William Butler Yeats and the Meaning of Poetry in the Modern World – 4.21.16

part of the week begins and a shortest class in history it always seems to go so quickly we discussed last time the incomprehensible Yeats the Yeats of mysticism and the Yeats who goes shopping for images and finds them wherever he can today I want to focus upon the entrance into the tower so today we move into the book called the tower as I promised and next time I’m actually going to show you images of the tower when Marsha and I did a field trip over there of sorts and and I read his poetry all over Ireland and I’ll show you some of those videos so that you get to see what it’s like actually in the tower so it’ll be it’ll be good to read that long poem of his called the tower and also that book of poems from the tower so I want to focus today on what it means to be a poet according to Yeats and I don’t know how you feel about this maybe this would be something we can discuss during the question period but I personally find it hard to read other poets after becoming addicted to Yeats because he has a kind of project that we will talk about today that is so coherent through his work that when you read other poets you feel as though they’re talking about this thing in the other but without kind of a universal set of ideas that they’re trying to pursue and that that’s I mean it is the case I think with the romantics certainly Wordsworth and Shelley and and in some ways Byron that there’s a kind of project that you can delineate but here with Yeats it really is a clear project that in the sense starts almost from the very beginning of his writings and goes all the way through the the big difference also I think with between Yeats and the romantics is that Yeats starts off old in some ways he’s born an old man and and he is I think the great poet of age and protecting one’s children and the future against the ravages of youth and chaos so we’ll look at a little bit of that today this kind of poetic project and I guess I’ll also insist today that all poetry is about poetry all poetry comments on poetry and so we’ll look at the task of what it means to be a poet according to Yeats today as I mentioned to you much of the scholarship that I did early on in my life leading up to a thesis on the tower was done with Allen Grossman well I would encourage you to take a look at if you if you feel the urge he’s kind of a modern Yeats he died I guess two years ago or so by then he was a distinguished professor of poetry at Johns Hopkins but he had been at Harvard and Brandeis forever and I mean forever I think he must have come out of the womb an old wise person and he seemed both ageless and at least a thousand years old so he seems like the right person to study in this regard so do look up you were just mentioning Chicago one of his great books is called the woman on the bridge over the Chicago River so he’d be somebody but you know in other words what does the poetic project look like in the modern world I think the Grossman is a good example so we’ll begin with a poem that is one that’s fun to memorize and fun to get to know it’s kind of the coda for Yates’s writing I think it’s a short poem that’s not discussed all that often but it’s one of my favorites is kind of a one of his endlessly haunting poems and I think that if you read it as the the parent and that’s kind of the theme today a lot of us were parents you read it as a parent trying to think of how you keep meaning alive in the world and what your task is what your task is as a writer and what your task is as a reader of poetry so we’ll begin with it the song in the old mother you’ll notice that he imagines himself in all sorts of guises in this case he’s an old mother we saw him last time in the guise of several of his characters it’s he’s he’s modern in this way this is not Milton and this is not Spencer this is somebody who has a modern sensibility but who writes with very traditional form so the song of the old mother I rise in the dawn and I kneel and blow till the seed of the fire flicker and glow and then I must scrub and bake and

sweep till stars are beginning to blink and peep but the young lie long and dream in their bed of the matching of ribbons the blue and the red and their day goes over in idleness and they sigh if the wind but lift up a tress while I must work because I am old and the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold so beautiful so beautiful I think a poem that we can all read to our children it’s insulting towards our children so you have to be careful not to explain it too much but it’s such a it’s such a beautiful image of what it is to be a poet I think and it’s such a beautiful image of the artist creating it’s beautifully constructed also of course like all of his work and maybe we can begin there I had I sinned the dawn and you know as I rise I rise in the dawn so both structurally but also phonetically the poem does what it says it’s not I rise you couldn’t do that it’s not possible I rise in the dawn the other thing that you notice if he goes I rise in the dawn there’s a laboriousness to the inn there’s a kind of repetitive repetition something that will that will go on in I rise and the dawn and then he gets down she gets down on her hands and knees in front of the fireplace and does the work i kneel and blow and of course blow being at the end of the line means she blows right into the margin she blows right into the into the white space and it is an indeterminant space into which she blows so it just you feel as though that line just keeps going you just keep blowing and blowing so it’s this constant effort till this seed of the fire flicker and glow again this effort you make it all the way it takes you the entire line to get a little bit of a glowing in the fire so it’s a huge labor to bring that and now once it’s glowing there’s a calm there’s a stop a full stop we’re at the end of the line we’re also at a punctuation so we can stop but know the work of the woman keeps going the woman stays up the man goes to sleep after a full day of labor but the woman bones must labor to be beautiful which we’ve talked about but the woman also must stay awake to maintain meaning in the world for her children and for the family and for the food in this case for the whole world so and then I must scrub so this is one is as it were that which you must do you cannot see without light you cannot exist without heat but now you’ve got a task a labor I must scrub it’s a must and bake and notice the way that this is composed you think that this line could go on for four miles but it doesn’t need to because you already got all of these tasks I must scrub karma I must fix the computer Karma can we just go to be some I guess I could just do this right hold on two seconds there it gets bigger and bigger and life becomes more and more complicated he would he would have hated this thing Dickens would have loved it and he would have hated it so that’s okay and then I must scrub and bake and sweep right and the repetition of the conjunction if insists upon the work that goes into this you have to do this and this and this and sweep till stars are beginning to blink and peep into the night but the young lie long and dream in their bed but the young lie long and dream in their bed is still 10 but it

