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The Tower

Disillusionment with the physical world; 'Leda and the Swan' a violent and graphic take on the Greek myth of Leda and Zeus and 'Among School Children' a poetic contemplation of life love and the creative proce. Still reading Yeats in publishedchronological order and this feels like the apotheosis of his work especially the masterpiece 1919 His mastery of symbolism and imagery is finally complete and he combines a contemporary modernism and older formal verse into something beautiful and unpredictable in its uneasy chemistry A collection dominated by age and regret but also the belief that even as an old man he could still access hidden worlds through his art Burning Attraction reading Yeats in publishedchronological order and this feels like the apotheosis of his work especially the masterpiece 1919 His mastery of symbolism and imagery is finally complete and he combines a contemporary modernism and older formal verse into something beautiful and unpredictable in its uneasy chemistry A collection dominated by age and The Numbers Game regret but also the belief that even as an old man he could still access hidden worlds through his art

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The Tower was W B Yeats's first major collection of poetry as Nobel Laureate after the receiving the Nobel Prize in 1923 It is considered to be one of his most influential collections The title refers to Thoor. IWhat shall I do with this absurdity O heart O troubled heart this caricatureDecrepit age that has been tied to meAs to a dog s tail Never had I Excited passionate fanaticalImagination nor an ear and eyeThat expected the impossible No not in boyhood when with rod and flyOr the humbler worm I climbed Ben Bulben s backAnd had the livelong summer day to spendIt seems that I must bid the Muse go packChoose Plato and Plotinus for a friendUntil imagination ear and eyeCan be content with argument and dealIn abstract things or be derided byA sort of battered kettle at the heelIII pace upon the battlements and stareOn the foundations of a house or whereTree like a sooty finger starts from earth And send imagination forthUnder the day s declining beam and callImages and memoriesFrom ruin or from ancient treesFor I would ask a uestion of them allBeyond that ridge lived Mrs French and onceWhen every silver candlestick or sconceLit up the dark mahogany and the wineA serving man that could divineThat most respected lady s every wishRan and with the garden shearsClipped an insolent farmer s earsAnd brought them in a little covered dishSome few remembered still when I was youngA peasant girl commended by a songWho d lived somewhere upon that rocky placeAnd praised the colour of her face And had the greater joy in praising herRemembering that if walked she thereFarmers jostled at the fairSo great a glory did the song conferAnd certain men being maddened by those rhymesOr else by toasting her a score of timesRose from the table and declared it rightTo test their fancy by their sight But they mistook the brightness of the moonFor the prosaic light of day Music had driven their wits astray And one was drowned in the great bog of ClooneStrange but the man who made the song was blind Yet now I have considered it I findThat nothing strange the tragedy beganWith Homer that was a blind manAnd Helen has all living hearts betrayedO may the moon and sunlight seemOne inextricable beamFor if I triumph I must make men madAnd I myself created HanrahanAnd drove him drunk or sober through the dawnFrom somewhere in the neighbouring cottagesCaught by an old man s juggleriesHe stumbled tumbled fumbled to and froAnd had but broken knees for hireAnd horrible splendour of desire I thought it all out twenty years agoGood fellows shuffled cards in an old bawn And when that ancient ruffian s turn was onHe so bewitched the cards under his thumbThat all but the one card becameA pack of hounds and not a pack of cardsAnd that he changed into a hareHanrahan rose in frenzy thereAnd followed up those baying creatures towards O towards I have forgotten what enoughI must recall a man that neither loveNor music nor an enemy s clipped earCould he was so harried cheer A figure that has grown so fabulousThere s not a neighbour left to sayWhen he finished his dog s dayAn ancient bankrupt master of this houseBefore that ruin came for centuries Rough men at arms cross gartered to the kneesOr shod in iron climbed the narrow stairs And certain men at arms there wereWhose images in the Great Memory storedCome with loud cry and panting