Be Secret and Exult

It is National Poetry Month here in the US, so I thought I would offer one from my favorites:

To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing

By William Butler Yeats

Now all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honor bred, with one
Who were it proved he lies
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbors' eyes;
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.

 

Comments 4

 
Rosy Cole on Sunday, 08 April 2018 21:18

Sadly, for me, it's always a challenge to chime with the gloomy Yeats. This, though more optimistic, doesn't answer either: To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph but it does have spirit.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/podcasts/77020/to-a-friend-whose-work-has-come-to-triumph

It would be good to think that dedicated writers were content to cast their bread on the water and let the universe have the final word. Writers don't fail simply because they receive no acclaim. (But thanks for posting!) :-)

Sadly, for me, it's always a challenge to chime with the gloomy Yeats. This, though more optimistic, doesn't answer either: [i]To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph[/i] but it does have spirit. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/podcasts/77020/to-a-friend-whose-work-has-come-to-triumph It would be good to think that dedicated writers were content to cast their bread on the water and let the universe have the final word. Writers don't fail simply because they receive no acclaim. (But thanks for posting!) :-)
Stephen Evans on Sunday, 08 April 2018 21:50

I think this poem is interesting in so many ways. First, he is writing to a friend. Second, he agrees the friend's work has come to nothing. I don't know if that is gloomy but surely it is harsh. The friend is defeated when the truth is out, by one who lies, and whom no one cares if he lies (an appropriate political reference for our times). But mostly I love the last 8 lines.

As I get older I try to judge my life - my work I always judge of course, for better or worse. But judging a life - so much more complex. Live your life "like a laughing string whereon mad fingers play amid a place of stone". I see joy in that, at least, and it brings me comfort.

I think this poem is interesting in so many ways. First, he is writing to a friend. Second, he agrees the friend's work has come to nothing. I don't know if that is gloomy but surely it is harsh. The friend is defeated when the truth is out, by one who lies, and whom no one cares if he lies (an appropriate political reference for our times). But mostly I love the last 8 lines. As I get older I try to judge my life - my work I always judge of course, for better or worse. But judging a life - so much more complex. Live your life "like a laughing string whereon mad fingers play amid a place of stone". I see joy in that, at least, and it brings me comfort.
Rosy Cole on Sunday, 15 April 2018 08:48

Steve, I'm not sure that either of us has fully understood this badly crafted poem, at least from the point of view of its perspective. (And, yes, I do say that of WBY!) :-)

Steve, I'm not sure that either of us has fully understood this badly crafted poem, at least from the point of view of its perspective. (And, yes, I do say that of WBY!) :-)
Stephen Evans on Sunday, 15 April 2018 15:37

Then I shall be secret and exult :)

Then I shall be secret and exult :)
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Rosy Cole Florence
17 June 2020
Thank you for your delightful comment. It is good to reflect on a way of life that has been lost.
Stephen Evans Florence
16 June 2020
Enjoyed this so much. Charming, evocative, and lyrical.
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