Yeats, I do love my Yeats, his words peel back the layers of life to reveal the raw emotions that seethe beneath. The Cloths of Heaven speaks beautifully of human vulnerability (I am reminded of the richly painted pictures of Odilon Redon when I read it), September 1913 of our venality.The Lake Isle of Innisfree speaks of the yearning to be free and recalls for me the halycon lost days of childhood while When You Are old and The Stolen Child is the future that is in store for all of us, our death, our final merging with the big world.
Then there is The Second Coming the most familiar to me purely because a friend of mine used to burst into a recitation of it as we advanced through Waterfords’ dark streets from establishment to establishment where wooden counters were worn and warm under intense elbows and glasses and bottles glinted with promise. As friends shouted and shoved, trading happy insults with the bar staff, as pints flew overhead he would stand back, fling one arm out and roar Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the centre cannot hold!
The poem, written just after World War One when the world was in shock at the slaughter of millions and when Ireland was about to lurch into chaos, speaks of a world gone mad, a world where The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity… Anyone living in modern Ireland(modern anywhere?)will recognise that world but it is also speaks of a personal world or at least a world seen through the goggles of the neurotic or the depressed.
That dread, the fear, the feeling that something bad is going to happen, is happening, the fragility and the oozing blackness that seems to colour everything, that all is rotten and nothing is good and the slouching creature that moves near is familiar to many even in times of peace. To take such feelings and and use them to paint such powerful word picture shows that even the bad times, especially the bad times, universal or personal are not only survivable but can be inspiration for great art which connects us all across the world and down the years.
THE SECOND COMING