breastTo break upon a sleeper s restWhile their great wooden dice beat on the boardAs I would uestion all come all who can Come old necessitous half mounted man And bring beauty s blind rambling celebrant The red man the juggler sentThrough God forsaken meadows Mrs FrenchGifted with so fine an ear The man drowned in a bog s mireWhen mocking Muses chose the country wenchDid all old men and women rich and poorWho trod upon these rocks or passed this doorWhether in public or in secret rageAs I do now against old ageBut I have found an answer in those eyesThat are impatient to be gone Go therefore but leave HanrahanFor I need all his mighty memoriesOld lecher with a love on every windBring up out of that deep considering mindAll that you have discovered in the graveFor it is certain that you have Reckoned up every unforeknown unseeingPlunge lured by a softening eyeOr by a touch or a sighInto the labyrinth of another s being Does the imagination dwell the mostUpon a woman won or a woman lostIf on the lost admit you turned asideFrom a great labyrinth out of prideCowardice some silly over subtle thoughtOr anything called conscience once And that if memory recur the sun sUnder eclipse and the day blotted outIIIIt is time that I wrote my will I choose upstanding menThat climb the streams untilThe fountain leap and at dawnDrop their cast at the sideOf dripping stone I declareThey shall inherit my prideThe pride of people that were Bound neither to Cause nor to State Neither to slaves that were spat onNor to the tyrants that spatThe people of Burke and of GrattanThat gave though free to refuse Pride like that of the morn When the headlong light is looseOr that of the fabulous hornOr that of the sudden showerWhen all streams are dryOr that of the hourWhen the swan must fix his eyeUpon a fading gleamFloat out upon a longLast reach of glittering stream And there sing his last songAnd I declare my faithI mock Plotinus thoughtAnd cry in Plato s teethDeath and life were notTill man made up the wholeMade lock stock and barrelOut of his bitter soul Aye sun and moon and star all And further add to thatThat being dead we rise Dream and so createTranslunar ParadiseI have prepared my peaceWith learned Italian thingsAnd the proud stones of GreecePoet s imaginingsAnd memories of loveMemories of the words of womenAll those things whereofMan makes a superhumanMirror resembling dreamAs at the loophole thereThe daws chatter and screamAnd drop twigs layer upon layerWhen they have mounted up The mother bird will restOn their hollow topAnd so warm her wild nestI leave both faith and prideTo young upstanding menClimbing the mountain sideThat under bursting dawnThey may drop a fly Being of that metal madeTill it was broken byThis sedentary tradeNow shall I make my soul Compelling it to study In a learned schoolTill the wreck of body Slow decay of bloodTesty deliriumOr dull decrepitudeOr what worse evil come The death of friends or deathOf every brilliant eyeThat made a catch in the breath Seem but the clouds of the sky When the horizon fades Or a bird s sleepy cry Among the deepening shades Leah Starrs Revenge receiving the Nobel Prize in 1923 It is considered to be one of his most influential collections The title Pieces 8 (Pieces, refers to Thoor. IWhat shall I do with this absurdity O heart O troubled heart this caricatureDecrepit age that has been tied to meAs to a dog s tail Never had I Excited passionate fanaticalImagination nor an ear and eyeThat expected the impossible No not in boyhood when with Time Flies and Other Short Plays rod and flyOr the humbler worm I climbed Ben Bulben s backAnd had the livelong summer day to spendIt seems that I must bid the Muse go packChoose Plato and Plotinus for a friendUntil imagination ear and eyeCan be content with argument and dealIn abstract things or be derided byA sort of battered kettle at the heelIII pace upon the battlements and stareOn the foundations of a house or whereTree like a sooty finger starts from earth And send imagination forthUnder the day s declining beam and callImages and memoriesFrom Drawing Dead (Faolan OConnor Book 1) ridge lived Mrs French and onceWhen every silver candlestick or sconceLit up the dark mahogany and the wineA serving man that could divineThat most Trails & Tales of Yosemite & the Central Sierra respected lady s every wishRan and with the garden shearsClipped an insolent farmer s earsAnd brought them in a little covered dishSome few Chinas Son remembered still when I was youngA peasant girl commended by a songWho d lived somewhere upon that Welcome to the Desert of the Real