Friday, January 11, 2013

Aimless Reading: The Y's, Part 4 (William Butler Yeats)

The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats
Yeats, William Butler
The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

Given to me by the Mulholland family when I was in college. Before that, it seems to have belonged to the Davis Community Library in Bethesda, MD. I had a copy of the selected poems that I used in a couple of classes in college, but I got rid of it a few years ago during one of the pre-move prunings of my library. Weird, spell check does not like "prunings." There are many occasions when I really wish spell check would leave my words alone. This is one of them.

I really have pruned a lot of books in the last five years. Before we moved to New Haven, I got rid of seven boxes. Although many of them fell outside the purview of this project, those boxes surely would have kept Aimless Reading going for the next few months.

I am starting to wonder what I am going to do when I hit that final book in a week or so. It seems impossible that I am already up to Z. I probably have another six months' or a year's worth of books that I have acquired since I began the project, but which have been left out because the author's last name began with a letter I had already covered.

But that doesn't seem quite right. Most important for me is the daily habit writing. Also, the delving into my memory to reconstruct whatever I can from the past. I also like the public aspect. Even if the daily readership here is modest, I like knowing that what I write is being read by a few loyal eyes. I write for an audience.

On the other hand, this project has always had a structure and a telos and we have almost arrived. It will be time to move on to something else.

But what? But what.


Adam’s Curse

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,   
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,   
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.   
Better go down upon your marrow-bones   
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones   
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;   
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet   
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen   
The martyrs call the world.’
                                          And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake   
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache   
On finding that her voice is sweet and low   
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing   
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be   
So much compounded of high courtesy   
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks   
Precedents out of beautiful old books;   
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;   
We saw the last embers of daylight die,   
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky   
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell   
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell   
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:   
That you were beautiful, and that I strove   
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown   
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

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