AG: There was one four-line piece in the middle of “Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen”, which I always liked. It typified the intellect at Columbia University when I was there. – “We, who seven years ago/Talked of honor and truth,/Shriek with pleasure if we show/The weasels’ twist, the weasel’s tooth”. (And) did we do “The Friends of His Youth” – “Laughter not time destroyed my voice..”
Philip Whalen: No, where is that?
AG: Want to try that? It’s (page) 221, it’s a little earlier.. Or do you have anything special in mind?
PW: (Not really)
AG: Do you know that one? Let me do it then. “The Friends of His Youth”. Do you know it?
PW: I remember yeah?
AG: Do you want to do that one
PW: Well, I don’t care – [PW reads Yeats’ “The Friends of His Youth”] – “Laughter not time destroyed my voice/And put that crack in it/And when the moon’s pot-bellied/I get a laughing fit”….”And then I laugh till tears run down/And the heart thumps at my side/ Remembering that her shriek was love/And that he shrieks from pride”
Student: What poem is that now?
PW: Well, that’s out of the…
AG: That’s number seven..
AG: There’s a nice one.. another nice sexy one there, “ The Secrets of the Old” (it takes one to know one!) – [Allen reads Yeats’ “The Secrets of the Old” in its entirety] – “I have old women’s secrets now/That had those of the young…”..”How such a man pleased women most/Of all that are gone/How such a pair loved many years/And such a pair but one/Stories of the bed of straw/Or the bed of down”.
PW: I always liked these short bits in the “Supernatural Songs”, also – “There” (for example), number four – [PW reads from Yeats’ “Supernatural Songs”] – “There all the barrel-hoops are knit/There all the serpent tails are bit/There all the gyres converge in one/There all the planets drop in the Sun”
AG: “The intellect of man is forced to choose/Perfection of the life, or of the work,/And if take the second must refuse/A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark./When all the story’s finished what’s the news?/In luck or out the toil has left its mark:/That old perplexity an empty purse,/Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.”
Student: What poem is that?
AG: That’s “The Choice”.
PW: Yeah, (and then there’s) “Those Images” – “What if I bade you leave/The cavern of the mind?/There’s better exercise/ in the sunlight and wind”…”Find in the middle air/ An eagle on the wing/recognize the fire/That makes the Muses sing”
PW: Yeah, well, that’s just a list of names mostly. [PW begins reading Yeats’ “The Municipal Gallery Revisited”] – “Around me the images of thirty years” (he’s in the Municipal Gallery in Dublin, looking at pictures of his friends, by his friends, and so on. [PW reads “The Municipal Gallery” in its entirety] – “Around me the images of thirty years:/An ambush, pilgrims at the water-side;/Casement, upon trial, half-hidden by the bars,/Guarded, Griffith staring in hysterical pride…”…”..this hallowed place/Where my friends’ portraits hang and look thereon,/Ireland’s history in their lineaments trace;/Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,/And say my glory was I had such friends” – And, of course, (Ezra) Pound takes up that same theme in The Pisan Cantos, about, “to have knocked at a door.. to have..”
AG: “..A fine old eye the unconquered flame..”
PW: Yeah, exactly
AG: “To have gathered from a fine old eye…”
Diane di Prima: “To gather from the air a fine tradition, no, a live tradition, and from a fine old eye, an unconquered flame”
[Audio for the above can be found here, beginning approximately seven minutes in and
concluding approximately fifteen minutes in]