rocky placeAnd praised the colour of her face And had the greater joy in praising herRemembering that if walked she thereFarmers jostled at the fairSo great a glory did the song conferAnd certain men being maddened by those Dead End Bluff rhymesOr else by toasting her a score of timesRose from the table and declared it King Noah Blindness and the Vision of Seers rightTo test their fancy by their sight But they mistook the brightness of the moonFor the prosaic light of day Music had driven their wits astray And one was drowned in the great bog of ClooneStrange but the man who made the song was blind Yet now I have considered it I findThat nothing strange the tragedy beganWith Homer that was a blind manAnd Helen has all living hearts betrayedO may the moon and sunlight seemOne inextricable beamFor if I triumph I must make men madAnd I myself created HanrahanAnd drove him drunk or sober through the dawnFrom somewhere in the neighbouring cottagesCaught by an old man s juggleriesHe stumbled tumbled fumbled to and froAnd had but broken knees for hireAnd horrible splendour of desire I thought it all out twenty years agoGood fellows shuffled cards in an old bawn And when that ancient Factory of Death rose in frenzy thereAnd followed up those baying creatures towards O towards I have forgotten what enoughI must Thirteen Plus One (The Winnie Years, recall a man that neither loveNor music nor an enemy s clipped earCould he was so harried cheer A figure that has grown so fabulousThere s not a neighbour left to sayWhen he finished his dog s dayAn ancient bankrupt master of this houseBefore that Rapid Math Without A Calculator ruin came for centuries Rough men at arms cross gartered to the kneesOr shod in iron climbed the narrow stairs And certain men at arms there wereWhose images in the Great Memory storedCome with loud cry and panting breastTo break upon a sleeper s Almost Late for School restWhile their great wooden dice beat on the boardAs I would uestion all come all who can Come old necessitous half mounted man And bring beauty s blind Seduced by My Doms (The Doms of Genesis, rambling celebrant The The Certainty of Violet and Luke (Volume 5) red man the juggler sentThrough God forsaken meadows Mrs FrenchGifted with so fine an ear The man drowned in a bog s mireWhen mocking Muses chose the country wenchDid all old men and women Kane Richards Must Die rich and poorWho trod upon these M-am săturat să fiu prost rageAs I do now against old ageBut I have found an answer in those eyesThat are impatient to be gone Go therefore but leave HanrahanFor I need all his mighty memoriesOld lecher with a love on every windBring up out of that deep considering mindAll that you have discovered in the graveFor it is certain that you have Reckoned up every unforeknown unseeingPlunge lured by a softening eyeOr by a touch or a sighInto the labyrinth of another s being Does the imagination dwell the mostUpon a woman won or a woman lostIf on the lost admit you turned asideFrom a great labyrinth out of prideCowardice some silly over subtle thoughtOr anything called conscience once And that if memory Love in the Light (Hearts in Darkness, recur the sun sUnder eclipse and the day blotted outIIIIt is time that I wrote my will I choose upstanding menThat climb the streams untilThe fountain leap and at dawnDrop their cast at the sideOf dripping stone I declareThey shall inherit my prideThe pride of people that were Bound neither to Cause nor to State Neither to slaves that were spat onNor to the tyrants that spatThe people of Burke and of GrattanThat gave though free to The Art of DOOM: Eternal refuse Pride like that of the morn When the headlong light is looseOr that of the fabulous hornOr that of the sudden showerWhen all streams are dryOr that of the hourWhen the swan must fix his eyeUpon a fading gleamFloat out upon a longLast The Protestant Temperament reach of glittering stream And there sing his last songAnd I declare my faithI mock Plotinus thoughtAnd cry in Plato s teethDeath and life were notTill man made up the wholeMade lock stock and barrelOut of his bitter soul Aye sun and moon and star all And further add to thatThat being dead we Some Kind of Wonderful rise Dream and so createTranslunar ParadiseI have prepared my peaceWith learned Italian thingsAnd the proud stones of GreecePoet s imaginingsAnd memories of loveMemories of the words of womenAll those things whereofMan makes a superhumanMirror Cabin 28 resembling dreamAs at the loophole thereThe daws chatter and screamAnd drop twigs layer upon layerWhen they have mounted up The mother bird will

