Ever since I read my first Yeats poem last year, I was in love. Completely smitten. I wanted to marry that poem. Have its babies. Wash and folds its laundry. Which is why I thought it was such a great idea (at the time) to buy a book of Yeats’ collected poems. Why have one when you can have all 382? Yes, my thoughts exactly.
Except when the book came, I wanted nothing to do with it. What was I thinking? I’m no polygamist, one is enough! And so, the months passed by and Yeats’ solemn face (see below) collected dust on my desk, and I did nothing about it but avoid his penetrating stare. I made a few halfhearted and futile attempts to leaf through some of the pages, but all to no avail. You see, poetry isn’t something that you can read in between commercial breaks after lowering the volume on the TV a couple notches. No one pulls out a book of poems when they arrive at a restaurant 5 minutes early. No one thinks, “Man, this book of poems will be perfect during my loud and noisy morning commute.” Poetry requires thought, concentration, and (at least for me), it requires you to read it aloud.
Fast forward to December 2011 as I was thinking about my resolutions for the upcoming year. I decided that it was time to get serious about Yeats - a poem a day, totally doable, right?
Friends, Romans, countrymen (it’s a curse, I can’t help myself) - it’s nearing March 2012, and while I can’t say that I’ve literally read a Yeats poem each and everyday, I’ve made significant headway and most importantly, I haven’t been a complete failure. 382, watch out, I’m coming for you.
Some of my favorite poems thus far:
28. When You are Old
When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.
76. The Fiddler of Dooney
When I play on my fiddle in Dooney.
Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,
My brother in Mocharabuiee.
I passed my brother and cousin:
They read in their books of prayer;
I read in my book of songs
I bought at the Sligo fair.
When we come at the end of time
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;
For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle,
And the merry love to dance:
And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
And dance like a wave of the sea.
48. The Song of Wandering Aengus
I WENT out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing, 5
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame, 10
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran 15
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands; 20
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.