Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - (W.B.Yeats 6)


File:William Butler Yeats.jpg
[W.B.Yeats, 1933 - Photographed by Pirie Macdonald

Philip Whalen: Here’s the one you were looking for.

AG: There’s a moment of mental balance, where all his karmic understanding came to rest – having seen the death of early man-friends, or maddened, maddened to death, or outraged and suffering the results of their own outrage, (as well as) his own survival, he began work on a greater system of thought, which would include a phrase which he favored, “unity of being”, which I always took, when I was twenty, to be the acme of poetic ambition, to achieve “unity of being”

In “Gratitude to the Unknown Instructors” – at this time. he was also hearing.. he had been dealing with, what? séance materials?  (his wife, at night, was hearing voices, which he took down, to piece together, over decades, (into) a long epic prose-poetry work called A Vision – A Vision. Has anybody here ever seen that? A Vision by William Butler Yeats?  That’s much worth reading. If you can’t get into the whole thing, just read the first pages – the “Preface" – it’s a description of his method, his time, his thoughts at that point in relation to Ezra Pound, (and a) description of Pound’s Cantos. The “Preface” to ”A Vision”. So then you’ll maybe get into it after you look into “the Preface”

PW: Or if you get interested in some of these complicated poems



AG: But anyway..  [Allen  begins reading Yeats’ “Gratitude to the Unknown Instructors”] – “What they undertook to do/They brought to pass/All things hang like a drop of dew/Upon a blade of grass.”  [to PW] – I wonder if they know “The Tower”?

Student: What year was that?

AG: 1931

PW: or so.

AG: Do folks here know “The Tower”?  How many have read much Yeats before? – Yeah – And how many have read “The Tower”? – “What shall I do with this heart, this troubled… What shall I do with this absurdity, oh heart, oh troubled heart” – Is that too much to go through, do you think?

PW: I don’t know. Try it and see

AG: Its…heavy

PW: How many pages is it?

AG: It’s a long one. That’s the one that ends, you know..

PW: Go ahead. I don’t know.

AG: Okay, well, he’s middle-aged too, remember. "Half-dead at the top", as he says ["In mockery I have set/A powerful emblem up/And sing it rhyme upon rhyme/In mockery of a time/Half dead at the top" - the lines are from "Blood and the Moon"]  I guess, the circumstances (are) that it’s written in retirement  in the country, and maybe at the tower at one of Lady Gregory’s estates

PW: Yeah, she gave him the house after he got married, gave him this little house called “Thoor Ballylee” , where he and his wife lived. They had to re-fit it and what-not, but it had an old tower there, that he used for a study.


[Thoor Ballylee]

AG: Yeah. He married late. So when he was fifty? or forty-five?

PW: He was forty-nine or fifty (when) he married..

AG: My age!

PW: ..Georgie Shakespear, who, as it turns out, was.. let’s see, how did that work? how did that go on?.. Georgie.. it wasn’t Georgie,  Georgie somebody-else, Georgie something.. Georgie Hyde-Lees, that’s right. Georgie was related to someone who was related to that woman Dorothy Shakespear’s mother, who was Ezra Pound’s mother-in-law, and they’re all curiously inter-related


[Georgie Hyde-Lees and W.B.Yeats]
AG: Jean-Jacques Lebel, Robert Lebels son, is my French translator

PW: And then (there's) Pound’s illegitimate daughter, the  present Countess What’s-her-name?

AG: Rachewiltz (Mary de Rachewiltz

PW: Who was her mother? Her mother was..


PW: Oh, that’s right. Right . So it all works out. Everybody’s all related to everybody else. It’s wonderful!

Student: Who’s Olga Rudge related to?

PW: Her violin, I believe!



AG: (so, back to) “The Tower” – So he’s married, settled, middle-aged, beginning to face the decay of his body, looking back on the dead friends of his youth, his own “best minds" destroyed, retired from politics, more deeply into examination of his own consciousness and imagination than he had been when, as a young man, he simply followed sort of pretty symbols, living in “The Tower” [Allen reads from W.B.Yeats’  “The Tower” – “What shall I do with this absurdity -/ O heart, O troubled heart – this caricature/Decrepit age that has been tied to me/ As to a dog’s tail…” ….. “The death of friends, or death/Of every brilliant eye/That made a catch in the breath -/Seem but the clouds of the sky/When the horizon fades/Or a bird’s sleepy cry/Among the deepening shades.”

Student: Allen, would you be interested in reading the poem Lapis Lazuli?

AG: We have so much to cover and we both picked out different things that we both liked to check out and present.

PW [begins reading W.B.Yeats’ “After Long Silence”] - Speech after long  silence, it  is right/All other lovers being estranged or dead,/ Unfriendly lamplight hid under its shade/That curtains drawn upon unfriendly night,/That we descant and yet again descant/Upon the supreme theme of Art and Song:/Bodily decrepitude is wisdom, young/We loved each other and were ignorant.”

AG: Do you buy that? – (“Y)oung/We loved each other and were ignorant”?

PW: then he says..

AG: “(Y)oung/We loved each other and were ignorant”

PW: Mad as the Mist and Snow", he says [PW reads the poem, all three stanzas, Allen joins in to echo the closing refrain  to each stanza – “Mad as the mist and snow” - "Bolt and bar the shutter/For the foul winds blow/Our minds are at their best this night/And I seem to know/That everything outside us is/Mad as the mist and snow"] 

AG: Do (you want to read) the “Carry the sun in a golden cup..” ["I carry the sun in a golden cup/The moon in a silver bag"]

PW: Yeah, that one – “Those Dancing Days Are Gone” [PW proceeds to read Yeats’ “Those Dancing Days Are Gone” in its entirety - Allen again contributes/recites the refrain line - "I carry the sun in a golden cup/The moon in a silver bag"] – “Come, let me sing into your ear/Those dancing days are gone/All that silk and satin gear:/Crouch upon a stone/Wrapping that foul body up/In as foul a rag/I carry the sun in a golden cup,/The moon in a silver bag.  Curse as you may I sing it through:/What matter if the knave/That the most could pleasure you./The children that he gave/Are somewhere sleeping like a top/ Under a marble flag?/ I carry the sun in a golden cup/The moon in a silver bag/  I thought it out this very day/Noon upon the clock/A man may put pretence away/Who leans upon a stick/May sing, and sing until he drop, Whether to maid or hag/ I carry the sun in a golden cup,/The moon in a silver bag” – Yeah, that thing bout the “knave” who gave you the children and they’re all dead is, of course, the man that Maud Gonne married (what was his name? McCarthy? or McGonigle? what..who was the..? [In 1903 in Paris Maud Gonne married Major  John MacBride].  Anyway, he died, and he was killed in the revolution, or executed, I forget which. I think executed).



[Maud Gonne]

Student: Wasn’t it the airman who died?

PW: Well that’s from the (19)30’s, the middle (19)30’s.

[Audio from the above can be found here, starting at approximately fifty-two-and-a-quarter minutes in and continuing through to the end of the tape. Audio continues here for the first seven minutes of the new tape]

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