 1865
Under bare Ben Bulben's head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!
yeats had the good & bad fortune of being born 35 years before the turn of the millenium & living 39 years into it. i suppose somewhere in a past life someone had placed the ancient chinese curse('may you live in interesting times!')on him. on top of many other significant events he was witness to, i supose the first world war & the collapse of the world economy were two of the biggest disasters that occured during the first few decades of the 20th century. like hardy, he was a modernist before that nomenclature had been clearly defined; unlike hardy, he befriended many of the main proselytizers(pound, lewis, eliot) of the modernist aesthetic. he received the nobel prize in 1923. again, like hardy, he had a late surge of poetic production, tho his was far less dark in personal themes & terms than hardy's. he was very active politically & sexually well into his later years. certainly, his late production is marked by the opposing forces of tradition & modernity. his late poem, "the circus animals' desertion" is a clear moment of greenbergian modernism, where content & form employ "the use of characteristic methods of a disipline to criticize the discipline itself, not in order to subvert it but in order to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence."
Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.