feels like it’s 20 which is so interesting you it doesn’t it seems like a longer line that all the others but it’s not but it is the length of the night as the as the children are sleeping it’s something so beautiful and one other they’re dreaming of is just completely inconsequential things which is okay you know people need to be children the matching the ribbons the blue and the red their day goes over in idleness and they sigh if the wind would lift up a dress with Abbot’s this is and then this unbelievable to last lines that I think we can all memorize and keep repeating to our children so while you all do that well you all do that well you’re lying there well the father is asleep because he’s just tired from farming or whatever you was doing while I while so interesting to begin up with foil while I must work and you need a pause after the work it’s almost like you’re tiring well I must work cause I am oh the see the fire gets a book line Oh almost you know as you go you’re exhausted at the end of this but you’ve got to keep going so I love this I think it’s such a beautiful and never read poem but like I said I think it captures the poetic project in remarkable ways and the the rhymes which are so simple blow glow sleepy bed read idleness tress old cold first of all they’re both extremely simple rhymes rich rhymes as they’re called but also they’re all all all strangely this is a work for all visual rhymes you have lo e p– ed s and old it’s these are not so you look at it and you know that it rhymes the other thing we talked about briefly is that every poem announces a problem that you then solve or you try to which is why Ellijay poets poetry is so important the problem is death the solution is children maybe here you have the problem problem in the world is this need to keep meaning alive but the end is no real resolution the resolution is really that you’re just slowly losing the battle against chaos and against the cold and against the dark so this I think if there’s paalam that captures in just a few lines the the large poetic project this is a one and not now we’ll come to it for me maybe my favorite we’re still not in the tower we’ll be there in a second but the seams of the tower are announced here and we come to one of the most autobiographical works and in fact we come to what really is the beginning of the autobiographical poetry that lands up marking most of his life until the crazy Jane foams at the end which remained for me somewhat opaque and mysterious so we won’t get there but what do you do when your child is born he makes a prayer for both of his children his daughter and his son this one I think captures just about all of the central meaning of Yeats in one poem and I think that we’ve I’ve taken the time before we get here because I want to make sure that we set the scene he is he is in the tower and the wind is blowing the roof leveling wind is blowing towards him so let’s take a look at it it’s astonishingly beautiful once more this storm is howling and half hid under this cradle hood and coverlid my child sleeps on there is no obstacle but gregory’s would in one bare Hill where by the haystack and roof leveling wind bread on the Atlantic can be stayed and for an hour I have walked and prayed because of the great gloom that is in my mind I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour and heard the Seawind scream upon the tower and under

the arches of the bridge and screw in the Elms above the flooded stream imagining an excited reverie that the future years had come dancing to a frenzied drum out of the murderous innocence of the sea may she be granted beauty and yet not beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught or hers before looking-glass for such being made beautiful over much consider beauty a sufficient end lose natural kindness and maybe the heart revealing intimacy that chooses right and never find a friend Helen being chosen found life flat and dull and later had much trouble from a fool well that great queen that rose out of the spray being fatherless could have her way yet chose a bandy-legged smith for man it’s certain that fine women eat a crazy salad with their meat where by the horn of plenty is undone in courtesy I was want to say it in the trus area and kurta Xia in courtesy I’d have her chiefly learned hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned by those that are not entirely beautiful yet many that have played the fool for beauty’s very self has charm made wise and many a poor man that has robed loved and thought himself beloved from a glad kindness cannot take his eyes may she become a flourishing hidden tree that all her thoughts may like the Linnet be and have no business but dispensing round their magnanimity zuv sound more but in merriment to begin a chase more but in merriment a quarrel only she live like some green Laurel wanted in one dear perpetual place my mind because the minds that I have loved that sort of beauty that I have approved prosper above fiddle has dried up of late yet knows that to be choked with eight may well be of all evil chances chief if there’s no hatred in a mind assault and battery of the wind can never tear the Linnet from the leaf an intellectual hatred is the worst so let her think opinions are accursed have I not seen the loveliest woman born out of the mouths of Plenty horn because of her opinionated mind barter without horn and every goodbye quiet nature’s understood for old bellows for a love angry wind considering that all hatred driven hence the soil recovers radical innocence and learns at lasted it is self delighting self appeasing self of writing and in his own sweet will is heavens will she can though every face should scowl on every windy quarter howl of every bellows burst be happy still and may her bridegroom bring her to a house where all is accustomed ceremonious for arrogance and hatred are the wares peddled in the thoroughfares how but in custom and in ceremony our innocence and beauty born ceremony is a name for the rich horn and custom for the spreading laurel tree so you’ve seen most of these themes developed already and now he brings it to bear in one long plea on behalf of his daughter so to me in and this is where so much of what we’ve talked about comes all together this seems like a very anti modern work right you’re rooting mourning and belief and substance in custom in tradition in that which has worked up until now in the world so this is the innocence an arch-conservative conservative in the 18th century sense as in conserving values that matter poem it would seem and he brings out those values that have

