Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Those poets have a way with words

After writing today's post about toothbrushes and bacteria, I somehow thought of the poem "Crazy Jane Talks With the Bishop," by William Butler Yeats, which says the same thing. Or, sort of the same thing. Or a related thing.

So, without further ado, I hereby reproduce it in its entirety:

I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
'Those breasts are flat and fallen now,
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty.'

'Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul,' I cried.
'My friends are gone, but that's a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart's pride.

'A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.'

The fact is that the body has its attendant messinesses. Probably best to accept that as some sort of yin-yang truth about life.


At 3:46 PM, April 05, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

Neo: Nice catch, and thank you. That poem in turn, reminds me of this one by Yeats' compatriot, Swift; however, I think in Swift's case it was more about justifying his abhorrence of all intimacy. Certainly, the "Celia, Celia, Celia" line is hard to forget. Hard for me to forget, anyway. ;-)

At 4:09 PM, April 05, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

You use your poetry part of your brain a lot, you know that, Neo?

At 4:23 PM, April 05, 2006, Blogger Sissy Willis said...

Crazy Jane is huge in my memory bank, also:

Crazy Sissy talks with the Harvard man"

I love your post. It has everything -- man, nature, man's eternal quest to conquer nature. But, of course, nature always has the last word.

At 4:40 PM, April 05, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Steve: that "Celia, Celia, Celia" line is one I came across long ago, also. Memorable, indeed! It is interesting how, in Swift, the motivation was a very dark one that included revulsion; the same thoughts expressed by Yeats convey much more acceptance of the human body and its seeming dichotomies.

ymarsakar: I do indeed. I don't know whether you caught this post, but that's how it seems to work for me. I had to memorize a lot of poetry while growing up, but I loved poetry so much that I naturally read it and learned it, anyway.

sissy: I guess we're all just right-wing nutcases, as our critics claim :-).

At 9:10 PM, April 05, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

I was wondering about the influence of a focus on poetry on other kinds of thinking.

Now that I think about it, I remember that the military likes the poem, IF.

Google, if you want the poem itself.

I never liked poems much. But some poems catch the soul. IF does that.

This one does as well.


I'm a visual thinker, and at times, I wouldn't call it dyslexia, I can't understand some things that are written in ways different than I have learned. Hard and complicated words, different formats. Such as poems are hard to read, and harder to understand. But some poems, the visual ones, are not hard to read or understand.


Other poems like Xanadu were also very nice and serene. Frost is also understandable, although he doesn't engender the same image and feelings as IF and Xanadu.

I has had a intellectual affinity with Tommy.

I cannot help but think that my way of thinking has impacted the things I have read or are able to read. Some things I cannot read, because it is either boring or extremely hard.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Take up the White man's burden --
Send forth the best ye breed --
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild --
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

Take up the White Man's burden --
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times mad plain.
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

Take up the White man's burden --
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard --
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light: --
"Why brought ye us from bondage,
"Our loved Egyptian night?"

A couple of broken excerpts. I have no difficult understanding the above quoted portions. But I don't understand 90% of other poems, unless I reread it 5 times, and aloud.

Is there a prose/pentamic perameter difference between the ones that I understand and the ones, like the one you used here, that is hard to understand?

At 11:51 PM, April 05, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Ymarsakar: I'll have to mull that one over. But I do know that most people don't seem to like poetry much unless it's very accessible, as most of Kipling is. I myself don't like extremely difficult and obscure poetry either, but my definition of that may be quite different than yours. Poetry has always been something I was drawn towards; not sure why, but that's the way it is.

And, by the way, the poem "If" was one of the many I had to commit to memory in junior high. It's pretty much with me stil; I could probably recite a significant amount of it from memory.

At 4:06 AM, April 06, 2006, Blogger The probligo said...


I think you got the right idea there. I have not yet found a poem that did not cry out to be read aloud... as loud as possible, or as soft and intimate as needed.

A thought there - the best reader of poetry ever recorded would have to be Dylan Thomas.

Favourites? Too many to list. Depends upon the mood. At the moment I am in the Fourth Fit of "Hunting of the Snark" but that is not everyone's cup of tea. GMH, despite the fact that he was a Jesuit wrote some fantastic and extremely "difficult" verse. And ol'William McGonagal - fantastic as well!!

At 6:31 AM, April 06, 2006, Blogger goesh said...

-some verse is simply meant to vex:

unlike the rose
you have hair imbedded in the nose

At 11:10 AM, April 06, 2006, Blogger goesh said...

I think we all very much appreicate the variety of our blog.

At 11:10 AM, April 06, 2006, Blogger goesh said...

your blog - some can spell, some can't

At 1:44 PM, April 06, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Goesh: my blog belongs to the people :-).

At 7:07 PM, April 06, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Power to the People of the Proletariant. May the glorious workers reign for a thousand years!


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