Saturday, October 23, 2010
"Things fall apart...the centre cannot hold...."
As often happens to me, I was reading a novel ("The Owl and Moon Cafe" by the amazingly talented Jo-Ann Mapson) that mentions this line from a poem. . . "things fall apart; the centre cannot hold..." which lead me to find the poem from which it was quoted. I've been fascinated by spirals and fractals in nature for years and this poem spiraled itself right into my blog. I'm not sure I fully understand it (even after reading the commentary from Sparknotes and a few other sites), but I love the language and the overall feeling of the poem. I firmly believe we don't have to understand another person's poetry to appreciate and enjoy it. The beauty of poetry is that it can mean different things to each person who reads it.
I haven't read much Yeats, but I try to be open to the classics. I love mythology and he draws heavily from it. Check out this awesome quote from his story, "The Celtic Twilight" written in 1893:
"Paddy Flynn is dead;....He was a great teller of tales, and unlike our common romancers, knew how to empty heaven, hell, and purgatory, faeryland and earth, to people his stories. He did not live in a shrunken world, but knew of no less ample circumstance than did Homer himself. Perhaps the Gaelic people shall by his like bring back again the ancient simplicity and amplitude of imagination.....Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.—ch. 1, “A Teller of Tales"
Kind of makes you feel your own mortality, no?
Blessings & Happy Reading,
THE SECOND COMING
By William Butler Yeats
TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Commentary on this poem from: Sparknotes.com:
"Because of its stunning, violent imagery and terrifying ritualistic language, “The Second Coming” is one of Yeats’s most famous and most anthologized poems; it is also one of the most thematically obscure and difficult to understand. (It is safe to say that very few people who love this poem could paraphrase its meaning to satisfaction.) Structurally, the poem is quite simple—the first stanza describes the conditions present in the world (things falling apart, anarchy, etc.), and the second surmises from those conditions that a monstrous Second Coming is about to take place, not of the Jesus we first knew, but of a new messiah, a “rough beast,” the slouching sphinx rousing itself in the desert and lumbering toward Bethlehem. This brief exposition, though intriguingly blasphemous, is not terribly complicated; but the question of what it should signify to a reader is another story entirely.
Yeats spent years crafting an elaborate, mystical theory of the universe that he described in his book A Vision. This theory issued in part from Yeats’s lifelong fascination with the occult and mystical, and in part from the sense of responsibility Yeats felt to order his experience within a structured belief system. The system is extremely complicated and not of any lasting importance—except for the effect that it had on his poetry, which is of extraordinary lasting importance. The theory of history Yeats articulated in A Vision centers on a diagram made of two conical spirals, one inside the other, so that the widest part of one of the spirals rings around the narrowest part of the other spiral, and vice versa. Yeats believed that this image (he called the spirals “gyres”) captured the contrary motions inherent within the historical process, and he divided each gyre into specific regions that represented particular kinds of historical periods (and could also represent the psychological phases of an individual’s development)...."
Have you read much of Yeats' work and, if so, what are some of your favorite poems of his?