had eternal truck through history as the protection against the angry wind but at the same time there’s also a kind of respect here his insistence upon the rejection of ideas of hatred and kind of false class consciousness is also present and that’s AIT’s has enormous lee complex politically it seems to me this seems just this is a very traditional plea this is something that you would read from an old family but at the same time it’s not just that in the same way that Yeats can be associated in some of his beliefs with a kind of early fascism but so too is he associated with the kind of nostalgia associated with nationalism but at the same time both his actions and his words also speak to a kind of respect for people’s differences in the world so he he’s an enormous Lee complicated person and and for somebody who’s interested in the modern world it’s easy to perhaps write off somebody like Yeats is representing the you know a world that no longer does exist and no longer should but especially as you saw last time it’s way more complicated than that and it’s a lot more interesting so we began just to highlight a few moments in here that relate directly to the things that we’ve talked about you he is literally and you’ll see this next time when I show you the videos he’s literally sitting in this tower and what he’s describing gregory’s would in one bear hill are right near the tower so this is this is his own neighborhood that he’s describing and it’s quite exact as you’ll see from from the video and the wind does blow long and and he’s got the same problem that he had in our first class which as he can’t I mean in the sense he has to solve solve a problem before going to bed right which is what we saw with the death of major Robert Gregory so what he does is he walks around he walks in phrase it’s another nice description of poetry I walked and I’ve prayed he keeps walking and building lines to try to figure out this impossible problem which is how do you do your child what we want for your child and the the laboriousness of the previous poem is also present and for an hour I have walked and prayed for an hour I walked him it’s a he’s a working man she was a working woman on her hands and knees blowing on the fire he’s a working man he’s making lines and I think that there’s an equivalence here to be made and it’s it’s again one of these consistency for an hour I walked and prayed because of the great gloom that is in my mind now you know that this guy is not lacking for words but he repeats himself two lines later for an hour I walked and prayed which so the passage of time and then he announces what he’s doing and it goes right into the margin into the white space because of the great gloom that is in my mind I have locked and prayed he starts again this time at the beginning of the line so the constant work for this young child an hour and heard the sea he wins scream upon the tower so as he’s doing it the threat is out there the threat the chaos meaninglessness so the previous threat to children was darkness and cold and now the threat is wind this foam is years and years later but the themes remain consistent all the way through his words so amazing and under the arches of the bridge and scream and the Elms above the flooded stream and now imagining an excited reverie this may recall another one that we saw what rough beast his hour come round at last slouches towards Bethlehem to be born we read last time so now you’ve got imagining an excited reverie that the future years had come dancing to a frenzied drama out of the murderous innocence of the sea now notice also just because it’s so fun to do these to pay careful attention to everything with him I if you we go up to the third line from the top here I have walked and prayed for this young child and our he’s been so consistent with the ten lot with the 10 B lines and there’s really nothing you can do here I have walked

