By William Butler Yeats:
NO SECOND TROY
Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?
“No Second Troy” is reprinted from The Green Helmet and Other Poems. W.B. Yeats. Dundrum: Cuala Press, 1910.
ON BEING ASKED FOR A WAR POEM
I think it better that in times like these
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.
“On Being Asked for a War Poem” is reprinted from The Wild Swans at Coole. W.B. Yeats. New York: Macmillan, 1919.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was an Irish poet, dramatist, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years Yeats served as an Irish Senator for two terms. He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, and along with Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn founded the Abbey Theatre, serving as its chief during its early years. In 1923, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature for what the Nobel Committee described as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.” He was the first Irishman so honored. Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers whose greatest works were completed after being awarded the Nobel Prize; such works include The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929). (Annotated biography of William Butler Yeats courtesy of Wikipedia.org.)
Editor’s Note: I’ll be honest, I do not tend to be a fan of rhyming poetry. As a result, I tend to overlook many of the greats of yesteryear, such as Longfellow, Keats, and Yeats – to name a few. However, my mother informs me that William Butler Yeats was a relative of ours, being of the same Butlers from which my family comes. Having presented me with that information, my mother promptly informed me that I should feature Mr. Yeats on my Saturday Poetry Series. Well, what kind of a Jewish daughter would I be if I did not heed the subtly guilt-ridden instructions of my mother?
Of course I would not publish something that I do not stand behind, so I perused Mr. Yeats’ work and found two pieces that I am pleased to share here today. “No Second Troy” I adore for both its story and its end line. “On Being Asked For a War Poem” I find wholly appropriate for As It Ought To Be in that it explores the relationship between the poet and politics. I was doubly pleased as I learned more about Yeats to find that he himself was a politician in addition to a poet.
May the relationship between poetry and politics live long and prosper, and may poets have the power to make the change we want to see in the world, as it ought to be.
Want to read more by and about William Butler Yeats?
The National Library of Ireland Presents The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats
The Literature Network
The Poetry Archive