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Stephen Evans

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Stephen is a playwright and author of The Marriage of True Minds, The Island of Always, Painting Sunsets, A Transcendental Journey, and Funny Thing Is: A Guide to Understanding Comedy

Revisiting Yeats

I am re-reading Richard Ellman's fine biography of W. B. Yeats. Unlike so many biographies, even by Ellmann (see Joyce and Wilde), this one is fairly short. But even so, I can conclude that Yeats was a very curious man (in the many senses of the word), and probably my favorite poet. My favorite poem of his likely changes each time I read him. But here is today's:

 

 
I
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
II
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
III
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
IV
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

 

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
101 reasons to be depressed: W B Yeats.( :-) ) Very fine poem, though. But there is another side of the coin and I am sufficiently... Read More
Saturday, 01 June 2024 12:01
Stephen Evans
No doubt What an image of the afterlife for a poet though - set upon a golden bough to sing. that is what out poems are, fashio... Read More
Saturday, 01 June 2024 13:54
Rosy Cole
What if only God is listening? Thomas Gray should have said: Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And yiel... Read More
Sunday, 02 June 2024 10:41
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It's a Theory

Grand thoughts, (and Shakespeare must often have sighed over this truth) as they are most naturally and most fitly conceived in solitude, so can they not be brought forth in the midst of plaudits without some violation of their sanctity...the qualities which dazzle at first sight, and kindle the admiration of the multitude, are essentially different from those by which permanent influence is secured. Let us not shrink from following up these principles as far as they will carry us.

 

William Wordsworth

Essay of 1815

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
If this is a sample of the poet's wisdom and writing, where's the encouragement to read his work?
Wednesday, 01 May 2024 11:05
Stephen Evans
I don't know, but if I ever get any plaudits I will be on my guard.
Wednesday, 01 May 2024 22:15
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The Breath and Finer Spirit

 

Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science. Emphatically may it be said of the Poet, as Shakespeare hath said of man, ‘that he looks before and after.’ He is the rock of defence for human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with him relationship and love. In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs: in spite of things silently gone out of mind, and things violently destroyed; the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. The objects of the Poet’s thoughts are everywhere; though the eyes and senses of man are, it is true, his favourite guides, yet he will follow wheresoever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge—it is as immortal as the heart of man. If the labours of Men of science should ever create any material revolution, direct or indirect, in our condition, and in the impressions which we habitually receive, the Poet will sleep then no more than at present; he will be ready to follow the steps of the Man of science, not only in those general indirect effects, but he will be at his side, carrying sensation into the midst of the objects of the science itself. The remotest discoveries of the Chemist, the Botanist, or Mineralogist, will be as proper objects of the Poet’s art as any upon which it can be employed, if the time should ever come when these things shall be familiar to us, and the relations under which they are contemplated by the followers of these respective sciences shall be manifestly and palpably material to us as enjoying and suffering beings. If the time should ever come when what is now called science, thus familiarized to men, shall be ready to put on, as it were, a form of flesh and blood, the Poet will lend his divine spirit to aid the transfiguration, and will welcome the Being thus produced, as a dear and genuine inmate of the household of man.

 

William Wordsworth

Preface to the Lyrical Ballads

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Keep the Heart

Sunset
 
 
 
                                          Nor in this bower,
This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark'd
Much that has sooth'd me. Pale beneath the blaze
Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch'd
Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov'd to see
The shadow of the leaf and stem above
Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree
Was richly ting'd, and a deep radiance lay
Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
Through the late twilight: and though now the bat
Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,
Yet still the solitary humble-bee
Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know
That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure;
No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes
'Tis well to be bereft of promis'd good,
That we may lift the soul, and contemplate
With lively joy the joys we cannot share.
 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
This poem was written following the first visit of William and Dorothy Wordsworth to Coleridge,, who had recently settled at Nethe... Read More
Saturday, 13 April 2024 14:16
Rosy Cole
Thank you for this :-)
Tuesday, 16 April 2024 15:30
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2 Comments

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