I have been re-reading Yeats. There was a year of my life when I read nothing but Yeats. I began by reading his Collected Poems. Then I read, in an order I no longer remember:
- Irish Folk and Fairy Tales
- Collected Plays
- Essays and Introductions
- and then, Collected Poems yet again.
That was 30 years ago. I have changed. The world has changed. But Yeats remains the greatest “Modern” poet.
I open Collected Poems and pick a poem.
Fascination With What’s Difficult
by William Butler YeatsThe fascination of what’s difficultHas dried the sap out of my veins, and rentSpontaneous joy and natural contentOut of my heart. There’s something ails our coltThat must, as if it had not holy bloodNor on Olympus leaped from cloud to cloud,Shiver under the lash, strain, sweat and joltAs though it dragged road metal. My curse on playsThat have to be set up in fifty ways,On the day’s war with every knave and dolt,Theatre business, management of men.I swear before the dawn comes round againI’ll find the stable and pull out the bolt.
Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:
I swear before the dawn comes round againI’ll find the stable and pull out the bolt.
This short poem “encapsulates” Yeatsian metaphysics, if such a concept can be said to exist. We see familiar Yeatsian symbols/archetypes and words: rent, heart, holy blood, Olympus, curse, knave and dolt, war, disdain with commerce.
We see the ability to “play” with language with such mastery that it takes our breath away.
We see a work of true “Art” (with a capital “A”).