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Emily Dickinson #1325
Knock with tremor-- 33%
These are Caesars-- 33%
Should they be at Home 0%
Flee as if you trod unthinking 0%
On the Foot of Doom-- 0%
These receded to accostal 0%
Centuries ago-- 33%
Should they rend you with "How are you" 0%
What have you to show? 0%
c. 1874/1945 0%

Votes: 3

 Meta crap...

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Jan 31, 2002
 Comments: and I'm going to delete then next meta anything that I see. Instead, consider this:

More diaries by elenchos
So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Oh! I'm in such inner conflict and turmoil! Oh!
Stories I'd like to see:
To the management:
K5 and Adequacy at War: the escalation continues.
I don't know enough history to write it, but...
Is this a troll?
Has anyone heard of a book called...
Draft for a WTC joke.
I feel terrible.
You know...
One of my nutty English papers.
Terrorist or freshman?
Why I write nothing but non-fiction.
'My dog barks..'
As I'm sure you can imagine...
Giftmas break calendar.
Win fabulous /. Moderator Points in this exciting contest!
You know...
The Artist...
Robert Frost: a damn geek.
Don't waste your time reading this.
Who knew?
Paging Dr. Science, paging Dr. Science...
Damn them.
The Sorrow of Love
by W.B. Yeats
(first printed version, 1892)
    The quarrel of the sparrows in the eaves,
    The full round moon and the star-laden sky,
    And the loud song of the eversinging leaves,
    Had hid away earth's old and weary cry.

    And then you came with those red mournful lips,
    And with you came the whole of the world's tears,
    And all the sorrows of her labouring ships
    And all the burden of her myriad years.

    And now the sparrows warring in the eaves,
    The crumbling moon, the white stars in the sky,
    And the loud chaunting of the unquiet leaves,
    Are shaken with earth's old and weary cry.
The Sorrow of Love
(final version, 1925)

    The brawling of a sparrow in the eaves,
    The brilliant moon and all the milky sky,
    And all that famous harmony of leaves,
    Had blotted out man's image and his cry.

    A girl arose that had red mournful lips
    And seemed the greatness of the world in tears,
    Doomed like Odysseus and the labouring ships
    And proud as Priam murdered with his peers;

    Arose, and on the instant clamorous eaves,
    A climbing moon upon an empty sky,
    And all that lamentation of the leaves,
    Could but compose man's image and his cry.

Yeats' revision of "The Sorrow of Love"

Making explicit the reference to the Odyssey in line 12 is the most obvious change that Yeats made in his revision of "The Sorrow of Love," but beyond that, he reworked the entire poem, disambiguating several images and wordings that had created a muddy and confusing, albeit poetically attractive, total effect.

The first line shows this. In the 1892 version, there are sparrows, plural, and their brawling in the eaves is part of the noise that obscures the cry that is perhaps the central idea that this poem examines. Sparrows are proverbially petty, being worth but two (or two and a half, depending on whether you trust Luke or Matthew more) pennies. Their dispute becomes more vulgar as a "brawl" rather than a "quarrel," and Yeats averts the possible misunderstanding of their importance by removing a second reference to the sparrows in line 9. This poem is not about sparrows, and their fighting is not so dignified as to be called "warring" as it was in the old line 9, or even "quarrelling." It is a mere brawl, and in keeping with this diminishment, Yeats made it the "brawling of a sparrow;" a single miserable one, rather than at least a few of the poor things. Yeats kept them (or it) "in the eaves" because the eaves are an edge, a borderland, where uncared-for parasites like sparrows, or strangers, may take shelter without actually inhabiting the house that the eaves belong to. They lee of the eaves is a kind of no man's land, and Yeats was fascinated with places like that.

"Eaves" can also be punned as "eves" or evenings, especially for one hearing the poem rather than reading it, evoking another Hermetic borderland, the twilight, and making a nice transition to the moon and the night sky. The full moon was a special symbol in Yeats' language, being the climax of the "urge to incarnate" and, critically, an unattainable reserved zone only for "works of art and purified spirits." Take all together, "The Sorrow of Love" is a gestating poem, increasing, and striving upwards, which is one reason "arose" is used a second time in the later revision. But has not arrived yet, and in its bitter homage to the labors of Odysseus, the whole point is to glorify the ironically doomed journey, not the destination. So the moon being "full round" is a clear blunder, looking back from the point of view of Yeats' fully-formed symbolic structure. "Brilliant", yes, for it is waxing and probably on the very cusp of fullness, as befits "heroes, lovers, [and] artists" (Ellman 136), but to say that state has arrived is to subvert the whole poem.

