Saturday, June 11, 2011

52 Poems (week 13)

I opened my old brown-rimmed Book of English Verse and found the section on William Butler Yeats. Of course, I'm conflicted about that sense of what it means for this Irishman's works to be 'English' verse. Can his work be claimed if it's in the English tradition?


Yeats was a practical man, and single-minded in his pursuit of a wife in his later years. At 51, he proposed to long-time lady-friend Maud, but phrased it with so many caveats, she refused. And then he proposed to her 21 year old daughter. And was firmly rejected by the little gunrunner. Finally he turned to 25-year old Georgie and was wed, producing the heirs he desperately wanted.

Leda and the Swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
 
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
 
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop? 

Photo source: Yeats

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