Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Poem for Wednesday



TO A CHILD DANCING IN THE WIND

by: W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

Dance there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water's roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool's triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind?

"To a Child Dancing in the Wind" is reprinted from Responsibilities. W.B. Yeats. New York: Macmillan, 1916.



From today's Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of the poet and playwright William Butler Yeats (books by this author), born in Dublin, Ireland (1865).

He grew up at a time when the nation of Ireland was struggling with its identity as an English colony. Most members of the Irish Protestant upper class were pro-British rule, and members of the Catholic middle class were pro-independence. It didn't help the two sides get along that Catholics were denied equal access to education, jobs, and government positions. Yeats grew up in a Protestant family, but he only cared about poetry.

In 1889, he met Maud Gonne, a beautiful actress who had become an activist and who spoke out for Irish nationalism and independence. She became the love of his life. She inspired him to use his writing as a force for national unity. Yeats came to believe that if he could get in touch with the deep, mythic history of the Irish people, he could pull the country together with poetry. Yeats spent years writing plays about Irish nationalism for Maud Gonne to star in. But by 1910, Maud Gonne had married someone else and Yeats had given up on trying to win her love. He also gave up on the idea of writing poetry for the collective soul of Ireland, and wrote instead for himself.

At the same time that he stopped trying to use poetry as a political force, he started getting directly involved in politics, and served for six years in the Irish senate. In 1922, he witnessed the end of the English occupation in all but the northern counties of Ireland. He died in 1939. A few weeks before he died, he wrote: "Man can embody truth but he cannot know it."

18 comments:

  1. when i lived in dublin for a while after college, it seemed like yeats was their patron saint. what an incredible place for writers and literary culture, and what an incredible poet.

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    1. Marie - Ireland is at the top of my vacation list at the moment. We were hoping to visit this summer, but it looks like that's not going to work. Hopefully next year.

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  2. Well I just learned something today. And I love that poem. It almost makes me misty, when I think about my kids frolicking on the beach.

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    1. Sandy - I don't know what it is with me and poems about kids on the beach/shore lately. Think I'm getting overly sentimental since my daughter's graduation...

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  3. Oh I especially love the beginning of the poem. Oh to dance on the shore...

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    1. Joan Hunter Dunn - I just loved that opening, too! The photograph seems to capture it perfectly.

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  4. Lovely - thanks for sharing!

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  5. I've read a bit of Yeats and know a smattering of his life, but I like the idea that when he stopped writing poetry for the cause, he entered politics directly and then wrote poetry for himself.

    Much as I want to believe the sentiment of the poem, I don't think kids are immune or isolated from cares, real or imagined. But, I love the dancing in the wind along the shore!

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    1. JaneGS - Sadly, I don't think children are immune from life's cares either... but it's such n appealing sentiment. Yeats lead an interesting life, judging from the little I know.

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  6. What a beautiful poem JoAnn! My favorite of his has always been "Leda and the Swan" but I'll have to check to see if my collection at home contains this one. His "Second Coming" has been quite popular in The Stand--several references to it so far. Happy birthday Yeats!

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    1. Trish - Sadly, I don't know "Leda and the Swan"... but I'm off to check on it now.

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  7. I always love these posts from you!

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  8. Children and water create unforgotten memories!

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    1. Georgia Girls - Isn't that the truth!

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  9. That's a beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing!

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