The sky becomes "milky" rather than "star-laden," freeing us from any notion that the leaden burden of stars will so overtax the structural integrity of the sky as to bring it down on our heads. Instead we may think of the milky way, of course, and of mother's milk, in keeping with the sense of gestating towards creative birth that man, or Odysseus, or Yeats, to be specific, is laboring at. The suggestion of white color also complements the red of the muse's lips and points to the package of love, birth and death symbols that are color-coded red on white.

Yeats is enumerating some what is blocking out the cry, starting with the trivial sparrow and stepping up in importance to the moon and stars, and then to the all-encompassing song of the leaves, the pastoral lyrics of the dead Arcady. The original version undercut this rising by calling the song "loud," not exactly a complement, and the faintly praising "ever-singing." Will they ever shut up? So to keep with the ascending mode established in the first two lines, the song is now a "famous harmony," the first adjective not carrying any negative connotation and not contradicting the surmise that fame is the consequence of quality, and the second being purely complementary.

So all these things, from small to great, conspire to suppress a cry that is of the earth to be sure, but not actually Earth's cry. Later environmentalists with their Gaia mythology and perhaps some affinity for George Lucas' Force would be comfortable in thinking this is nature crying out, but Yeats makes clear that what he meant was the cry of man, an earthly, not heavenly being, who eternally strives to be seen, to have an image, perhaps a monument to his existence, and who cries out in his eternal, futile striving.

Losing the accusatory "and you came" second person address to Helen, or Maud, Yeats more neutrally simply narrates in the third person that this muse, who sympathetically mourns man's pain, and that she is the proximate cause of all this grief. But he corrects the second accusation of fault by saying that it is her that makes the world, that is, this arena of our struggle, seem great. And now he is unmistakably talking about the striving of Odysseus and Priam. Having to work to figure that out can make the reader think that is the end of it; that the point of the poem is to connect his particular striving with the mythic. But by coming out and saying it, we then keep looking for more. What is Yeats saying about the connection between his, and man's, struggles, and the classic lifelong battle?

The girl arose, the moon is climbing, and distracting brawls about nothing crowd the periphery. The ambiguity of the moon being "curd-pale" is gone, and the repetitive, and not very helpful at this point, image of the stars being white is gone. The sky is empty, so don't look up there for your answer. Again, the poetic immortalizing of this sad fight is added to this set of images, and the really important thing, "man's image and his cry" is underscored. This girl, this muse, is what creates, "composes," for struggling man his all important image, his monument. And it is her creative power that is even required to give birth to the cry of suffering that is brought forth in response to this endless labor.

What would we be without her? It isn't that we can compare ourselves to Odysseus and Priam. It is that even Odysseus and Priam, like Yeats, have this mournful-lipped girl to thank for our ability to come into being and mark our existence.



This is just a different kind of meta. (nt) (none / 0) (#1)
by luisa on Thu Jan 31st, 2002 at 11:11:58 PM PST

Art != Truth (5.00 / 1) (#2)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Jan 31st, 2002 at 11:23:51 PM PST
The 1925 version of The Sorrow of Love is technically amazing. The meter is considerably tightened up, and the verses scan perfectly: a good feel for this improvement can be gotten by reading both poems out loud. The alliteration in the poem reinforces the use of repeated words ("arose", and "man's image and his cry") and the internal rhyme ("arose/compose") in the last verse, and this repetition in turn throws into relief the use of opposites both linguistic ("milky/empty", "blot out/compose") and thematic (solitude vs. "the other", losing oneself in nature vs. having ones unhappiness reflected in the emptiness and imperfections of the world ).

The use of the words "clamorous" and "lamentation" is reminiscent of the Iliad, and plays off the Helen of Troy/Trojan War reference of the second stanza. The whole poem is almost miraculously evocative for being so concise and technically flawless. For example, the reference to Odysseus in the middle verse (where "Achilles", for instance, would have also scanned, and have been a better fit with "doomed"), is autobiographically resonant: Odysseus is notable for having had a series of unhappy love affairs (a predicament that Yeats, would surely have empathized with by this point in his life).

