hyena foemen – purple riot – ruffian passion

For him, those chambers held barbarian hordes,
Hyena foemen, and hot-blooded lords,
Whose very dogs would execrations howl
Against his lineage

Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose,
Flushing his brow, and in his pained heart
Made purple riot

O may I ne’er find grace
When my weak voice shall whisper its last prayer,
If one of her soft ringlets I displace,
Or look with ruffian passion in her face

–John Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes

dead Brits – Shelley

I definitely struck out here. The Shelley drawer in my head until now has contained a jumble of skylarks, west wind, Defence of Poetry & Ozymandias. I have tried to tidy it up and have dutifully read up on his life and times and — even more dutifully — read, read about, and listened to the Skylark and West Wind odes, plus Hymn to Intellectual Beauty and a huge piece of the (long, long — why is everything he wrote so long?!) Masque of Anarchy. No use — I just don’t have a Shelley lobe in my brain (plus he makes me think of Fotherington-Thomas).

A Defence of Poetry ends with his poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Maybe at bottom my Shelley brain-block is philosophical.

I do have an Ozymandias lobe in my brain, though, like most people, and these are two Shelley moon notes that do actually quite rock, especially the second one (listed as a ‘fragment’):

       To the Moon

       Art thou pale for weariness
       Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
       Wandering companionless
       Among the stars that have a different birth, –
       And ever changing, like a joyless eye
       That finds no object worth its constancy?

and this:

        And like a dying lady, lean and pale,
        Who totters forth, wrapp’d in a gauzy veil,
        Out of her chamber, led by the insane
        And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,
        The moon arose up in the murky East,
        A white and shapeless mass–

(Not sure he meant this one to be funny, though.)

dead Brits or Irishmen

I’ve been reading Yeats and Blake. Quite by accident (even though there are no accidents).

Yeats has been to me until now a vague jumble of Things Fall Apart, Leda and the Swan, Innisfree, terrible beauty, Irish airmen and Irish nationalism. So I spent some time over the past few days reading up on his life and situating him chronologically, emotionally, poetically. Ditto with, a century earlier, William Blake (another accident, truly), who was an even vaguer jumble to me of Tyger, Tyger, Little Lamb, Jerusalem, the world in a grain of sand and engravings.

They are both a little more sorted in my head now. Attractive to me is that they both have this ‘before and after’ Songs of Innocence/Songs of Experience motif going. I thought first that Blake offers both as two sides of the same coin, whereas Yeats seemed to grow into the second as a repudiation of the first, but now am not so sure.

I could have warned you, but you are young,
So we speak a different tongue.
[...]
But I am old and you are young,
And I speak a barbarous tongue.

– Yeats in To A Child Dancing in the Wind.

I’ve spent some time listening to various recordings of different Yeats and Blake pieces (no offense, WBY, but yikes to this one). I’ve confirmed that I’m pretty much a text-dependent poetry reader — don’t expect me to listen to a new piece textless and get anything worth getting out of a poem. The written text is the (sine qua non) anchor and information base for me.

Also, it’s been interesting to read metered poetry on an extended basis and learn how unexpected meter combinations can throw me off if I fail to focus and identify the patterns before hoping for enjoyment. Innisfree is a good example — three lines of iambic hexameter followed suddenly by a line of tetrameter. WTF?! Byzantium another — five lines of pentameter, two lines of trimeter, one of pentameter. The whole can be very muddling and anti-enjoyment (to me) until I have worked out the overall pattern.

I have to apologize to Blake for mentally relegating him to Child’s Garden of Versedness all these years, as he is way more complicated than any box or label in my ken. (I’m still not that keen on his engravings, though.)

Favorite Blake take-aways from this period of focus are a renewed respect for and interest in “Tyger! Tyger!”, as well as the two pieces quoted in posts below: the third stanza from Mad Song (the first two don’t live up to the third, in my view) and the Sick Rose, which is amazingly dark and sinister and unsettling.

Favorite Yeats take-aways are old ones like The Second Coming, Leda and the Swan and the Lake Isle of Innisfree. New favorites are the Song of Wandering Aengus and Sailing to Byzantium.