Thursday, September 17, 2009

A birthday post

W. B. Yeats was just my age today -- seventy-three -- when in 1938 he wrote his last poem, or at least his last published poem, "Politics":
How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics,
Yet here's a traveled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there's a politician
That has both read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms.
Indeed. War and war's alarms, health care, recession -- I leave all that to those who know what they talk about, as I once thought I did (and still do, if truth be told). Perhaps it's a cop-out, but so what? I gave it my best shot. And now -- well, there's that girl standing there, rebuking folly with her loveliness, her innocence.

The tomatoes ripen on the vine, the waterstriders and whirligigs skitter on the surface of the pond, the moon rises tinged with amber. May 1938: the world teeters on the brink of apocalypse. Yeats would be dead within a year. In his penultimate poem he wrote: "Now that my ladder's gone/ I must lie down where all ladders start/ In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart."

Rag and bone shop of the heart, yes, but, no, not foul. Tomatoes ripen on the vine, waterstriders and whirligigs skitter on the surface of the pond, the moon rises tinged with amber. And there's that girl standing there, who takes no notice of me, rebuking folly with her youth, her loveliness, her innocence.