For all his genius, however, Yeats is off the mark. He overlooks the fact that Helen of Troy was a piece of ass, not a muse. Priam, Odysseus, and the gang were not immortalized until some entirely different person started singing songs about them. More to the point, enjoying art is better than having to suffer to create it. Who would want to be Dylan Thomas, Flann O'Brien, or Kurt Cobain, when you can enjoy their work and live a happy middle-class lifestyle accessorized with all the comforts of our modern age?

Well yes. I should have gotten into that. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by elenchos on Fri Feb 1st, 2002 at 12:52:45 AM PST
But I just suck at music, so I say as many clever things as I can about the symbols and arguments as I can and hope no one notices too much that I've ignored the fact that it is a poem we're talking about.

I caught some of the repetition though.

I don't think Yeats believed entirely that it was all about being a suffering artist. This is why "Sailing To Byzantium" ends where it began, singing of what is has been, is becoming and will be. He leaves the temporal world and becomes pure art, supposedly leaving behind monuments to the magnificance of youth, love and affairs, and enters the eternal. But the eternal is all about affairs.

Yeats was not a tragic figure who died young. He lived a very long time and had an enormously productive career. His decades in pusuit of Maude Gonne was a little on the tragic side, but he seemd to get off on the rejection. And he made up for it with fame, wealth and a really nice Norman tower to live in.

There's glory in all that. Yeats didn't suffer over Maud; he "suffered." He doesn't want to be Helen or Maud. He is saying how great it is to be Yeats. And it sounds pretty great, doesn't it?

It is also pretty great to be elenchos and you miserable whiners who come here to talk about your sad personal lives or your Quixotic obsession with hopelessly obscure computers and near-anonymous operating systems need to take a cue from this fine AR who knows how to get something out of art.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

g**ks (none / 0) (#5)
by nathan on Fri Feb 1st, 2002 at 07:20:56 AM PST
Quixotic obsession with hopelessly obscure computers and near-anonymous operating systems

Isn't that frickin' sad?

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Two words for you (none / 0) (#6)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Feb 1st, 2002 at 07:29:48 AM PST
Moral Relativism

Terseness is the sister of talent. (none / 0) (#4)
by tkatchev on Fri Feb 1st, 2002 at 01:24:32 AM PST
In my opinion, at least.

Personally, I think the simpler and terser the language in a poem, the more effective it becomes. On the other hand, using simple and immediately obvious language is a very, very difficult task -- it's much easier to fill in the "empty space" between rhythmic structures with long, malleable words, especially if they don't really mean anything. ("Star-laden", for example. Taken on its own, it is a pretty meaningless phrase.)

I think it's a shame that much of the folk poetry mankind has created has been lost in time; I believe that we have much to learn from it.

Peace and much love...

So you agree the revision is better? (none / 0) (#7)
by elenchos on Fri Feb 1st, 2002 at 11:50:19 AM PST
My main complaint against Yeats is his near-reactionary conservatism, bordering on fatalism. While his progressive friends like Maud Gonne are at least trying to make their country a better place, all Yeats can say is that "Heaven knows" how long the violence between Ireland and England will last. Yeats picked up too much of the wrong ideas from his interest in Hindu and ancient Celtic belief, falling into an excessively cyclical model of history. I mean, sure the whole aristocratic thing has its attractions, but can we do no better than that? Surely the violence in Ireland can end when people make the choice to stop fighting-- easier said than done, but nonetheless, a matter of free will, not fate.

I agree that "star-laden" is hollow. That's why I made a joke about it, that we should be afraid the sky will fall from the weight, maybe? Yeats disliked it enough to get rid of it. Did the versions get reversed or something...? Nope, they look right to me.

I'm surprised you don't join Anonyomous Reader in lauding the way Yeats imposed an even tighter structre on his later version than the original. You know he was wholly absorbed with Celtic, and other, folk poetry, myths and legends? I would think you of all people would be an admirer of Yeats.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Not sure what you mean... (none / 0) (#8)
by tkatchev on Fri Feb 1st, 2002 at 12:11:25 PM PST
Yes, the second version is much, much better. Personally, I find the first version nigh unreadable.

P.S. Regretfully, I'm almost completely unversed in English-language poetry. I'm not really qualified to comment on Yeats, since I read too little of him to make a coherent point. (I have a hard enough time keeping up with Russian poetry, especially with the amount of stuff that remains unpublished/unknown to this day...)

Peace and much love...

Well, if you knew only one 20th century English... (none / 0) (#9)
by elenchos on Fri Feb 1st, 2002 at 12:19:46 PM PST
...poet, Yeats would be the safest choice.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill


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