Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: W. B. Yeats

William Butler Yeats requires no introduction by me. Let me say only that the poem below is a personal favorite, as it seems at its deepest level to offer a kind of indirect poetic account of the power of nonviolence. All those in the right yet who find themselves on the wrong side of the victor's line, in Yeats' words, are "Bred to a harder thing / Than Triumph." For in the face of defeat, to refuse to resort to vengeance remains the righteous course, and just so "of all things . . . [the] most difficult." The connection seems both personal and generalizable, just as Yeats presumably intended. I hope you enjoy it as I do.

To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing

By W.B. Yeats

Now all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honour bred, with one
Who, were it proved he lies,
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbour's eyes?
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.

1 comment:

  1. From memory I love his line 'and of a sudden my body burned, and it seemed that I was blessed and could bless.'