For all those poets who feel guilty (or have been guilted) for not writing bad political poems—bad Brexit couplets, bad protest rants on racism, sexism, or Donald Trump poems that are as shitty as him—some advice from an aging Yeats is worth repeating:

 

Those Images

What if I bade you leave
The cavern of the mind?
There’s better exercise
In the sunlight and wind.

I never bade you go
To Moscow or to Rome.
Renounce that drudgery,
Call the Muses home.

Seek those images
That constitute the wild,
The lion and the virgin,
The harlot and the child.

Find in middle air
An eagle on the wing,
Recognise the five
That make the Muses sing.

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13 thoughts on “A Bit of Late Yeats

  1. I totally agree with your comment.
    Besides, you know what Nietzsche said somewhere, perhaps in Human all too human: never trust in what you did not think when in oper air

  2. Here’s another Yeats poem I’ve found consoling over the years when I’ve wanted to throw something at our political madness.

    Politics
    BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
    ‘In our time the destiny of man presents its meanings in political terms.’ THOMAS MANN.

    How can I, that girl standing there,
    My attention fix
    On Roman or on Russian
    Or on Spanish politics,
    Yet here’s a travelled man that knows
    What he talks about,
    And there’s a politician
    That has both read and thought,
    And maybe what they say is true
    Of war and war’s alarms,
    But O that I were young again
    And held her in my arms.

  3. Thanks Don. I knew I should’ve posted this poem too. For a guy who did his share of political work, it’s instructive that the last poem in his Collected is “Politics.” Even the moving commemorations of the Somme all over the UK today are more about this personal loss, rather than political madness & stupidity.

  4. Too often we don’t remember the political madness and stupidity. That is why we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Which reminds me of General Westmoreland who had 500,000 troops in Vietnam and he kept asking LBJ, “Just another 100,000 and we’ll win this thing.”

  5. Ah, Yeats! I took an experimental college course in “visionary poetry” in 1976 where Yeats was the one of the featured poets being studied. I had never encountered his poetry before that. So deep run the waters of his poetry, yet so simple, clear… and so life-giving. Thank you for sharing and re-introducing me to an old friend.

  6. One of the greatest poets the world has ever seen. True legend of the art. By the way, I have just started a blog and I post regularly, so please do check out my stuff 🙂 wordmontage.wordpress.com

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