Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reflections Upon an Occasion of Little Consequence

Sandro Botticelli, Primavera, ca. 1482

I. Death
Many times man lives and dies
Between his two eternities
That of race and that of soul
And ancient Ireland knew it all.
Whether man dies in his bed
Or the rifle knocks him dead,
A brief parting from those dear
Is the worst man has to fear.

Though grave-diggers’ toil is long,
Sharp their spades, their muscles strong,
They but thrust their buried men
Back in the human mind again.

II. Remembrance
Irish poets learn your trade
Sing whatever is well made,
Scorn the sort now growing up
All out of shape from toe to top,
Their unremembering hearts and heads
Base-born products of base beds.
Sing the peasantry, and then
Hard-riding country gentlemen,
The holiness of monks, and after
Porter-drinkers’ randy laughter;
Sing the lords and ladies gay
That were beaten into the clay
Through seven heroic centuries;
Cast your mind on other days
That we in coming days may be
Still the indomitable Irishry.

III. Life
... A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure?
What matter if I live it all once more?
Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;
The unfinished man and his pain
Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;

The finished man among his enemies? —
How in the name of Heaven can he escape
That defiling and disfigured shape
The mirror of malicious eyes
Casts upon his eyes until at last
He thinks that shape must be his shape?
And what’s the good of an escape
If honour find him in the wintry blast?

I am content to live it all again
And yet again, if it be life to pitch
Into the frog-spawn of a blind man’s ditch,
A blind man battering blind men;
Or into that most fecund ditch of all,
The folly that man does
Or must suffer, if he woos
A proud woman not kindred of his soul.

I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.

IV. Coda
... Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

1 From W.B. Yeats, “Under Ben Bulben.”
2 Ibid.
3 From W.B. Yeats, “A Dialogue of Self and Soul.”
4 From W.B. Yeats, “The Circus Animals’ Desertion.”

© 2012 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.