and prayed for this young child and our you can’t do any ellipses here it’s not one where you could find a way to do a contraction that’s not a mistake you didn’t stop learning out of count he’s so obsessive about everything but you have to know that this that this is is here for a reason the 10 is 10 is that in poetry no matter how long the line 10 is then is the norm 10 is perfection 10 is your your body 10 is an accord between the self and God if you go to 11 there’s something wrong or overly right in the case of Walt Whitman and his sing a song myself and it goes on for 20 for because I so exceed 10 here and heard this sea winds scream upon the tower and you think wait second there is in fact a concern excess it’s like a kind of excess of the wind that’s here and then you have these much shorter looking lines imagining in excited revelry so he has shifted to the eleven but in what looks to be a very compact line so there’s a kind of compact chaos inside of a much shorter looking line so as you’re reading you think there’s the visual side there’s the semantic side and there’s the fanatic side and you have to do them all at the same time otherwise we’re missing out because he’s using all the tools and toolbox now the murderous innocence of the sea is also I think notable here the sea is very present in Ireland as are the storms that come in but the sea is also the place it’s an indeterminant space you may remember that Agamemnon is murdered in his bathtub in the great play from ancient Greece and I don’t know if you remember the play but before he’s murdered his wife who has a lover and is planning on killing him so that she can live with her lover says come my darling you’ve been away for 10 years fighting the Trojan War walk upon the cat this carpet this carpet I laid out this carpet for you and will bring you to your bath and he says no I’ve been away from my land for so long I need to get down my knees and kiss the soil and she says do that later that he says that this is my land I’ve been dreaming of my land and she said well walk it do me a favor walk along the carpet and come into the bath so he walks along the carpet goes into the bath where he’s murdered which means in a sense he never left the sea he never got back to the to his homeland and is killed before he’s able to touch earth that says something I think about our conception of what the sea represents being buried at sea being thrown overboard is is something that’s scary for us because you land up in this indeterminant space so he’s picking up on on a lot of these very traditional tropes as always this being I think one very particularly beautiful now Beauty is a problem for him as you know because he both is in the business of beauty his lines are beautiful and he must look you remember the line heat women must labor to be beautiful except Marcia women must labor to be beautiful so there’s a constant you know use and you’re fighting the entropy of the universe you know you’re fighting the chaos that brings us all eventually down so that would seem therefore to be an obsessive desire on his part but instead and we know this because maud gonne was the most beautiful woman in ireland that only focusing upon beauty is problematic that that that level of superficiality poses a risk in the world just as it posed and you notice this is often references to the ancient world just as opposed for Helen of Troy Helen the most beautiful woman in the Empire her beauty in a sense leads to the destruction of all of Greece so the link that’s being made here is between this Irish society which is also under siege on your threat so again we can do another class on the politics of Yeats but he’s building walls to protect himself to protect Ireland from the ravages of the sea but also from the ravages of England from the ravages of imperialism from the ravages of a modern world and so forth and so on so the

tower becomes a very powerful emblem far beyond what we’ve seen here they also chooses and I it briefly here but we forget perhaps to tell this to our children that we should have them raised in courtesy and again if you’ve studied Chaucer you know that the dictionary entry under courtesy is about 11 pages long courtesy is what Knights are trained in but in the in the medieval world in the in the Middle Ages courtesy is one of the highest of all desirable traits and it comes alongside of all sorts of other it brings women responsibility sense of history compassion truths and so forth and so on it’s interesting that he would choose courtesy that’s his chief objective to teach it to her now you notice also and again this poetry is always about poetry he is standing in front of his child and he’s speaking these words it’s like the magic of poetry is that the words somehow at least this is the hope this is the belief this is the dream that the words will accomplish their goal so when you bury somebody you read an elegy in the hope that it will somehow help you to send that person into the world into another world whatever you wish the job your task in an elegiac poem is to use words to solve the problem of death here is using words to solve the problem of life what kind of life do you have so it’s it’s a prayer it’s a wish it’s a dream that that happens in language so again nothing could be more traditional in terms of thinking about poetry the end of wealth we’ll get to the end here may she become and again this is where I think it’s it’s so beautiful the and somewhat more complex than just you know you got to do what society is always done he takes his images from nature then she become a flourishing hidden tree so the tree of course is the great symbol of the you know the solid rooted individual but it’s also the symbol of family it’s also the symbol of you know that the tree drops its branches which then fertilize the tree we need to teach contemporary consumer culture something about this the horse poops in the poop feeds the grass which then feeds the horse the horse poops so we can feed the grass and the trees the same way now we bought this farm I’m so aware of this the tree just keeps dropping branches that then slowly decay that feed the tree so the image here is one of constant renewal and that’s what he’s shooting for and of course the poem is about renewal and the reason why you write a poem like this is the same reason why you inscribe somebody’s name and cement when they die because it has to outlast normal life that’s why there’s so much work put into the poem you have no business but dispensing round their magnanimity who sound more but in merriment begin a chase nor but in merriment a quarrel I love that also that’s that’s going to be your motivating factor so there’s there’s a kind of plea here for not only tradition and so forth but also for this this kindness this gentleness this sweetness this generosity that’s all the way through here and then one of the great I think ending words of poems in the language Oh may she live like some green Laurel rooted in one dear perpetual place then he goes on so you feel as though it’s over but then he goes inside now he’s going to come into his own mind here fascinating and and it is yet another example of him talking about aging and he is the poet particularly beginning in Michael Robb artists and the dancer and in the the book that we’re moving towards now the tower obsessed by age and obsessed by trying to establish in a world in which you age

