Spontaneous Poetics – (W.B.Yeats – 4)

William Butler Yeats, by Lady Ottoline Morrell, 15-16 July 1924 - NPG Ax141697 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

W.B.Yeats in 1924  – Photographed by Lady Ottoline Morrell -Copyright The National Portrait Gallery, London

AG (to Philip Whalen): Do you want to do anything about this one, “In Memory of  Major Robert Gregory”.That’s all about his friends and he wants to…

PW: Yeah, go ahead.

AG: Well, continuing this theme – both of friendship and the death of (a) friend – (which, for me, was a major influence in “Howl”). Actually, oddly enough, despite the disparity of forms, (this is) another phase of, say, withdrawal from worldly business, retirement from the world, and (withdrawal) to a somewhat aristocratic hermit-(like)…  [tape ends here, then resumes (in media res)] …and the political independence  struggle in Ireland, heroes (dead, or worn down)..”In Memory of Major Robert Gregory” is a long, sort of very formal set of twelve stanzas, similar in structure to a series of poems he wrote later on (like “Among School Children”) – [Allen reads “In Memory of Major Robert Gregory” in its entirety] – “Now that we’re almost settled in our house/I’ll name the friends who cannot sup with us…”…”I had thought seeing how bitter is that wind/That shakes the shutter, to have brought to mind/All those that manhood tried, or childhood loved./Or boyish intellect approved,/With some appropriate commentary on each./Until imagination brought/A fitter welcome, but a thought/Of that late death took all my heart for speech” –  That’s really full of feeling, and full of interesting detail. I don’t know if you see the relationship, (but) I took that somewhat as a model for, say, rhapsodies in praise of dead, dying, or maddened, friends in “Howl”, and in a lot of poems, like “To Frank O’Hara” (“City Midnight Junk Strains”) – Yes?

Student: There’s Yeats’ famous poem, “Vacillation..

AG: “Man runs his course between extremities”, or something (Between extremities/Man runs his course..”)

PW: It’s right here some place, I saw I a minute ago.

Student: There’s another poem that I think… the poem for his daughter. (“A Prayer For My Daughter”)

AG: Well, we’re trying to work through it chronologically (sort of). Where are they?

PW: I saw the “Vacillation” a minute ago, wait a minute… page 245…

Student:  (Reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s) ” Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat/I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that”

AG: Uh-huh. that’s right, yeah, that’s right.

Diane di Prima [also sitting-in on the class]:  Past friends. A lot of the same imagery.

AG: Dylan has read Yeats, actually – about 1967. In (19)67, Dylan read a lot of Emily Dickinson , (W.B.) Yeats, (William) Blake, (Arthur) Rimbaud. I think that song is since then. [to Philip Whalen] What have you got there?

PW: It’s for you. I was just.. I thought maybe you might.. he asked you to read it.. I thought..

AG:  Where is that? “Vacillation”?

PW: It’s interesting, though, because it uses some of the same images that are in that poem that you wanted to do about “Among School Children”. Why don’t you do the “Among School Children” one?

PW: 212.

AG: Well, what I like is 212, because I’m beginning to feel like that! –  It’s called Among School Children” [Allen reads Yeats’ “Among School Children” in its entirety] – “I walk through the long schoolroom, questioning./A kind old nun in a white hood replies/The children lean to cipher and to sing..”…”O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,/How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

PW: I think it’s another one of those break-through…

Student: What was the name of that?

AG: “Among School Children”. Actually, what is the one that ends, “in the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart”? (“I must lie down where all the ladders start/In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart”)

Student: “ (The) Circus Animals’ Desertion”? 

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-one minutes in and continuing until approximately forty-three minutes in]  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *