Monday, September 26, 2011

A Sense Of Mystery

Got into one of the lifts at work today to find a copy of Yeats's The Lake Isle of Innisfree pinned up on the back wall. This was both puzzling and an entirely good thing. Actually I was pretty sure who put it there, and confirmed my suspicion within five minutes by a trip to the desk of the perpetrator. Sadly I never thought for a moment it was anyone from my own department.

The real mystery about the poem is why it works at all. Those opening lines are incredibly clumsy: I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, / And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made. I mean W.B. just keeps repeating himself, doesn't he? How many times exactly does he intend to go? And since we know he will build his dinky cabin why the seemingly redundant made just a few words later? But, of course, the sense of stasis is the whole point. Notice that syntactically the shed seems to get made by someone else. He hasn't gone anywhere, and he won't. And he won't build or make anything, anywhere, except in glorious vulnerable words. Though, I suppose he builds in song. Everything about those vowel sounds says sing me yearningly. (Just as a matter of interest I was quoting from memory initially when I wrote the lines above - I checked them a minute ago, then edited - and I wrote I must away incorrectly as the first three words. How much richer Yeats's phrase sounds than mine!)

It's odd, you know, to find yourself hearing a bee-loud glade in a lift in a busy school.

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