a way to remain perpetual that which we’re all doing as you know so we’re doing here certainly what I’m doing here anyway um and and he I mean it’s fun we’ve talked about the beat generation and how incredibly autobiographical they are it’s in fact a characteristic of a lot of the modern poems and poets is that they’re deeply autobiographical you need to know about him you need to his friends you know we buried some of his friends and Tower the other day we know about his lover or his hopeful lover unfulfilled mod gone we know about his children so he kind of sends out this prayer and then thinks about himself and this kind of deep contemplation and then this again we come back in a sense to the same conclusion we just drew we come back to yet another ending of the poem and may her bridegroom bring her to a house where all the customed ceremonious it’s an incredible rhyme ceremonious and house they don’t really rhyme but visually they do and you know that they belong together but the fact that they don’t go very well together might say something about the challenge of making a house ceremonious ceremony house right so look at the the impure rhymes look at the rhymes that don’t quite work if there’s something very fascinating there it’s again you have to assume when you read poetry that every single choice is there for a reason that there’s no way that there’d be one single comma or anything else out of place in particular in the traditional poetry now again it’s fun to work in the 20th century as I mostly do because if you get to know somebody like Allen Ginsberg one of the truly great American poets one of the truly great poets in the language he would read his poetry and you can hear him reading it online because it was recorded virtually every single time he reads a poem he reads it somewhat differently and he skips lines and he adds words absolutely amazing because amazing in the sense that the tradition would have it that you’ve got this perfect urn and you must you must talk about each common each line in each breath and each it’s all there for a reason but Ginsberg although he’s an unbelievably beautiful craftsman of poetry will allow himself to change the poems almost every time he reads them that is not the case with his we would get severely punished where I studied if you made a mistake transcribing a poem before you analyzed it it was akin to doing violence to the poem as I’m sure a lot of you had and I should mention I’ve mentioned is perhaps briefly but the reason for that you can blame on Vanderbilt as you probably know this method of reading it comes from Manor and it’s something that we can be I think Julie proud of the new critical method as that that under writes is kind of very formalistic reading that takes the text as a kind of perfect work that you need to to in a sense elevated understand comes from the new critics who were here and and it became the standard method of reading for decades and in fact arguably still is I mean we’ve gone through different phases of deconstruction and so forth and so on but it’s hard to not want to just say what is here and what is beautiful about it it’s like a good loving relationship but I think you fall in love with your poem and may her bridegroom bring her to a house where all is a custom ceremonious for arrogance and hatred are the wearer’s pedaled in the thoroughfares which is again interesting politically he this is not the hoity-toity aristocratic scum over there he’s not like that even as he does respect tradition and values and so forth so you can feel ambivalent about him but it’s to look at the work I think explains his politics well and then of course the question how but in custom how but in custom and in ceremony stay with the 11-hour innocence and beauty born his two favorite word’s innocence and beauty it’s Mays it’s all

the way through the corpus innocence is also another one that we should briefly name since it’s so important to him one of the goals of poetry is to teach you to look at the world as being strange astronomy as a the foremost set in Russia you poetry takes that which is recognizable and known and makes it strange in the same way that drugs do that’s why both of them are illegal we’re allowed to read the poetry that puts us to sleep but not the radical stuff we’re allowed to take the drugs that put us to sleep but not the fun stuff it renders the world strange so that you see the world through innocent eyes as though you see the world for the first time that’s the goal in poetry it is very present in the romantics who stand on cliffs and who spin around very quickly and then the world spins and so forth so that you get away from the habitual so there’s another interesting contradiction in Yates’s work which is on the one hand the celebration of the habitual and the traditional and the values but on the other the celebration of innocence innocence as in this wide I vow I’ve never seen this world before it’s amazing ceremony is a name for the rich horn and custom for the spreading Lord tree so beautiful and of course we don’t need to belabor this by now but and custom for the spreading laurel tree you know you end the poem with the root of the poem right you and you end it with it’s spreading out on the bottom so you can kind of imagine this poem has become a kind of tree and we’re about to move into the tower and of course the tower is a man-made tree as it were rooted tall ascend and so forth he then later does for his son what he did for his daughter but in a sense it’s a little bit closer to a description of the modern world and the risks that it poses and is a little bit less rooted than what we’ve seen but nonetheless and again I keep insisting upon this today all the themes that we name in this course keep coming back all the time it’s one of the great joys of reading the stuff bit of strom go stand at the head that my Michael may sleep sound nor cry nor turn in the bed till his morning meal come round and may the departing Twilight keep all dread afar to a morning’s back there’s mother may not lack her fill of sleep but the ghosts have sword and fist some there are four I avow such devilish things exist who have planned his murder for they know of some most haughty deed or thought that waits upon his future days and would through hatred of the bays bring that too not though you can fashion everything from nothing every day and teach the morning stars to sing you have lacked articulate speech to tell your simplest want and known wailing upon a woman’s need oh there’s obviously magic in here and I’m happy about that it’s just it needs to manifest itself at the right times wailing upon a woman’s need all of that worsted Nanami of flesh and bone and went through all the town there ran the servants of your enemy a woman and a man unless the holy writings lie hurried through the smooth and rough and through the firt oil and waste protecting till danger passed with human love this is a fascinating I think juxtaposition because he’s naming the route in a sense for her he’s naming the protection that she needs for him she’s he names the risks that are posed in the future in part through his own actions that he is not yet committed so the poem is trying to protect him against the actions that he himself will eventually commit and you also notice that in a sense we’re both Park talking about a child but also this insistent discussion we’re talking about poetry itself though you can fashion everything from nothing every day and teach the morning I always like to transcribe these things but it builds character but it’s also being makes

