I love reading insightful discussions of the meaning of a poem. Since my favorite bloggers were on a poetry theme this week, I decided to take on the challenge. It was much harder than I imagined.
When I read poetry I am so struck by the power in the words, and the images speak to me so directly that I am stumped when it comes to saying what it means in other words. I can say why the verse speaks to me, but I have to discuss it as a direct experience.
Among the many reasons I never tire of Yeats is the subtlety of the meter and rhyme. The flow is so natural, nothing feels forced to fit. My favorites beg to be said aloud. The rhythm is the feeling as much as the words are.
Yeats’s Crazy Jane poems feature an aged woman who defies convention, argues with the Bishop, and has a deep spiritual life—on her own terms. She had a wild, passionate youth without concern for propriety—many lovers, only one of whom she loved—and she also loves God. The woman in the cycle A Woman Young and Old is not identified as Crazy Jane, yet I think of her as the voice of those poems. The stories and attitude are the same. Carnal and mystical within one breath.
Sharing some lines of Crazy Jane, so perfect I need say nothing more.
Crazy Jane and Jack the Journeyman
I know although when looks meet
I tremble to the bone,
The more I leave the door unlatched
The sooner love is gone,
For love is but a skein unwound
Between the dark and dawn.
A lonely ghost the ghost is
That to God shall come;
I—love’s skein upon the ground,
My body in the tomb—
Shall leap into the light lost
In my mother’s womb.
But were I left to lie alone
In an empty bed,
The skein so bound us ghost to ghost
When he turned his head
Passing on the road that night,
Mine must walk when dead.