W.B. Yeats  3 summary

Ballylee Castle a Norman tower that Yeats purchased in 1917 and later restored The Tower includes some of his greatest and most innovative poems including 'Sailing to Byzantium' a lyrical meditation on man's. In my review of Seamus Heaney s Death of a Naturalist I casually referred to Yeatsian idealism to contrast the earlier poet s elite modernism with Heaney s later and modest poetic of the turf and bog Facility with such phrases as Yeatsian idealism is the fruit of a general education but as poetry is in the particulars it is good for us generally educated to re consult or sometimes frankly consult for the first time the primary sources to ensure that we actually know what we re talking about To that end I decided to go beyond the freuently anthologized or selected and read an original volume by Yeats charmed by its green and gold mirrored deco design by Thomas Sturge Moore I chose the relatively late The Tower of 1928 As the received story of Yeats s career goes he began as an Aesthete and a nationalist conjuring the Celtic Twilight in languorous post Wildean lyricism but events both public and private the Irish war for independence and the subseuent civil war World War I his own tumultuous love affair with Maud Gonne and his ongoing experiences with the occult toughened his poetry into grave and austere meditations on history violence and the conflict between flesh and spirit As John Carey wrote in Pure Pleasure his lines seem to have been graven on tablets of stone from the beginning of time The Tower a collection organized around Yeats s residence at Thoor Ballyllee a Norman tower he bought in 1917 belongs to this later period of stern reflectionHow does my idealism thesis fare I had in mind poems precisely like the collection s opener Sailing to Byzantium in which the speaker lamenting that his randy compatriots both human and animal are caught in that sensual music and so neglect monuments of unageing intellect expresses his wish to cease to be human with his heart fastened to a dying animal and to be reincarnated in such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make he wants to become a mechanical bird upon a golden bough singing Of what is past or passing or to come So far so idealist But the poem in its praise for the artifice of eternity undoes all its certainties For one thing the speaker is clear about the contingent circumstance namely old age that inspires his desire to exit the humanAn 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 mortal dressThen there is the mild comedy of his fantasy of being an avian robot in the next life as if the tradition of visionary poetry had become so attenuated that Keats s nightingale and his urn have melded into one grotesue object Finally the speaker s fancied triumph is ambiguous as in his golden and artificial form he will be singing To keep a drowsy Emperor awake which is to say that he will still be mired in that sensual music however out of nature his own person Yeats s greatness inheres less in his idealism as such but in his awareness of all that both inspires and menaces it Who doesn t from time to time want to escape their dying generations and yet who canThe title poem about Yeats s inhabitation of his tower in old age and about his dead and living neighbors and his own past work makes the point still sharply that the soul must coexist with its incarnation as the poet s avowed credo And I declare my faithI mock Plotinus thoughtAnd cry in Plato s teethDeath and life were notTill man made up the wholeMade lock stock and barrelOut of his bitter soul Aye sun and moon and star all And further add to thatThat being dead we rise Dream and so createTranslunar ParadiseI have prepared my peaceWith learned Italian thingsAnd the proud stones of GreecePoet s imaginingsAnd memories of loveMemories of the words of womenAll those things whereofMan makes a superhumanMirror resembling dreamIn other words our visions and imaginings our utopias and godheads arise from our experiences our frailties and our awful mortality itself every image of the superhuman is a mirror of the human Or as he puts it in Two Songs from a Play a perfectly bizarre poem posing as an extract from a Euripidean drama about Jesus Whatever flames upon the night Man s own resinous heart has fedIn Among School Children the poet while a senator a sixty year old smiling public man tours a school and envisions his former beloved as a girl this inspires a reflection on their two souls Platonic sympathy and on how time and age ravage the child shades of Wordsworth and make mockery of all idealisms The poet insults the thought of Plato Aristotle and Pythagoras in turn as like himself Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird But the poem s bitterness modulates into an image of earthly recompense After observing that nuns and mothers worship images which is to say that devotions to real and to ideal things come to same grief because idea will always outstrip reality the speaker then rebukes the divinities with a vision of secular redemption wherein visible nature and humanity unite with the unseen spirit to produce an indivisible wholeness that cannot be divided into body and soul real and ideal Labour is blossoming or dancing where The body is not bruised to pleasure soul Nor beauty born out of its own despair Nor blear eyed wisdom out of midnight oil O chestnut tree great rooted blossomer Are you the leaf the blossom or the bole O body swayed to music O brightening glance How can we know the dancer from the dance The Ruskinian or even Marxian appeal to unalienated labor in the above stanza s first lines brings us to Yeats s politics Though Mediations in Time of Civil War finds the poet expressing envy in his thought for the soldiers who pass by his door the poem is largely a lament for his country s war torn state We had fed the heart on fantasies The heart s grown brutal from the fare a condemnation of the politics of resentment that lead to civil violence exemplified by the cry Vengeance for Jacues Molay which Yeats seems to take as a battlecry of the enraged masses due to its connection to Freemasonry and an insistence reminiscent of Walter Benjamin s axiom on civilization and barbarism that our beautiful possessions were born of violence and reared by labor and that we must take our greatness with our bitterness The famous sonnet Leda and the Swan about the rape of Leda by Zeus and the conseuent engendering not only of Helen of Troy but of the whole Trojan War voices the same lament that there can be no peace or beauty without war and violence even as it suggests that the rapt victim of inhuman forces may thereby gain inhuman power Being so caught upSo mastered by the brute blood of the airDid she put on his knowledge with his powerBefore the indifferent beak could let her drop While Yeats is one of the masculinist poets it should be noted that in one of the sonnet s several implied allegories the inspired poet is the violated female figure rather than the male violatorFinally there is the devastating Nineteenth Hundred and Nineteen a poem that has both the Irish war for independence and the Great War for its context Here the poet scorns all our enlightened and progressive complacency none of which has made the world a humane place The night can sweat with terror as beforeWe pieced our thoughts into philosophyAnd planned to bring the world under a ruleWho are but weasels fighting in a hole The poet s soul figured as a swan in this circumstance leaps into the desolate heaven and the poem ends in disgust with Salome and Alice Kyteler with witchcraft and sensuality in a whirwind and wasteland of death It is easy enough to say with Orwell that Yeats was a reactionary and a fascist Edward Said who did so much to redeem Yeats for the PC era by praising him in Culture and Imperialism as an anti colonial poet meditating on Fanonian themes in another mood I might enter this into evidence for the fascist tendencies of identity politics once wrote of Swift s Tory Anarchy The label might be applied to Yeats who admired Swift to his Tory elegy for a shattered culture of wholeness and authority to his anarchic drive toward the shaping of a soul out of the chaos of experience This conflict at the heart of his poetry is not reducible to idealism obviously though idealism is a necessary part of it and it is not reducible to a single politics And if the poet meant his wisdom only for the few the books are widely available now and their thought and feeling perhaps widely shared that he suspected As for this collection ua collection its less famous pieces are justly less famous though the long penultimate poem a blank verse narrative set at the court of Haroun Al Rashid will interest autobiographical critics and those interested in the occult as it seems to dramatize in a displaced historical fantasy Yeats s marriage to a medium Feminist critics will not care for the speaker s fear that his wife may become than a vessel for spirits may become an articulate intelligence who will challenge the seeming innocence of his love for her beauty A woman s beauty is a storm tossed banner Under it wisdom stands but in distinction to postcolonialism there is probably no rescuing Yeats for feminism despite my parenthetical effort above on the poet s identification with LedaReading Yeats is like reading Hamlet or the King James Bible it feels like perusing a dictionary of uotations But no one knew better than did the poet himself that these ideal unforgettable lines were wrenched out of painful material We must take his greatness with his bitterness