mistakes that morning star is to sing you have lacked articulate speech to tell your simplest want and known wailing upon a woman’s knee all of that were Stig Nanami of flesh and bone there is both the description of a child who can invent the world the child sees presumably experiences the world is magical and can invent it as he wishes in this case but is also completely subjected to the risks and perils of the world he’s completely vulnerable as a human being until later so it’s a it’s an interesting contrast I think to the for the daughter this is a far less frequently read poem but I think we need to read them together to understand a little bit of the project then as we complete our laying out of the themes of this course we now enter into the tower and it’s obsessive interest in preserving what it is that we’ve been talking about today so the first one that we will look at is possibly I’m sure that you’ve all read this poem possibly is most famous I guess among schoolchildren and sailing to Byzantium are probably the two most famous poems if we read them as you can tell I’m ordering them first of all I’m doing it chronologically because I think in the eights as world you have to Yeats is aging and goes through stages in life it would be a mistake I think to read it out of order if we’re doing something like this course like this but reading them the way I do you’ll see that there are purpose particular themes that come out that are particularly dear to me so here the we’ve gone from trying to figure out what you need to do for your children to try to figure out how to maintain meaning permanently so the answer to that question is family the answer to that question is tradition the answer that question is the tree the answer that question is the spreading laurel tree the roots and so forth and so on those are the answers and the answer is also that you have to establish meaning and truth as you can in the world while you’re alive so as to leave something that makes sense for the future you don’t leave you try not to leave destruction unless your current politician but you try to you try to create things that are going to be there for the future but it’s problematic and for a poet if you wish to have the voice that remains it’s deeply problematic so he comes out with a statement that I’m sure you’ve read but in this regard maybe sounds different sailing to that Byzantium so he’s sailing backwards in time that is no country for old men period that’s nope that is no country for old man adds it does that is no country for old man that’s it you’ve never seen a statement like this and Yates he stalks it he’s not even at the end of the line that’s it we’re done that’s the problem where does the rest of the place like by the young and one another’s arms now of course we saw them dreaming about colored ribbons now they’re in one another’s arms birds in the trees those dying generations oh whoops I’m the old man who knows stuff those dying generations at their song the Simon falls the mackerel crowded seas fish flesh or foul command all summer long whenever is begotten born and dies caught in that sensual music all neglect monuments of an aging intellect by rewarding this retirement age ought to be abolished that’s why it’s good to work at a place like this where there isn’t one you finally figure out this as I’d mentioned this before I’m not from this country and I this is an enormous ly complicated country i living in this country is because we just you know when you get a card and you go to the hospital I’ve never seen money and Hospital and the same thing you’re born and you get like a few little documents and then you’re just taking care it makes you know it’s simple here okay applying for college here you apply for college it’s like three questions do you want to go to college here’s a few places which one you want sign here and you going to call it and the colleges are amazing it is very simple okay McGill Concordia University of Montreal of course you never leave much relative I would you rent obviously a year ago here oh my god just just keeping your car on the road is complicated right so I mean it’s just complicated why you do it

so you finally figure it out you know and you’re a hundred and eleven years old and you finally know how to fill out the the application for the four SAT scores and nobody listens to you it’s the weirdest thing um so I know I know if he was talking about America I don’t think so but for me yeah we have to respect the unbelievable effort that we’ve all made to figure out how the hell to live here so this is his problem he’s started finally you know he’s old enough to have the knowledge that one accumulates with age but then there’s this problem that your body becomes well he calls it a coat in one poem but here an aged man is but a paltry thing a tattered coat upon a stick unless Soul Clap its hands and sing and louder sing for every tatter in its moral dress nor is there singing school but studying monuments of its own magnificence and therefore I have sailed the season come to the holy city of Byzantium forget this is too hard right yeah I’m gonna sing all of the marks on my body all the scars all of my butt oh maybe there’s another method here maybe there’s a maybe osage is standing in God’s holy fire as in the gold mosaic of a wall coming from the holy fire burn in a dire and be the singing masters of my soul consume my heart away sick with desire and fastening to a dying and fastened to a dying animal it knows not what it is and gather me into the artifice of eternity okay why because that is no damn country for old man that’s why so I need to be I need to be fastened to something right now I’m fastened on to this tattered decaying body I want to be somehow fashioned instead into eternity that’s my goal now again this is about poetry true poetry is eternal it lasts it’s it does what we’re doing today we did constantly reinvigorated so he’s talking about himself and he’s talking about the line so how do you do it once out of nature I shall never take my bodily form from any natural thing but such a form is Grecian Goldsmith’s make of hammered gold and gold enameling to keep a drowsy Emperor awake or set upon a golden bough to sing to lords and ladies of Byzantium of what has passed or passing or to come what could be more traditional than the image of the bird as the image of poetry but also this is a golden bird done in enamel and and it’s beautiful in its fashion and it’s eternal and you got The Drowsy Emperor you know using them is being kept awake by the bird as a king might be kept awake by his fool and he’s going to become that bird and he sings that what is passed passing her to come that that’s so we’ve talked about problems in solutions the problem is I’m in nature that’s my problem because nature is cyclical and therefore I’m going to decay the solution is artifice so the solution also in the same way the solution is since we can’t be trees is to erect the tower and to live in it the solution for him to take things out of nature and to make them solid and lasting and hammered out of gold which is an interesting contradiction because you see we’ve seen in the my prayer for my daughter that you want to make her like nature you want to make her like a spreading laurel tree but you also want to make her eternal and therefore consistent with human values he talks a lot about human values here so it’s contradictory and interesting the way that the rheumatics are contradictory and interesting in the case of the romantics you have Wordsworth saying we should all just be like children we just need to see the world anew well just and

