[W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)]
AG: But we’ve missed “Crazy Jane”...
So, as his friends died, he had this imaginary… He had a monkey-gland operation! so he could fuck again! Is(n’t) that what he had?
AG: He actually got himself operated on so he could restore his sexual prowess!
PW: For about two weeks, or something.
AG: He imagined up “Crazy Jane” and “Tom, the Lunatic”, two totally irresponsible fuckers (Platonic fuckers, though!) – [Allen reads all four stanzas of Yeats’ “Crazy Jane and The Bishop”] – “Bring me to the blasted oak/That I, midnight, upon the stroke,/(All find safety in the tomb)/May call down curses on his head/Because of my dear Jack that’s dead/Coxcomb was the least he said/The solid man and the coxcomb”…” – And then she has another, Jack the Journeyman – apparently mourning the lover’s death, Jack, in other words, her boyfriend. Jack the Journeyman, the Wanderer, Crazy Jane’s ideal cock dead! – she says [ Allen begins reading from “Crazy Jane And Jack The Journeyman”] – “I know, although when looks meet/I tremble to the bone/The more I leave the door unlatched/The sooner love is gone..”…”But were I to be left alone/In an empty bed,/ The skein so bound us ghost to ghost/When he turned his head/Passing on the road that night,/Mine must walk, being dead” – Because she had a good time with him – [Allen continues] – “Crazy Jane on God” – “That lover of a night/Came when he would/Went in the dawning light/Whether I would or no:/Men come, men go:/All things remain in God” – And then there’s “..The Bishop” – [to PW] You want to “(Crazy Jane) Talks With The Bishop?, want to do “..the Bishop”?
PW: Yeah, that’s interesting, because, the thing about the house, the ruined house, that’s suddenly restored and lighted up – he uses that image in the play called “Purgatory”,which is a very interesting thing. It’s sort of an Irish Noh play that he makes out of it (in the volume of Collected Plays. “I met the bishop…” Alright..
AG (to PW): Do you want to do it?
PW: Yeah – “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.”…”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” – that’s hard – “rent” (i.e) “rended”
PW: It’s wrong, It’s the wrong word. It’s..
PW: Yeah, but then, you have to see it.
AG: And it’s also sent out for rent.
PW: I hear rent, and I think of landlord’s immediately! – I don’t know..
AG: Yeah, and submitted in humiliation to the landlord, to landlord Death, actually, to landlord Death. [Allen continues reading Yeats – “Girl’s Song”] – “I went out alone/ To sing a song or two/My fancy on a man,/And you know who/ Another came in sight/ That on a stick relied/To hold himself upright/I sat and cried/ And that was all my song -/ When everything is told,/ Saw I an old man young/Or young man old?” – So, “Her Anxiety” – “Earth and beauty dressed/Awaits returning spring/All true love must die/Alter at the best/Into some lesser thing/Prove that I lie/ Such body lovers have/Such exacting breath/That they touch and sigh./Every touch they give,/Love is nearer death/Prove that I lie”.
And then the equivalent is “Tom, the Lunatic”, equivalent to “Crazy Jane”, the male, the masculine, equivalent – [Allen reads Yeats’ “Tom the Lunatic”] – “Sang old Tom, the lunatic/That sleeps under the canopy: /”What change has put my thoughts astray/And eyes that had so keen a sight?….”…”Whatever stands in field or flood,/Bird, beast, fish or man,/Mare or stallion, cock or hen,/Stands in God’s unchanging eye/In all the vigor of its blood/In that faith I live or die”- So, he’s finally, with Jane and Tom, coming to some kind of willingness to forget about the shroud – “Something made these eyeballs weary/That blinked and saw them in a shroud”
Student: What’s the name of that one?
AG: “Prove that I lie” is “Crazy Jane”..” Her Anxiety” – number ten in the “Crazy Jane” series.
And the last, the twenty-fifth, is, finally, a summary of it all – a great harmonious summary of it all, in ten brief lines. “The Delphic Oracle Upon Plotinus”.Remember, Plotinus finally opted for a non-material world, or a Manicheanworld of some sort, or a Gnostic immaterial paradise, or some archetype that existed beyond meat. [Allen reads Yeats’ “The Delphic Oracle Upon Plotinus in its entirety] – “Behold that great Plotinus swim/Buffered by such seas;/Bland Rhadamanthus beckons him,/But the Golden Race looks dim,/Salt blood blocks his eyes./ Scattered on the level grass/Or winding through the grove/Plato there and Minos pass/There stately Pythagoras/And all the choir of Love” – Actually, I don’t know if he’s putting him down or putting him up there. But he’s putting him somewhere.
AG: He’s acknowledging both defeat, and, I guess, transposition into another… into, either a world of the imagination, of literature, or as a world of actual archetypal…
AG: ..golden-thighed lovers.
PW: (There’s a) wonderful ambiguity. (He’ll just) let it lie where it’s at
AG: We’ve only got five minutes to conclude
PW: Alright.. ”The Apparitions”.. This is a poem I tried to find for you the other day, but there wasn’t a volume of Yeats in the library – and there was this hang-up all about the coat-hanger – [PW reads Yeats’ “The Apparition” in its entirety ] – “Because there is safety in derision/I talked about an apparition.. “..”Fifteen apparitions have I seen/The worst a coat upon a coat-hanger”
AG: Which is actually terrific in terms of what we’ve been teaching – mindfulness – in this class. In other words, for all you freak-out apocalyptics, remember, fifteen apparitions has Yeats seen, and the worst was only a coat on a coat-hanger – “No ideas but in things”
PW: Well then, he tells you at the very last (that) you’d better know what you’re doing. He says in the last part here, where, “Under Ben Bulben”, 1939, about his last poem, no, (19)38, September 1938, and then he died in 1939 – [PW reads Yeats’ “Under Ben Bulben” in its entirety] – “Swear by what the sages spoke/Round the Mareotic Lake…”… “Cast a cold eye/On life. on death/ Horseman, pass by!”
[Audio for the above is available here, starting at approximately fifteen minutes in and running until the end of the tape]