So I still haven’t managed to put my Ronan Farrow crush into words and that’s probably for the best, but here we are on the eve of Yeats’s birthday and he was my first crush. How could I not fall in love with his poetry? I wasn’t the only one who loved him; Yeats is considered a central figure in Irish literature.
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
– W.B. Yeats “When You Are Old”
Between Yeats and Nureyev I was happily in love, some day I’ll have to analyze my feelings for latter. A twelve year old girl reading Yeats outside a ballet studio was a bit strange, but there I was. Let’s focus on the very handsome W.B. Yeats; clearly he has a Victorian style, but the vintage eyeglasses outline his chiseled cheekbones. Okay, I’m still wondering why Maud Gonne refused his multiple marriage proposals. Yeats never got over Maud, which may explain why he proposed to her daughter, Iseult. By the way it was decades later, which makes his proposal a little less shocking. Iseult refused Yeats as well, she went on to have an affair with Ezra Pound. Believe me, there’s a fascinating story to discover, just read her letters to Yeats and Pound.
I thought I understood Yeats, but his world was infinitely different from my own. I did not experience World War I, unrequited love, nor was I alienated from my country’s language; but I came to know him through “The Second Coming.” The caskets were draped in flags and his world was spiraling out of control. Our world has been slowly coming a part: “The blood-dimmed is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned.” It’s different, the changes have been slow, deliberate, and now we’re all a bit apathetic. His war poems guided me through years of teenage angst; I read “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” almost every day. We all struggle with identity in some form and Yeats’s poem embraces those complexities. In college I spent hours researching Yeats for an Irish poetry course, every poem felt so significant that I wondered if anyone else could affect me the way that he has. Happy birthday, W.B. Yeats.
The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats.
The Secret Rose: Love Poems by W.B. Yeats.
Edward Said’s “Yeats and Decolonization” from Culture and Imperialism.