Who is on the plum tree?
We have a real treat for you today on the plum tree. Eabha Rose is an Irish narrative artist with a beautiful voice. In her Wednesday Corner, she features one of my favourite poets: W.B. Yeats, and you can hear her reciting another of Yeats’ poems by clicking the You Tube link at the end of this article. Yeats used to visit the Lady Gregory estate: Coole Park, in Galway – right beside where we built our eco-house. That area of Coole and Kilbeacanty is on the edge of the Burren, a world heritage site, renowned for its beauty and its eco-system. It is also seeped in history in terms of the birth of The Irish National Theatre. Thank you, Eabha, for bringing Yeats to our poetry corner and for sharing your eloquence with us.
by Eabha Rose
In my childhood, Yeats inspired me with his evocation of the mythical, the magical. He wrote about folklore, legend. This was primary school. Yeats’ poetry at this time spoke to me about myth and heraldry. As I moved into my teens, I began to uncover more subtle meanings within his illusive imagery. His plays, like his poetry, were often multi-layered. Cathleen Ni Houlihan was no longer just about a woman who had lost her land. It was for Yeats about a culture attempting to retrieve its sense of identity, personified through the heroine. He later brought these voices to the stage, and with the establishment of the Abbey Theatre in 1904, they were given a public platform. Political themes ran through much of his work and were undoubtedly inspired by the poet’s interest in the contemporary Irish Nationalist Movement, a force gaining popularity in Ireland in the early 1900’s.
Yeats had a huge interest in delving into the imagination to uncover a kind of mystical beauty. For me, this is what poetry is about. It’s about that journey into the imagination, a search for the thread that links us all. The Song of Wandering Aengus is a perfect example of this. It contains so many layers which form part of Yeats’ genius. It is not just about the character Aengus and his search for love and beauty; it’s about astral projection, about the poet’s love for a woman and his journey towards her.
Yeats had a huge interest in mysticism and the occult and was actively involved in the esoteric movement, The Golden Dawn. This interest led to the writing of his book, A Vision, which Yeats claimed was written alongside his wife Georgiana Hyde Lees using ‘automatic writing’. In many ways, A Vision encapsulates the poetic journey Yeats took through life, incorporating history, spirituality and esotericism. In Yeats’ own words, ‘The mystical life is the centre of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write’.
THE SONG OF WANDERING AENGUS
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)