he says it in language as a child wouldn’t understand to save his or her life so it’s impossible we mean and he says when you should just be pastoral you know live on the farm and dance you know you dance and you make love and you make dinner and you go to sleep and that’s the perfect life he says as he laborious Lee writes that down after having you know contemplated the history of poetry since the beginning of time these contradictions are ever-present in poetry well here you got another one this this idea of the I want to be natural I want to accord my life with the tree on the one hand but in order to do so I need to craft this bird and then turn into it now the other bird that I would want to mention here is the bird from the poem that I’m sure you all know to a nightingale unimaginably beautiful poem and in that case the the speaker listens to the nightingale and says what the hell are you doing and why are you so beautiful you have to ask this question all the time of birds what are you doing you’re beautiful be you’re like singing see for no particular reason this is that you’re just amazing from no reason you’re just amazing a bezoar you’re just singing okay that’s that’s awesome you you talk to the bird so it in ode to a nightingale he thinks and it dreams and then in a sense becomes the bird and then the bird flies wait he realizes that the bird represents his imagination here that’s not enough it’s in that regard that this is another modern very modern poem it’s not enough to become a bird in the modern world you’ve got a fashion the thing just like it’s not enough to mention the tower in the modern world you got to buy the damn thing and then move into it and that’s exactly what we’ll do now so now we’re going to move in now we’ll move in and again deeply autobiographical my house I want to tell you about my house and and I feel very strongly about this because we just bought a house and we’re no longer living on campus we we bought a farm with birds and spreading laurel trees and I bought as much damn land as I could afford all I can see is Marcia and the birds and I couldn’t be happier an ancient bridge and a more ancient tower a farmhouse that is sheltered by its wall an acre of stony ground where the symbolic rows can break and flower all ragged Elms old thorns and numerable the sound of the rain or sound of every wind that blows the stilted water hand crossing the stream again scared by the splashing of a dozen cows a winding stair a chamber arched with stone a gray stone fireplace with an open earth a candle and written page ill upon sorrow so is platanus toiled on in some like chamber shadowing forth how the demonic rage imagined everything the night of travellers from markets and from fairs have seen his midnight candle glimmering two men have found it here a matted arms gather a score of horses spent his days in this tumultuous spot were through long wars and sudden night alarms his dwindling score and he seemed castaways for yet hang and forgot and I that after me my bodily airs may find to exalt a lonely mind befitting emblems of adversity so beautiful so he buys the damn Tower and the acre of stony ground why why do you buy the acre of stony ground so that the Rose will grow that’s why you buy the acre of land and you know from reading Dante that when you get to paradies oh it’s a bunch of white roses right the Rose being the image of eternal turn allottee and perfection but he actually says it here’s why I bought the land okay it’s written Rainier I bought it so that the symbolic roads can break in flour no not even the rose he actually just says it it’s right there I’m bought I bought this to the symbolic Rose can it and then you notice here the emphasis upon certain adjectives old ragged Elms old forms right and then