10 thoughts on “The Tower

  1. says:

    Snowed in my girlfriend cut my hair in my kitchen and I read out loud from The Tower Later that afternoon we trudged to a coffee shop through waist high snow and I finished it over a cup of extremely strong coffee The coffee shop owner had The Kinks on

  2. says:

    This is great poetry great writing; even an imbecile like me can feel that But I have to admit that it is beyond my ability to truly understand the meaning the essence of what the poet was saying and not just with this work but any poetry So I just read enjoy it or not and apply it to my life my thoughts my sensitivitie

  3. says:

    IWhat shall I do with this absurdity—O heart O troubled heart—this caricatureDecrepit age that has been tied to meAs to a dog’s tail? Never had I Excited passionate fanaticalImagination nor an ear and eyeThat expected the impossible—No not in boyhood when with rod and flyOr the humbler worm I climbed Ben Bulben’s backAnd had the livelong summer day to spendIt seems that I must bid the Muse go packChoo

  4. says:

    In my review of Seamus Heaney's Death of a Naturalist I casually referred to Yeatsian idealism to contrast the earlier poet's elite modernism with Heaney's later and modest poetic of the turf and bog Facility with such phrases as Yeatsian idealism is the fruit of a general education but as poetry is in the particulars it is good for us generally educated to re consult or sometimes frankly consult for the first time the primary so

  5. says:

    A collection of 20 poems from 1928 Highlights sailing to byzantium the tower meditations in time of civil war nineteen hundred and nineteen and a man young and old

  6. says:

    This is peak YeatsIf you want to get started with Yeats and don't feel like jumping on with a complete collected or selected edition this is a short little collection of some of his best work

  7. says:

    Is he the greatest English language poet of the 20th century? Maybe The rankings don't matter The beautiful music of these poems matters

  8. says:

    I'm uite fond of Yeats' imagery He readily invokes Rome and the great civilizations of the Middle East with language that doesn't transform them into just a clever reference Rather he manages to translate a probably mostly

  9. says:

    Still reading Yeats in publishedchronological order and this feels like the apotheosis of his work especially the masterpiece 1919 His mastery of symbolism and imagery is finally complete and he combines a contemporary modernism and older formal verse into something beautiful and unpredictable in its uneasy chemistry A collection dominated by age and regret but also the belief that even as an old man he could still access hidden w

  10. says:

    A beautiful edition from Penguin Worth every penny for Sailing to Byzantium alone

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