Friday, June 13, 2008

Poetry Friday - 14

It's been a slightly chaotic couple of weeks as I've recently started a second (part time) job (I need the cash, and this one let's me get out of the house !), so Poetry Friday slipped out of my schedule. However, I'm back this week to celebrate the birthday of one of Ireland's greatest poets, W B Yeats in 1865.

Yeats was Anglo-Irish, which means that his family belonged to the ruling minority class in Ireland, a Protestant upper class that still had strong ties to England, unlike the largely Catholic, and frequently disenfranchised, lower classes. But Yeats himself always felt a strong connection to Ireland and was particularly captivated by the landscape of County Sligo in NW Ireland, where his mother's relatives lived.

His father, John B Yeats, was a painter, and he moved the family to London when William was three. Yeats hated London and didn't do very well at school; he was half-blind in one eye and was generally far more interested in daydreaming than in learning to read. He always felt spiritually at home in Sligo and fortunately his family moved back to Ireland, to Howth on Dublin Bay, in 1880. In 1885 the Dublin University Review published Yeats' first two poems.

Yeats' first published volume of poetry, The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889), brought to his door a young woman named Maud Gonne. His yearning for Maud and his inability to attain her haunted him for almost all his life. He proposed in 1891 and again in 1916, but was refused by Gonne on both occasions.

Yeats founded the National Literary Society and what would go on to become the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. J M Synge and Ezra Pound were close friends of Yeats, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.

Here are three of his poems that I love:


He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.



I first fell in love with this poem when Anthony Hopkins' character recited it in the film version of 84 Charing Cross Road.


A Drinking Song

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.



Never give all the heart

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.



Is it me, or are the last two lines just a little bit heart-breaking?


This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at A Wrung Sponge

16 comments:

Karen E. said...

Love, love, love Yeats.

Michele said...

And me !!

Kelly Fineman said...

Love Yeats. Although I went with Byron today. But Yeats is one of my favorite and my best (to quote from Charlie & Lola).

Michele said...

I don't know Byron terribly well, but I've read a lot of Yeats' poetry (by choice not because I had to)...

Mary Lee said...

Happy birthday to Yeats and welcome back to poetry Friday to you!

Michele said...

Thanks Mary !

Kelly said...

Michele: It always warms my heart to see you :)

Also, I'm glad you're earning a bit more money and getting out of the house some. That's always good :) I hope you like your new job.

Michele said...

Thanks Kelly H !

The new job's working in a not-very-busy shop - and hysterically, gives me more time to write ! Getting paid to write whilst at work has to be the best bit, I'd say ! Although having extra (necessary) cash and getting out of the house to interact with people is also good !

Cloudscome said...

You are right - those last two lines get me every time. Hope you are finding time to enjoy your summer between your two jobs.

Michele said...

Glad to know it's not just me Cloudscome !

As for enjoying the summer, I'm planning a Shakespeare summer - three different productions in three months, two in Oxford and one at the RSC (with the Tennantalicious David ! :D)

Camille said...

So you when will you get to see your David T? Which play is he doing? We will want every detail.

FYI: Entling no. 2, who has such similar tastes in books and television as you, almost went MAD this past Friday when our cable was out and she missed the Dr. Who/Agatha Christie episode that was airing. She was almost inconsolable. (I think she found it since on the 'net) Whovians are fierce in their devotion.

Michele said...

David's doing Hamlet and Love's Labours Lost from July to December. I'm going on September 5 (as there's an after-show talk with him and Patrick Stewart) - it's an early 40th birthday present.

And yes, I will be posting a report here (I'll probably be incoherent with joy for a while!)

I empathise with Entling no. 2 - on two occasions I've had to wait until Sunday morning to watch it on iPlayer (the BBC's legal internet means of viewing) - and I got up at 4.30 am to do so !!

BookMoot said...

OH! Patrick Stewart AND David T. How WONDERFUL!! Seriously, we will need a full accounting.

Michele said...

LOL I won't be able to *shut up* about it ! I fully expect to witter on for days (weeks even) afterwards !

Ms. Yingling said...

Cloths of Heaven was also recited in Ballykissangel. It was a bit tacky, but I cried anyway. What's with BBC and randomly killing characters?

Michele said...

What's with BBC and randomly killing characters?

I have no clue!