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Thread: Yeats

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008

    Default Yeats

    Might as well have a separate thread because I'm destined to bang on about him somewhere or other on here, forevermore.

    Last night I read the two versions he did of 'The Sorrow of Love' - one in the 1893, one in 1925.

    It's fascinating to see what he changed, how he had improved and sharpened his craft by 1925. (I believe under Pound's influence, among other things.)

    The poem itself is fascinating, although I think you might appreciate it more if you know about his life and his arc as a poet—from a mystical poet, mesmerised by the imagination (faeries and so on) to a discontented, agonised old man, dragged into the world of political action by his great love, the aristocratic and revolutionary Maud Gonne.

    The Sorrow of Love (1893)

    The quarrel of the sparrows in the eaves,
    The full round moon and the star-laden sky,
    And the loud song of the ever-singing 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 curd-pale 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 (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.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008


    I don't think every line is an improvement, FTR, but certain images are much more arresting:

    "curd-pale" moon must have become "crumbling moon" at some point as that's the version I read last night, but both are supplanted by "a climbing moon upon an empty sky" - which for some reason I find a very stark and striking image.

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