also later on the I mean Stoney seems to come and and kind of hold the whole place up an acre of stony ground the stones being these sort of images of the eternal world so this is his project and as we now move into the Tower of course he’s named it in many different ways and we’ve talked about this in many different ways but now he’s he names it very very clearly and then he says okay well who else has lived here who else has been here well there was this place and he chose very carefully and he paid a fortune for it 60 pounds thank wise the the person who is here before was a warrior a mad at arms gathered a score of Horus and spent his days in this tumultuous spot so he also allies himself with a previous kind of warrior some neo aristocratic class so there’s two people of lived here in his mind of course that’s silly but that’s okay two people have lived here him this warrior and himself so I you know we mentioned the strangeness of this just think about how strange this is is the thing to do Vallely is there not near anything if you brought it a few guys has anybody been there have you been there uh-uh and it’s not near anything in particular I’ve got him but he does it because that’s where the eternal world is going to go to lie and that’s where meaning and symbolism will rest so we’ll look next time at some but I did want to leave some time for questions yeah James Joyce boys wondered one he told gates when he met him in his 20s I’ve nothing the work you can help teach me anything was it because Jake wrote in the style of Keats and Shelley and Brian and Tennyson oh that would I mean it would certainly make sense I mean Joyce and pound who Yeats knew well represented yeah of course a break from tradition but this before it always strikes me as being so interesting with when Yeats becomes Senator in the Irish state he defends Joyce as you know Joyce was attacked and his work was subjected to censorship but Yeats again that’s why I think his politics are so interesting he doesn’t say burn all of you a toys his books he says that may not be my thing and I’m not so sure I get it but we need to protect it and again it’s it’s an interesting take on conservatism conservatism has become something quite vicious I think but conservatism from this perspective is is maintaining values including protecting the values of people who want to speak as opposed to saying there’s only one thing you’re allowed to say so yeah I think that’s an interesting interesting relationship yeah right oh and a beautiful one yeah I don’t know of others there’s probably I’m guessing there’s probably in Latin America I can imagine them being in Mexico for example but it’s true and you’ve been isn’t an amazing place yeah there’s a writers museum in Dublin that is astonishing is also the Yates exhibit that you can see online that’s incredibly beautiful it’s hard to I have trouble understanding why the research this Renaissance in Ireland of writers around this period and then you go there and you sit around the coal fire and you drink whiskey and I go obviously the weather’s the weather so horrible most of the time and there’s you know it’s incredibly beautiful and amazing but and then you’ve got these coal fires which I never really seen I mean we had all these coal fireplaces in our home that we weren’t allowed to light you carry guns into parks but you can’t let your own fireplace but then considering like wow this is kind of Awesome no with the whiskey obviously in prayer for my daughter I couldn’t help but think we Shakespeare’s Polonius yeah yeah but I was wondering whether yeah I mean with him it’s always about writing it’s almost always about Ireland something he shares with choice by the way Joyce writes the greatest poem about Dublin story about Dublin and he does it in Trieste oh it’s

like he never really left and Yeats despite all ideas to the contrary did not spend an enormous amount of time in these places he seems to I mean he wrote himself in to them but he actually spent a lot of time in London he’s been a lot of time allotted place but is he talking yeah and he’s so conscious and aware of this time of the forming of the modern Irish state and the horrible brutal imperial past and imperialist past of England and so forth so yeah I think that yeah and he’s also involved in the revival of the Gaelic language so he’s very much attuned to what it would take to keep her to – I come from a place where when in 1976 through is is kind of the second silent revolution when the Parti québécois came to power on the license plates it used to be labelled province the beautiful province right and then it became jus masovia I remember like why what do you remember when the Native Americans ran the place that were you remember no no I remember when this place was French when this place was France before they lost the damn war iron that’s what I remember Jisoo yeah and he is he is remembering remembering is a big part of his his task so as he looks at his and his daughter yeah it’s hard to not imagine he’s thinking of the nascent state it makes perfect sense sure yeah yep variation some of that might be my fault from tight because I still have this terrible habit of typing and some of it is different editions revised revision subsequently and so forth so yeah yeah yet and and you know there Yates and I think Shaw is maybe the great example of this if you look at the actual manuscripts there is spelling mistakes there’s all sorts of things so the editors undoubtedly have a role here as well we could compare I have another volume that maybe we can look at but one in particular yeah it is the the publishing industry has is kind of control sometimes and input in a time with it well Shaw was interested in renovating the language the Yates was not into that but he he was I I do like to think of him as going through the world gathering images and not necessarily paying particular attention even though I’m insisting that we do as we read it so yeah any other questions about this so what we’ve done here is we’ve gone from the crazy mystical wild image seeking Yates to the very again small sea conservative eighteenth-century conservative that he is the kind of von Humboldt version of conservatism and we’ve talked about that politically but also in terms of the writing and now as we look into the tower you’ll see these themes emerging very strongly but alongside the theme of how the hell are we supposed grow old how is that supposed to happen like where’s the where’s the recipe book for that one that’s very present in here and I hear you say it in the beginning that you find them hard to read other people forward presents you started reading gates it’s hard to understand what their project is and and I say that in particular I landed up by accident well by accident I’m in the Department of wrench in Italian and I oversee the modernist collection of French works at the bandi Center Soviet land and Campbell a patina and so forth and so on and they seem like these jewels of wisdom and knowledge that we looked at briefly in the first class that a lot of them are quite short and it’s not entirely clear with you what the broad project Campbell maybe the broad project is clear because you wrote for such a short amount of time what’s the broad project of that land for example it’s I think difficult so that I’m sort of making in that you don’t get is older I’m not saying people don’t have projects a most poets have projects but I’m saying that this one is so cohesive and so coherent that you know and if you do let’s say for today another example might be reading poetry in the modern world where you all read poetry in The New Yorker hey okay here’s an image here and here’s another image here and here’s one style here’s another style use okay I don’t know how to root this damn thing I don’t know where it’s coming from it’s interesting it’s great I can hear it and so what and I can look the person up but you do feel like it’s coming that it’s addressing everything in the world

you never have that feeling with Yeats and partly because he was he was born an old soul I think also at least that’s the way I feel so ok that’s a good place for us to end how about a nice hand