I walked into my doctor’s office and stood staring, gobsmacked, at this book on the table. Did someone publish my blog? How did my doctor find it? I’ve used his line for so long, I almost forgot it belonged to W.B. Yeats. Of all the lines of all the poems on all the books in all the doctors’ offices in the world, mine had this one on her desk? Kinda spooky. I’m taking it as a good omen. I’m taking it as a sign that I should stick with her even though she doesn’t accept insurance and I feel like I’ll go bankrupt with long-term care. Signs from the universe go a long way in keeping me hopeful.
When I was a child–somewhere around 10 or 11–I used to carry a book of Yeats poetry around with me. I have a memory of sitting upstairs at the back of a bus (Dublin buses were double-deckers) nose stuck in this 1965 edition (my name is written in shaky kid letters on the edge of the pages, the way you do when you bend the book one way to get the first name and then the other way to get the last name), but mostly I know I did this because, over the years, my mother has fondly mentioned this odd obsession. Yeats is still one of my favourite poets and, when I started this blog, I took one of the lines that always stayed with me (because I was a dark young thing), the last line of this poem:
The Circus Animals’ Desertion
BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last being but a broken man
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.
What can I but enumerate old themes,
First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
But what cared I that set him on to ride,
I, starved for the bosom of his fairy bride.
And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
`The Countess Cathleen’ was the name I gave it,
She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away
But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
I thought my dear must her own soul destroy
So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
This dream itself had all my thought and love.
And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
Heart mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Players and painted stage took all my love
And not those things that they were emblems of.
Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.