Lately I have been: very busy; excessively busy; even ridiculously busy. Today was an elevenses day, an important birthday, and in less than a month I shall be buried by much in the way of graduation frolics. Overnight company to the tune of twelve... So I have been chopping and hoeing my yard and drudging and scrubbing my nest in order not to be shamed at various set-at-home events. I long for a gardener and a maid, but I long in vain. If you would like to be my gardener and maid, please inform me by the nearest fast-flying kestrel or any other winged thing—even a grackle would be acceptable.
Thank you for not abandoning me in the midst of my toils, all you note-leavers and email-senders and wafters-by… I have stayed in my burrow and worked, and I have not gone visiting or been much in evidence. Perhaps that is the way things should be. I’m not sure. I’m still thinking about it.
One of the reasons I have been busy is that I paused in the writing of stories and immediately was swept away by a spring spate of poems that has lasted for a pleasing-and-unusual length of time. They are very green, full of leaves and blossomings and mystery and muse. Much form, much narrative, much of a muchness…
Meanwhile I have read several rather stupid books, alas. I seem to have been reading the wrong novels. But I have also been reading Yeats and Charles Causley again, as well as some medieval and Anglo-Saxon poems. Most are re-reads, but I have also read the Robin Hood poems for the first time. It’s hard to say how old they are, as most of the existing copies seem to be rather late. X
June-bug resolution: memorize or revive the memory of one poem per week. We’ll see how long that lasts! This week: re-learned “Margaret, are you grieving.”
FROM KEANE, YEATS’S INTERACTIONS WITH TRADITION
Yeats and Blake
For Yeats, who agreed with his mentor Blake that “the thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest,” “works of art are always begotten by previous works of art” and “supreme art is a traditional statement of heroic and religious truths passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius, but never abandoned.”
In the “arts just as in ethics . . . all there is or has been on earth of freedom” and “masterly sureness” has developed only because of sustained “obedience” to what the undisciplined resent as “the tyranny . . . of capricious laws.”
The “most natural” state of the artist, “giving form in the moment of inspiration,” is “far from any letting himself go”; strictly and subtly” the artist “obeys thousandfold laws precisely then.”
Nietzsche and Yeats
This paradoxical fusion of autonomy and obedience, of gaiety under self-imposed constraint, is shared by Yeats, who eschews “free verse” in favor of those “traditional meters . . . I compel myself to accept” and without which “I would lose myself, become joyless” (E&I 522).