Monday, August 31, 2015 1:54 PM
William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) is an interesting guy. Considered one of the pillars of twentieth-century poetry, he was born in 1865—much like our twenty-first-century pop stars who were all born in the 1980s—centuries can be a weirdly illogical dividing line. Yeats’ life was a full one—he excelled early on, and it is said that he is one of the few writers who wrote their best work after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. His poetry is like walking through a dream—he really had a knack.
It always surprises me that a great artist and creator can have such subtleties of expression and nuance of feeling—yet their relations with women are always as confused and complicated as any moron’s. It’s as if women are men’s blind spot—and if you look at the present-day struggle simply to recognize women as equal, you may consider the theory proved. What is our problem?
His poem, “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” is a strikingly beautiful bit of writing—it has been quoted in books, movies, and songs galore. One of the most famous musical-setting versions is “Yeats Songs”, for baritone & piano, by Richard Bunger Evans—I’m not crazy about ‘modern’ atonal stuff, but you may enjoy it:
Yeats Songs, for baritone & piano:
The poem also inspires its share of artwork, as well—for example:
Here are the words:
The Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
-W. B. Yeats
Gorgeous imagery, isn’t it? But isn’t Aedh being a little passive-aggressive? Aedh is one of Yeats’ three mythic characters—the others are the Artistic one and the Rational one, but Aedh is a pale, lovelorn victim of La belle dame sans merci—a passive-aggressive take on love if there ever was one. It’s not too far off from a rapist blaming his behavior on the woman’s attractive attire—as if, when men find women attractive, it’s their fault that we suffer when they fail to reciprocate our feelings. It’s as romantic as misogyny gets.
Still, it is romantic, much like when Elton John can’t remember what color eyes a girl has but still ‘loves’ her enough to write her “Your Song” (I won’t get into the details of Bernie Taupin being the lyricist—or of John being gay, for that matter). Much of our romantic-themed media is layered with latent misogyny—perhaps indicative of the confusion men feel when women want to be equals in public but still prefer a more brutish, or brutish-seeming, mate—that this is just the flip side of men’s feelings about the same things never seems to occur to us.
And speaking of gay—I think it’s possible that our emotional problems with the LGBT community are largely based on our tendencies to separate the female from the male—and when we’re struggling to meet public standards of political correctness concerning the ‘weaker sex’, gays make it all just too confusing—like an added complication that breaks our mental backs. It’s just a theory.
Anyway, I feel like I’ve wandered too far from any one topic to ever make a coherent post out of this mess, so why don’t I just offer today’s musical ‘sermon’:
You Tread On My Dreams:
O—and here’s something even weirder from yesterday: